Don Q Talks 'Don Talk' Mixtape, Who's the King of New York & Why the XXL Freshman List Doesn't Matter
After dropping a pair of projects in 2017, Don Q returned with his Don Talk mixtape last month (March 23) setting the tone for what will be a busy year, with an additional two mixtapes planned to close out 2018.
Don has worked to carve out a lane separate from labelmate A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie by becoming synonymous with bristling bars that properly narrate his rugged Bronx come up. The 27-year-old's name is one that has to be mentioned in any discussion regarding emerging MCs out of New York.
Don Talk boasts eight tracks with loaded assists, including G.O.O.D. Music President Pusha T, Brooklyn native Desiigner, and Detroit's own Tee Grizzley. The roaring production definitely doesn't disappoint either. Don enlists frequent collaborators such as Ness, ATL's Honorable C-Note and the scorching Murda Beatz among others.
Billboard connected with the Corner Stories rapper for a brief phone conversation, as he remains hard at work in the hip-hop creative haven of Atlanta. The Bronx resident divulged that Don Turn Me Up is almost complete and will hit the streets by summertime. "We got a few features on Don Turn Me Up. We got Jay Critch, Moneybagg Yo, A Boogie, Young Scooter, Fetty Wap and Dave East on there," he says. "It's going to be like 12 tracks. It's damn near done."
Check out the rest of our talk with the Highbridge the Label artist where he touches on maturing as a rapper, going up to Hot 97 for a freestyle, securing a JAY-Z feature on his album, hitting the strip club with NBA superstar John Wall and much more.
Billboard: With this being your third mixtape in three years, is it important to give the fans something new every year? And what does 'Don Talk' mean to you as you get older?
Don Q: Yeah, that's definitely important. It just shows the growth of my wordplay and my rhyme schemes. Also, the way I approach certain songs. It just shows how I've changed.
How'd you come up with the cover art?
For the cover, I tried to make it look as Don as possible. I take it back to the real Don era, like the Don Corleones and The Godfather era. That's what I usually try to do for my covers.
Why did you choose Desiigner for "Trap Phone?" I also think he sounds a lot different than usual for his feature here.
I think he did it intentionally just to show that he could rap, because he knew the type of rapper I was. I didn't ask him to do that. I feel like he just had to show people that, "I'm more than just this n---a that's making noises and shit. I can really put words together." He definitely impressed me. It's not too surprising when you think about him being a New York rapper.
I think 90 percent of the New York rappers started off rapping like that, no matter if they changed their flow when they got older. I doubt it would be that hard for him to change. I'm pretty sure growing up that's how Desiigner used to rap.
How did you link up with Pusha T for "Words of Wisdom?" He's someone that's always been in your corner.
We connected through a mutual friend. We never really spoke and were going through people to send tracks back and forth. I sent it over and he sent it back and it was fire. Now we're good and can hit each other up and get in there.
Honorable C-Note is always on my tapes. Ness is another one that's always on there. I fuck with Murda Beatz heavy, he's got the sound right now. I had to get him on there.
Yeah, Murda Beatz produced "Head Tap" featuring Tee Grizzley. What made you guys get together?
I've had "Head Tap" for a while now. I had the hook before when Corner Stories came out. After I kept hearing it I was like, "I got to do something with it, this is hard." I couldn't waste a Murda Beat. I put a verse on it and send it to Tee and then we linked up in the studio in New Jersey and knocked it out.
You close out "Don Talk" saying, "You see the n----s I influenced." Who exactly do you mean?
I feel that I influenced a lot of people, because I can really rap. As far as taking it back to my Hot 97 Freestyle, I think I inspired a lot of people to go up there. A lot of big rappers that you've seen go up there went up because they saw me go up there. Take it how you want it. Not just that, even people in the street. I feel I influenced them to want to do something different in life.
Do you think you can get that elusive JAY-Z verse on your debut album?
I'll probably get him for the album. Nobody can turn me down.
Is Don Turn Me Up on the way for the summertime?
Yeah, that's on the way. I'll probably drop another project after that with Don Season 2, then the album. This is all for 2018. We got a few features on Don Turn Me Up. We got Jay Critch, Moneybagg Yo, A Boogie, Young Scooter, Fetty Wap and Dave East on there. It's going to be like 12 tracks. It's damn near done.
Have you linked up with John Wall again recently?
Hell yeah, I was with John Wall in Atlanta. I'm in Atlanta right now. Last time I was down here we were in Magic City with John Wall and we had it lit. Shout out to John Wall, man.
Have you had any communication with Meek Mill or anyone in his camp since he's been locked up? What have you learned from him in the studio?
I still speak to his people, just not him directly. I ask about him and shit to see how he's doing. They say he's doing good and he should be out soon. There's no way he's going to do 2-4 [years]. He'll be out soon.
In the studio he's hungry. That hunger is not leaving. Every session he comes with that same energy. He really wants this life bad.
How would you say becoming a father has changed you as a hip-hop artist?
It changed a lot. At the time, she might not have understood that what I'm doing right now is to help better her life and take care of everybody. She's slowly understanding that if I have to go to the studio or if I tell her, "I got to call you back in a little while." I had to explain that I'm working. It's not like I'm out partying. I'm working to take care of the family and not out here messing around. She doesn't understand how important it is. She thinks she can snap and I can come out of nowhere.
Do you want to be on the XXL Freshman list this year?
Nah, I'm not interested. The list doesn't even matter anymore. They just put anyone on there. You don't even have to have the talent to go up there. It depends on how popular you are and not how talented. Once I realized that I didn't care.
I dont get the same feel when i listen to music now compared to when i was a teenager....niggas is trash— DonQHBTL (@DonQhbtl) March 31, 2018
Would you ever do a tape going over popular beats that have already been used?
Yeah, I was actually going to do a quick one. Probably like eight freestyles or something.
You end your latest Hot 97 freestyle saying, "New York is my shit, bitch." Was that in reference to all of this king of New York talk?
Nah, I was just talking my shit. I was in a good mood that day. Ain't nobody else is doing shit like bringing another n---a up there. I'm not concerned with the King of New York shit. I don't even think it's serious. Dudes are just saying it.
The way I look at it is we're all kings in our own ways. We all carry our own weight and have our own fanbase. My fans might not fuck with A Boogie's shit. All my fans don't like Jay Critch shit. They might not like 6ix9ine's either. It's going to be vise versa as well. It works both ways. I feel like as an artist you're not supposed to champion yourself, that's for the fans to do.
What's your goal for 2018? Do you want to turn your focus outside music?
I'm not going to stop dropping music. I'm going to release these two projects. I want to focus on movies and building brands and all of that while I'm still doing music. I don't have a chill button. I can't see myself saying, "All right, I'm good with this."