Exclusive: Que Premieres Ty Dolla $ign 'Standout' Song, Talks Career Start & Migos Rivalry
Que doesn’t say much ordinarily, although today is different. At DJ Drama's Means Street Studios, the Atlanta-bred rapper is ready to get a few things off his chest; and, it's beyond the right time.
Que, born Quintin Square Jr., refrained from saying much when the smash hit "Young Ni--a" took off. Even when accused of lifting Migos' flow, he didn't run off at the mouth in an attempt to defend himself. For what? After having been through trying times and legal situations as a teenager, the pettiness of the rap industry is a gift in a sense. As he later elaborates, his alternative easily could've been a prison block with "6' 8" ni--as and I got curly hair so..."
The problem that many rising rappers seem to face is the very thing they strive for: the spotlight. The issue in that though is opening one’s self up to the public or risk forfeiting your image, which according to some Atlanta industry insiders has been Que's Achilles' heel. He finds himself in a business where an artist can be edged out even before the lifespan of a monster hit expires. "I got a lot of pressure on me now," he reveals to Billboard’s The Juice. "But, it's alright. I like it though; [it] keeps me on my toes."
It isn’t that the "OG Bobby Johnson" creator is oblivious to the whispers. It was a conscious decision on his part to not expound on the setbacks that have landed him here, in a recording contract with Atlantic Records and preparing to drop his Can You Digg It? mixtape on Aug. 19.
In anticipation of the mixtape release, Que premieres his Ty Dolla $ign-assisted "Standout" single on The Juice. Check it out below:
A lot of Que's tales takes place in the Gwinnett County suburbs, north of Atlanta where he was raised. Rapping wasn't an option as a teen. His primary goal was to play professional basketball. He was well on his way to fulfilling that dream until he and two other star athletes from Norcross High School, Prince Kent and Dallas Mavericks' Al-Farouq Aminu, found themselves involved in an accidental shooting ("It was an accident, [we were] playing around...") in 2008. They shot a woman in the stomach with a BB gun and shattered the back window of her truck. Immediately after the incident, all three hopped in the Honda coupe that Que was driving and fled the scene.
A month later, police spotted the vehicle on school grounds and arrested Que in the middle of his fifth period class. Thankfully for them, the victim dropped the aggravated assault charges and they were bonded out.
While his two friends, seniors at the time, continued to pursue careers in sports, Que, a junior, suffered social wrath. He was good at ball but noticed coaches giving him the cold shoulder. His high school sports career was over with, but he still had it on his mind. That's when Que packed up and moved to Newport News, Va., to attend a trade school, The Apprentice School, specializing in welding ships for the Navy. It wasn't ideal but at least he could still hoop for the school's team. He was only there four months before he was kicked out for falling asleep on the job.
Returning home to Atlanta was one of the hardest things Que had to do, he says. Raised by a single mother, he knew he was disappointing her with each setback. He decided to lie and tell his mom that he was enrolled at a local community college although he was smoking weed, selling drugs, getting robbed ("Once! It only happened once") and above all, trying to figure out his life. "After a while I couldn't do it. I couldn't be lying to her and staying there. I was putting too much pressure on her. She did all she could do. I know she felt like I was a bum," he reveals. "I told her, 'I'mma be something. I promise you.'"
When Que realized that his high school friend, Sonny Digital, was behind YC's 2011 hit "Racks," he told himself, "Hell, I could do this hip-hop thing too."
"I was lost at the time, but it was then that me and Sonny got real cool, although we were already close as kids in middle school and high school," Que shares. "I was in the bathroom in these apartments, [trying to] write a bar but couldn't. I didn't know what a good beat even sounded like." Sonny Digital refused to sacrifice their friendship by gifting Que an instrumental before he had the skills to pull it off. They grinded together for five years, until dropping the Forbes Atlanta mixtape in March 2013.
Sonny Digital noticed Que's effort and took him in, even with a cramped space. "It's like eight ni--as in his house, a two bedroom apartment but one of them was a studio. Everybody in there sleep and it's like you got to be stepping over people to cross the room," he recalls, laughing.
Once "Young Ni--a" hit, the show money flooded in even while fans of the song didn't necessarily know who he was. Fans of Migos felt that he bit their style, although they didn't know that they all came up together in the same Gwinnett suburbs. "I knew from the jump that it wasn't really my song," he explains. "They got two verses and the hook on it, but the third guy [in the group] was locked up. On paper, it was my song, but to the world, it was their song."
"It worked out though," he adds. "Fortunately, it helped me. That flow? That was my first and last time doing that. That flow doesn't work for most people who try it. That's the Migos rhyme scheme."
By the time "Young Ni--a" began to die down, Que was pressed to find another hit. It was then that the bigger picture was clear to him. He was determined to be more than a "show money" rapper. By that Thanksgivingin 2013, Que was Atlantic's newest signee.
There are several misconceptions that have been conjured about Que. Is he a Migos rip-off? Is he a star? And of course, once his "OG Bobby Johnson" single dropped 'Is he a gangbanger?' "Of course not," Que shrugs. "Certain people weren't rocking with 'Bobby Johnson' before I decided to drop it. I wrote it in 30 minutes and I promise you, I never thought so hard for 30 minutes in my life. It's a movie."
The rapper hopes that his next project titled Can You Digg It? can give some clarity as to who Que really is.
"Too Much," featuring Lizzle and Trey Songz, has been serviced to radio. He says that every line of it is based on his life; the life that he's kept under wraps all this time. "I definitely think before I act now," he says. "I still do dumb shit but the shit that I went through I don't regret. It made me the person I am today."
With production from DJ Mustard and Sonny Digital and guest verses from Ty Dolla $ign to 2 Chainz, the mixtape sounds more like an album when compared to his past work.
Que says there was a valid reason he remained tight-lipped about his background at his start: "It wasn't cool to talk about. It's cool to rap about but not to talk about and besides, that's my past. I ain't never going back there."
"When you're genuinely focused and you're really working, don't shit matter but this mic."