Amidst a sea of ear-piercing screams, Quality Control co-founder and CEO Pierre “P” Thomas christened the Detroit cult-favorite rapper with a diamond-encrusted “QC” chain, in celebration of the deal. “We got a lot in common when it comes to our approach, [and] the way we look at the rap game,” Vezzo says of the Quality Control CEO. “QC really making [hood] dreams come true.”
Just four years ago, Vezzo — born Chivez Smith — sat in solitary confinement for three months, the only voice around him in his own head, dreaming up the possibilities to come upon his release. Among those dreams was the QC signing, a tightly held goal of Vezzo’s that kept him going during his 20 month stint following a felony gun charge.
“We were in the TV room because they did a cook-up for me once I got out the hole,” he explains, “I literally told them, ‘When I get out of jail, I’m signing with QC.'”
Today, the former Motown signee announces his signing which took place a few months ago after a year of spending time with Thomas and other QC signees. Vezzo parted ways with Motown in 2020 and was independent for a period of time before joining forces with QC. The Atlanta-rooted label also recently grabbed another Detroit artist, up-and-comer Baby Money in January, a testament to the label’s continued investment in Detroit.
“New Orleans had a wave, so did Atlanta and Memphis — Detroit has got something going on and I want to be involved in it,” Thomas says. “They’re a city that will have a big mark on this game. They just need more exposure and infrastructure.”
Thomas recognizes Vezzo as a giant in the Detroit scene, and notes the similarities between the two entrepreneurs as a selling point when it came to the deal. “One of the main things that I always noticed about [Vezzo] is how consistent he’s been in the market, just building his brand,” Thomas explains. “He gave me a call and said there’s a lot of different major label [offers] already on the table. But the same way that I’ve been watching his brand, he recognized mine. He said the money was good but he felt like it was gonna be too corporate. He wanted to be in a situation where he can grind with somebody who understood what he was doing.”
Vezzo’s first release since the deal with Quality Control, Rich Off Pints 3, was met with critical praise, a validating first step with his new label home. Below, he catches up with Billboard about his decade-plus journey, decision to join QC and how he manifested everything unfolding in his path.
How have the last few days been, following the album release and announcement?
After the [album release] dinner, me, Meek Mill, Fabolous, Jim Jones and Dave East, all went to the studio. Then we shot a video after we left the studio, at six in the morning. I left the video shoot, drove straight to the airport and jumped on the flight. Didn’t get no sleep on the plane. Literally no sleep the whole day. It’s typical when I’m out of town but when I’m in the city, I be at the crib or studio chilling. I got my kids and my wife, so I be with the family. I definitely be having some days to relax, and I make sure I utilize them.
P tells me that when you first met each other, it wasn’t even about signing a deal.
It definitely wasn’t. When we first linked up, it was like, “I f–k with your grind, I f–k with your hustle, and I f–k with your music — let’s link up and just vibe and build to see we can come up with.” I think that process is extremely important. Before you sign a deal, whether you’re the CEO or the artist, that process is key. Get to know each other, see if you’re people that can be around each other, and understand each other. We realized we got a lot in common when it comes to our approach, the way we look at the rap game and at opportunities. The heights that s–t can possibly take us to overall — as people, as a company, as artists, and as a CEO.
What drew you to his character?
I definitely admire and respect P’s grind and hustle, the blueprint that he’s laying. I seen somebody on Instagram say, “QC really making dreams come true” — hood dreams — and that’s a true statement. P one of them guys, like — he don’t just sign motherf–kers, he’ll give you the game. And he tell you, “Outside of making music, make sure you learn the whole business game.” We went to a million parties together, went out of town, for like a full year straight.
You were formerly signed to Motown. Did your contract with them expire?
It didn’t [expire], Ethiopia [Habtemariam, CEO] let me out of the agreement. I asked her and she said yes. She felt that was best for me and she was right. [After], I was able to grind it out without having no red tape. Just release music nonstop, release videos without having to push it through a system or wait. It wasn’t a long process at Motown, everything was solid. When it was time to pay for s–t, they took care of it, they moved me and did everything they can do. I know for a fact, that things not working wasn’t because of that a company or me as an artist.
It was just the timing. I still had a lot of climbing and growing to do. I had to groom myself more. I wasn’t ready to be in no major [label] situation as an artist. And I’m ready now. Everything’s falling right in place, that’s how I know it’s time.
The first song I heard by you was “Thick Bitch” almost 10 years ago, and for a lot of fans, it put you on the map.
Let me say something about that song. I did not want to do that beat, I swear I did not. I was at [Streetlord] Juan’s studio downtown [Detroit]. It was me and Antt Beatz. He played the beat — DJ Mo Beatz produced it as well. I’m like, “Bro, what is this? What the hell you expect me to talk about on this beat? No, it’s not happening.” He’s like, “Bro, trust me. Rap on his beat. Talk about some ladies, I’m telling you that bitch gone go.” I did it and he was right. That’s one of my main songs that never stopped getting played on the radio in Detroit. They play that song ’til this day, as if it just dropped. After those results I decided, “You know what, maybe I don’t know it all.”
Now officially on QC, what does the label bring to the table for you?
The structure and respect for the artist’s creativity. QC lets the artists be the artists. They let they let us rock with what we think will work, the songs we think are gonna go. The sound, the approach we think will be right for us. They just add to it and electrify s–t.
It seems like this is the perfect match — and it’s something you manifested.
This is something that only me and the guys I was in prison with know: When I was in prison, I was in the hole for three months — six months [total], but two different times. First day out the hole we in the TV room eating — they did a cookup for me because I was out the hole. I literally tell them, “When I get out of jail. I’m signing with QC.” They like, “How you know [P]?” I’m like, “I don’t even know dog. I just know I’m gonna sign with QC, that’s the one that fits.”
One of my homies who I was locked up with commented on my video announcement, like, “You literally said everything that’s happening when we were in jail.” I called him immediately. We were just reminiscing, and we were both f–ked up about it. I spoke everything into existence, not even just QC. A lot of stuff that I do, I manifest it. I convinced myself so much of what I wanted, that I believed in it before I even had it.