By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
A quick study, he dropped his first mixtape, called Schoolboy Turned Hustla, in summer 2008. It presents a developing rapper experimenting with vocal patterns, trying to keep the songs sonically unpredictable despite their typical gangsta themes. Another mixtape followed the next year.
On the strength of those tapes, Dude Dawg — CEO of Top Dawg Entertainment — signed Q to a roster that included Lamar (who then went by K. Dot) and Jay Rock, an up-and-coming MC from Watts. By the time Q's first album, SetBacks, was released in early 2011, he'd quit gangbanging altogether.
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His style had begun to take shape, with his penchant for stretching vowels like Silly Putty or slurring a word and then snapping back into double time. He even murmurs sweet, atypical thug pillow talk on "Groovline Pt. 1": "Fresh out the shower, lemme smell your hair/Garnier Fructis got my knees weak/Let's cuddle in these sheets."
Hip-hop careers can be fleeting, of course, but Q and his team believe they've devised a strategy for longevity. On each album, he includes a song or two for the critics, such as Habits & Contradictions' "Sacrilegious" — in which a man's hypocrisy haunts him — and also reveals his tender side, often by referencing his 2-year-old daughter.
In the hours before his sold-out, headlining show at the Troubadour recently, Q is more subdued than usual. That might have to do with the bag of weed and bottle of Hennessy in his hoodie's pocket. Or perhaps it's the brass knuckles he's carrying. When he bounds onstage a couple hours later, however, the pensive mood is gone. He establishes an easy rapport with the crowd and relishes calling up his buddy, the blogosphere's rapper du jour ASAP Rocky, who throws his arm around Q's neck.
At the same time, however, there's a distance from all of this, a detachment. Even though he's left the streets, they seem to plague him. "My nigga just lost his son. ... Whatever you need, yo, I got it," he raps on "Blessed." "Whether it's money or some weed or puttin' in work, fuck it, then I'm ridin'." The corner of 51st and Fig is far away right now, but clearly only in distance.
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