YouKnowIGotSoul caught up with TQ, to discuss everything from what he’s going for on his upcoming album “Kind of Blue,” to his lead role in the movie “Rockin’ Meera,” to the problems in r&b today.
YouKnowIGotSoul: First off, let me start by saying I’ve had a chance to read your Facebook page, your Myspace page and the blogs you’ve put together. I’m impressed by how accessible you are to your fans. How important is that to you?
TQ: Oh man, it’s very important. I mean, for me it’s probably one of the most important things for me in my career, kinda keeps me going, because of the fact that I have a relationship with so many of them, and I’ve had that relationship for so long. I think a lot of…this is the day and time of the fickle fan. What’s in today is old news tomorrow, and to be able to have a fan base that has stuck with me for all of this time, I think that it is a testament of the relationship that we have and I think that the time I spent early on in my career kind of doing this grassroots building a relationship one person to the next, one by one. I think that’s why I’m where I’m at today.
YKIGS: On one of your blogs I was reading about your experiences with Cash Money Records and how they basically tried to get you to change your style and make you do love songs. I could understand your point of view as to why you wouldn’t want to change, but do you think this type of thing happens between artists and labels often in the industry?
TQ: Yea definitely. And you know don’t get me wrong, it’s like I’m the first to take some constructive criticism from a person qualified to give it. And in a lot of situations, it’s always going to be a fine line between the music being a business and it being a thing about making music. It’s one thing if a person qualified comes in and says “let’s shine up the edges or lets try to get you in here like a thief in the night, let’s try to steal some of this with this particular song or concept, and then you can introduce it into what it is you really want to do.” I’ve heard that before, I’ve dealt with that before, I’ve done that before. That’s not a problem. I’m an r&b singer, so a lot of times, r&b fans just can’t really put their arms around the concepts that I use. I guess the things that I talk about in my music, I guess rappers talk about it more so than singers do. So I’ve had situations with labels in the past, they’re like “come shine this up a little bit, can we make this a little easier to the ear.” But then when you have somebody not qualified telling you that, that’s when it becomes a problem. Like ok what are you basing this on, who told you that? Especially when you have no experience whatsoever in this kind of music. The whole situation with Cash Money is I dealt with those guys years before I signed with them. We did a lot of music together, we did a lot of touring together, it’s a lot of interaction and that was never an issue, you know what I mean? Actually, to the contrary, that was a plus, that was a part of what I saw, and what they told me, that was why we meshed so well in the beginning. And then as soon as I signed the paperwork, it’s like everything changed, I think they just kinda started seeing dollar signs and I guess they wanted to extend their female fan base, I don’t know. It is what it is.
YKIGS: You mentioned that you touch on a lot of the same subject matter as rappers. Have you ever considered becoming a rapper and what was it that lead you towards singing?
TQ: I ain’t good at rapping. *Laughs* I never have been. I didn’t start out writing songs, I mean not professionally, just as a hobby, when I first started writing it was raps, it wasn’t songs. So, the thing for me was, whatever I would say, the stuff I wrote, it would sound wack. But if I gave it to one of my boys, and let them say it, it sounded great, you know what I mean? I think that’s where my whole love for writing for other people started. It was born out of me not being able to form the stuff I wrote and make it sound like I wanted it to sound. And I think that kinda changed me into doing something I actually could pull off myself so I started writing songs. I’ve been singing since I was a kid, so it was a natural thing.
YKIGS: I read that you consider your style of music as “Thug Poetry.” Do you think there is anyone else doing what you are doing in r&b?
TQ: Yea, I mean I think for the most part, I think it’s kinda contrived, the way I see it being done is having just to sensationalize a lot of stuff just to kinda fit in. I think it’s roles being played, I don’t think its necessarily genuine, you know what I’m saying? When people categorize my music, like I didn’t come up with thug poetry, another one, reality r&b, I didn’t come up with any of that. I just write my songs to sing them, you know what I’m saying? Let the critics or whoever else say as they may with it, think whatever they want about it. What I do see in r&b is the trend now, which to me, it’s kinda of a catch 22. I’ve personally felt for the longest that it’s too much love music in r&b. I think that the arts should reflect life, and everybody listening to r&b music is not in love. So I think that it’s definitely a sector of people who want to deal with other subjects but I think the person that delivers those other subjects, it has to be some amount of reality involved with dealing with real life concepts and real life music, and I think that’s what’s missing out of it.
YKIGS: Very good point.
YKIGS: Tell me about your upcoming album “Kind of Blue.” What can we expect to hear on this album?
TQ: It’s a stretch, it’s definitely a stretch. I’m eager to see what my fans are going to think about it. I got some hardcore TQ fans that just basically wanna hear what I started out with. They wanna hear about the block completely. But then, there’s another side of my fan base that has really been good to me that is just a totally different kind of person, they just wanna hear me sing songs, they wanna see me perform, they do this for a different reason. This time around, I want to try to put together an album that is going to satisfy the majority of my fan base. I do more work outside of the U.S. than I do in the U.S. So I’m probably walking a fine line between alienating my hardcore fans from the beginning and giving the biggest percentage of my fans what it is that they actually want. I look at my fan base, it’s not a demographic that’s equal across the board, it’s not a race, it’s not a region, it’s like they all over the place, look like the rainbow coalition, you just never know; age, race, gender, everything. I want to be able to stretch a little bit more and give more of my fans what it is that they want. And “Kind of Blue” this time around is really going to do that. More so than anything, the business is coming in the production. There probably is zero G-Funk on this album altogether. It’s still west coast to the heart, that’s what I am, that’s what I’ll always be. But definitely in the production, it’s more upbeat, it’s definitely more international. I think what it is that’s constant, what I think it is that’s going to satisfy my U.S. fan base who definitely want street, is the lyrical content is the same as it’s always been. It’s hard nosed, it’s to the point, I aint sugar coat sh*t. So you know like I say, I’m eager to see what happens. I’m definitely trying some new things, I’m stretching out kinda flapping my wings a little bit. I feel like I been doing this music thing long enough to have earned the right to do this at this point.
YKIGS: I’ve had a chance to hear your first single “Electronic.” Is that what you were trying to do with that, try a new sound?
TQ: You know what, I think for a lot of people, I think people are taking “Electronic” a little more serious than what it was meant to be. The feedback that I get from it is, as they were listening to “Westside” or “Bye Bye Baby” or a serious song. Basically, “Electronic” is a spoof on what is happening in the music industry right now. In no way is it a preview of what the album sounds like. I’m just kinda taking a piss on everybody switching up the game and going into techno or whatever they go into. But it was fun to do and it’s clever, and on top of it, it still has a dance vibe in the club. Even with the video and everything I’m just on there acting silly, that’s kinda what it is.
YKIGS: Ok I guess I didn’t catch that at first, but now it definitely makes sense to me!
YKIGS: Tell me how you came up with the title for the album, “Kind of Blue.”
TQ: Well, that actually is the title of probably the most famous Miles Davis album, back in the day. My parents had a real expensive music collection when they hooked up. My mom she was real heavy into Motown singles, but she had all the 45’s. Then my pops was just into LP’s across the board, he loved reggae, he loved funk, he loved jazz. And one particular album that he had that I used to always listen to is the “Kind of Blue” album. And the crazy part about that is that I’ve always been a lyricist, I’ve always been into lyrics, what I’ve loved about music is lyrical content. And this particular album didn’t have no lyrics, just music, you know what I mean? So it did something to me because I could actually hum all of the parts on all of the songs. I don’t know what that album did to me, but I know that the thing about it is nothing sounded alike. It goes from one piece sounding totally different from the next, totally different from the third, and that’s really what I wanted to achieve with this album. I think that album really kick started me into really loving music all the way around, not just lyrics, but musical compositions. So that’s why I wanted to name this album that. I think for me, I’m really going into a new start of making songs, and trying a rebirth of it so I wanted to name after the album that started it, and that’s “Kind of Blue.”
YKIGS: Besides the album, you also have a movie coming out where you got your first starring role in a movie. Tell me what this experience was like.
TQ: I’ll never forget it. Honestly for me, I think the experience left more of a stain on me than the actual movie itself. I went to India, pretty much filmed on location, in the desert, it was definitely a life changing experience. When you see how good we live, even the person that’s doing the worst in the U.S., is doing 1000% percent better than the person doing bad in India, you know what I mean? I think that I just learned soooo much stuff when I was there just about life. It’s like the movie just kinda took on a different, like it wasn’t the main focus. Once I got there, it was great that I doing a movie, and I was practicing up and ready to do my parts, but I think the experience I’m never going to forget. But it’s a Bollywood movie, half Bollywood half Hollywood; it’s got like a half American cast. Myself, Fatso Fasano from Weeds and CSI, Deborah Wilson from Mad TV played my mother. Basically I played this guy Rock, I’m a college student who fell in love with an exchange student named Meera from India. We go to school in San Francisco. I guess over the course of our time there, we decided that we want to get married. Her family actually has an arranged marriage for her once she graduates, so they are not trying to hear it. They send her brother over to San Francisco to kidnap her and take her back to India, and basically I have to go back and get her. The Bollywood culture, it’s been going on for a long time, a lot of people say it’s just as old as Hollywood. The difference I think between their movies and our movies is that you can get some of everything in one film there. In the middle of a scene, they could break out into song and dance, or right after some family comedy love happy scene, someone can get their brains blown out in the next scene over. So it’s definitely a roller coaster and I think for the most part, if people can get around I guess the cultural barrier, I think it’s entertaining, and I think it’s something for the whole family. It’s releasing in 400 theaters in the U.S. and Canada over the next two months.
YKIGS: You mentioned your international fan base, tell me what it means to have such a diverse fan base?
TQ: It’s a blessing. What it does is keeps me working, keeps me traveling, keeps me performing. A lot of the things that most artists in the system right now are caught up in, I’m really not having to worry about that. A lot of my business is just kinda straight to the consumer, you know what I mean? I’m finding that the longer I do this, and the more research I do, pretty soon a record company or distributer is going to be unnecessary for me, and that’s basically the point I’m working towards. For me, at this point, I started doing this thing when I as 15, so charts, billboards stuff like that, it’s cool, it’s like been there done that, but right now it’s all about me paying attention to my fan base. If I satisfy my fan base, I can eat, I’ve seen that over the years. Once I get to the point where I can eliminate the middle man, then I think we could really start having some fun. It’s coming, it’s coming really soon.
YKIGS: I think you hinted at this earlier, but what are your feelings on the state of r&b? Are you happy with it today?
TQ: No, not at all. I always look at it like this. I always compare music to sports. I think that Michael Jordan and you look at Kobe Bryant, saying that dude is good. I think that Bill Russell and you look at Dwight Howard, and ok this cat is taking the position to the next level. But when Marvin and Curtis Mayfield, and the ones that have passed away, and couple that with the Stevie Wonder’s, and the ones that are still here, when they listen to r&b music today, it’s like what do they think? It embarrasses me honestly. Like, we cannot live up to the 60’s and 70’s, I thnk that was the golden age of r&b music. The 90’s it tried to come back around again, but it just wasn’t as real. I’m thinking because it is just a sign of the times, the 60’s and the 70’s there was just so much stuff going on in the world, and so many people were just on the same united front. We got a lot of stuff going on now, but just people everywhere. It’s just nothing real to us. My thing is I just, when people ask me “what do you consider your music,” it’s just world music, I don’t want to get caught up into that genre because it just feels wack to be an r&b singer, because it’s corny and they just make corny music that just can’t stand up. So you know, I really like to separate myself and really don’t want to be seen as just another one of those cats. All in all, r&b as a genre, well the males more so than the females, I think the girls got their finger on it, they always do. I think the males we really need to step our game up and just put some reality back into it. I mean it’s soul music, it comes from your inside. And I know that these cats got more going on inside of them then what they are putting on tape these days.
YKIGS: Very good points, I agree with you.
YKIGS: Are there any artists in r&b or even in hip hop that you are feeling?
TQ: I stick to my guns man. I look at my cd changer and it’s pretty much the same stuff that’s been in there. I got my Jay-Z in there that stays in there, I got my 2Pac in there that stays in there, I got the Roots, I got Rihanna, the rest is, I listen to a lot of different kinds of music. I got Coldplay, I got Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
YKIGS: On your album “Paradise” the title track was produced by a personal favorite of mine Static Major. How did this collaboration come about and what was it like working with him?
TQ: Well, my promoter, a guy who used to promote with me, was managing Static, and well….more than him my people had actually, people had been trying to hook me and Static up for the longest. And actually I didn’t know how heavy Static was until actually my DJ put me up on game, he actually said “you need to hook up with Static, you need to hook up with Static.” As he’s like that’s a good idea, and he just kept pushing and pushing, and then he started just showing me all of these records that Static had done, and I was like “Man these are all of my favorite joints!.” So then finally when he started managing him, I went out to Static’s house, we sat down and chopped it up, you know talked about what we wanted to do, he started playing stuff, and I was loving everything. Then finally he played “Paradise.” He was like “Man I got this song, I got this beat that’s crazy that I did for myself” because actually before he passed, he was doing an album, a solo album for himself. And he was like “You know I got this record that’s crazy, but I can’t come up with nothing that I like. If you want to take a whack at it, let’s go and get it done.” So sure enough I got to write “Paradise,” he loved it, we both loved it, we went into the studio and put it down. Now, it’s just taken on this…it has this eerie undertone to it because neither one of us knew that one of us wouldn’t be here by the time the song came out. To tell you the truth, I love that album, but I just couldn’t wait for it to be over because that song would get hard to perform bro. It’s like Static like, we really built a relationship over that time I was going to Louisville a lot, I would go to his neighborhood, hang out with his homies, all in the projects, everything, we would go out and party together, we got pretty close. So like I said, it’s not an easy song to perform, but if my fans request it, you gotta give it to them.
YKIGS: Very cool, thanks for sharing that with me.
YKIGS: Finally, what accomplishment are you most proud of as an artist?
TQ: Accomplishment I’m most proud of? This is probably…I think I’m speaking more as a fan on this one. I’d have to say the “Up in Smoke Tour.” I opened up the absolute greatest hip hop tour ever. These are all of my favorite artists that I grew up listening to, in addition to some hot new cats that I liked a lot too. It was 47 cities all around the U.S. and Canada, Dr. Dre, Snoop, Ice Cube, Mack 10, Warren G, you name it. That was my CD changer! *laughs* It just so happens that I got the opportunity to open the tour up, I’ll never forget. Just to let you know how good it was, being that I was the first one performing, I’d come off stage and go straight back to the sound board 47 nights in a row to watch the whole damn show, it was just that good, unbelievable I’ll never forget it!
“Kind of Blue” will be in stores in February. “Rockin’ Meera” is out now and you can get more information at www.rockinmeera.com