PUBLISHED: Tuesday – August 24, 2010
Gutta World recently took an inner look with Internal Quest, leading emcee/producer/engineer of Jersey Sound Lab Recordings in Newark, NJ. Join us in our adventure into his current mixtape, Flight 973 to Sydney hosted by Australia’s DJ Nino Brown, and discover what this internally searching artist is putting out there for you to find.
GW: Why is Newark called Brick City?
Quest: Our motto is, “Go hard or go home.” It used to be tenement project housing a long time ago, but they tore most of it down. Most of the projects was big, brick buildings.
GW: How was your childhood in Brick City?
Quest: I don’t like to say growin’ up was rough, but it was a typical single parent household. My mother and my grandmother raised me. We grew up in the ‘hood. You know, that was kind of rough. I wouldn’t say it was rougher than anybody else’s growin’ up around me. My mother’s always been supportive. I brought her money when I sold my first beat. She was like, “If you gonna get money doin’ this, go ‘head. Do what you gotta do.” I’ve been involved in music since, like, the fifth grade. I was playin’ percussion drums in a band, through the school system. I played set, snare, bass, marching band, all that. I’ve always been drawn to music. A lotta people out here was bangin’, havin’ a bunch of babies.
GW: I know you rep Brick City, but what other cities have you visited that you enjoyed?
Quest: I love the speed of New York City. If I could be anywhere besides Jersey, it would have to be New York. I’m in New York at least a few times or more a month. A lot of people I collab with in New York, local cats. The whole atmosphere of New York, it’s beautiful.
GW: Were you rapping first or making your own beats first?
Quest: It was all a collective. I used to rap with a group of friends at high school. Some people made beats here and there but it [instrumentals] really wasn’t that accessible. I was like, “I’ll take the L and figure out how to make beats.” I had the most computer knowledge out of all of them and that was the simplest way to make tracks. So I tried to do that and they was like, “Well, we gotta record ourself, how we gonna do that?” I was like, “Well, I guess I’ll figure that out too.” I learned everything ‘cause my friends was lazy at the time. I had no choice but to learn to engineer, produce, and I was still rappin’ with them.
GW: Do you consider yourself as still being a leader among your friends?
Quest: I would say I’m a leader, but they teach me a lot too. It’s kind of a learning process. I got a friend that do video now, so he’s teachin’ me what he knows, vice versa. We teach each other.
GW: You graduated from the Institute of Audio Research with a 3.8 GPA?
Quest: I woulda got a 4, but the teacher ain’t like me. But I’m cool with a 3.8.
GW: Who are your inspirations in terms of producers/mixers?
Quest: Young Guru is a real good audio engineer. He was in Scratch magazine a bunch of times. Whenever he had a article I would see what Young Guru was usin’, what he was talkin’ about, his mixin’ technique. There’s a lotta inspiration from Dre to Kanye, Primo to 9th Wonder, J Dilla, I can talk about producers all day. I love producin’. It’s a lot of dope producers. I’m more inspired by the collective. Everything has a mood, it’s whatever the mood I’m in. I love everybody’s production overall.
GW: When did you start After Image Records?
Quest: Just around the time I got outta school, 2005. It was me and this producer, LP, we just wanted to have a group of artists make good music in a family situation. We was gettin’ a lotta different contracts thrown at us and the contracts was shady. It was bad. We was [like], “Let’s just do it ourselves, see if we can get any distribution. We don’t have to do a bunch of contracts because we all brothers.”
GW: How much did you charge artists to record?
Quest: When I first, first, first started, I was recordin’ around $15 an hour. I mean, if you think about it, to the person strugglin’, you got rent, kids, bills pilin’ up, 15 is a real desirable price for anybody wantin’ get good recordin’ done by a certified audio engineer. We done moved into a new studio, so you know, the rates had to go up.
GW: What artists have you recorded with under Jersey Sound Lab Recordings (JSL)?
Quest: Sadat X, 5 ft from Black Moon, I’m tryin’ to produce a few tracks for the Artifacts new album comin’ out. I’m workin’ with DJ Nino Brown overseas; we just did a project too. Shout out to Physical Graffiti, she’s definitely gonna be a part of the future of JSL, that’s my homegirl right there.
GW: You have an album coming out in the fall, Monumental?
Quest: Monumental is the play title right now. That’s the title we wanted, but I think we kinda movin’ away from that. Right now, I wouldn’t say I’m takin’ my time with it, but I’m not gonna rush it, bein’ that the Flight 973 to Sydney mixtape is doin’ so well. We’re kinda still pushin’ that and doin’ a lot of things over in Australia. I have a folder with a bunch of tracks and a bunch of beats for that album. It’s as good as done, soon as I lock in and get ready to knock that out.
GW: Do you have another album dropping, Engineered To Win (E2W)?
Quest: E2W is a mixtape/album I’m doin’ with a artist from Toronto, named Special. He’s also on the JSL, he’s a dope artist. He’s makin’ moves. Shout out to Special.
GW: How well is Flight 973 doing?
Quest: It’s a free download, but right now it’s gettin’ a lot of attention. I’m gettin’ a lot of press off it, interviews, bunch of plays, gettin’ a little buzz overseas. I’m on a bunch of blogs/ websites overseas. It’s a good look, definitely. We tryin’ to make sure that gets the right promotion, push that as hard as we can before we move onto the next project, bein’ that it’s kinda like the first project out of JSL. A lot of people told me it’s a couple radio stations out here playin’ it.
GW: In your lead single on Flight 973 “I Kept Going,” you talk about paying the price of fame. What sacrifices have you made for fame?
Quest: Friendships and time. I missed my lil’ cousin’s first steps and hearin’ him talk. It’s hard, especially when you have a lot of people rely on you. It seems like it’s always somebody who needs your time or attention. You really have to devote yourself on your craft and makin’ sure everything is perfect, or at least to your best ability.
GW: Was there a time when you wanted to give up?
Quest: It’s been times you wake up like, “One more day…” and you gotta keep goin’. Bein’ that I produce, rap, and do audio engineerin’, I try to pace myself. If I’m rappin’ a lot, I slow down and I make a few beats just to stay a lil’ fresh and new so I don’t feel like I’m doin’ the same thing over and over and over again. I try to do different things to keep my mind clear and stay focused.
GW: In the intro, you mention that you’re from the ‘hood and won’t have your voice synthesized.
Quest: You know how you have a song so commercialized, it could almost be in a commercial? It’s to the point where it’s almost corny? I wanted the mixtape to have more of a raw hip-hop feel, you know, a little rap. It’s still things that’s relevant to this time period, but I just wanted “in your face” lyrics, real hard, soulful; just a big kaleidoscope of music, a little bit of everything, somethin’ for everybody.
GW: Do you feel a lot of rappers in the game are doing music as a side job?
Quest: I wouldn’t even say that. The way hip-hop is to the younger people is that it’s really no talent involved. A lot of people think they can just jump on the microphone, go, “yayayaya…” on beat and it sound good. That’s not really what it is, you know what I’m sayin? Back in the day, you couldn’t just get on the mic and rap. Right now, it’s easy to get $500 together, get a audio interface, a microphone, some beats on SoundClick, and call yourself a rapper. I think that’s a little too easy. If I get a chance, I at least try to school some of the younger, upcoming rappers. Try to incorporate some lyrics. Learn a lil’ bit about what’s goin’ on in hip-hop before you just jump into a song. People think rap is easy and it’s really not if you do it right. We’re just makin’ hip-hop wack. If the average listener listens to somebody who’s a local and they promotin’ their mixtape, or whatever, and it’s corny, they’re not gonna take the chance to listen to nobody else. Music is so quick and disposable now, you got even mainstream artists doin’ two or three mixtapes a year now. They would put out an album every two or three years.
GW: On “Dat Knock,” you address a female. Are you drawn to a female’s intellect before her body or what covers it?
Quest: For females walkin’ around with a Gucci bag, Prada shoes, a Gucci hat, whatever, that’s not gon’ define who she is when that’s not on her. Have a conversation, your shoes, hat, and purse is not gon’ talk to you. That’s cool for the time bein’, I’m with somebody now, but if I’m with somebody, they have to have some type of conversation. Once you get out the club, you gotta talk. I want to know where you at. God forbid, we in a situation, I need you to be on point. I need you to be intelligent enough to make a rational decision. Who wouldn’t want a woman who doesn’t do that?
GW: Is the rap game a dream, like the title of your track, “The Dream?”
Quest: One of my theories is, rap is gonna become fly fishin’. You know how people in the ‘90s just go fly fishin’? It’s gonna be like that with hip-hop, where people are just old, they still love hip-hop, still make hip-hop, and still have love and a drive for hip-hop. If I wanna make beats at 60, I’m gonna make a beat. Just like when you go to the basketball court, it be like 50, 60-year-old dudes out there say, “I got next.” If you still successful within yourself, takin’ care of business, I say do what you wanna do.
GW: Do you always do what you want to do with your music or do you compromise with other artists?
Quest: I have to compromise when it comes to production jobs. As long as I don’t do anything too crazy, off the wall, nobody will say anything to me. They [managers and JSL] kinda trust my judgment when I’m makin’ music. I try not to say, “I’ma do this ‘cause such and such is doin’ this.” I’ma do what comes from my heart and soul when it comes to music. I ain’t gon’ try to force feed you anything.
GW: You have a song called, “UShudaKnown.” What’s something you feel everyone should know?
Quest: We had a conversation in the studio about Illuminati. Illuminati is the big thing in hip-hop and I think that’s pretty lame. There’s things that need a little more time and devotion than Illuminati. I think people are lookin’ too deep into things and not realizing that it’s music. This is just a term brought up now to have somethin’ to talk about, targetin’ hip-hop. I don’t like it.
GW: “The Layover,” is strictly instrumental. What was your thinking behind that?
Quest: That was between me and my manager’s idea. That beat was produced by Craft Beats, he’s also on JSL. During flights, it’s a time when the plane is chill, it’s just relaxing. Sometimes, you just wanna hear music. Sometimes, if you just hear the beat, it’ll tell its own story or you’ll think of your own story. It just creates a certain atmosphere. It’s thrown in the middle of the mixtape, so you can get a break from all the information you’re gathering and just have your own thoughts. When somebody’s rappin’ in your ear, you’re interpreting what their saying. If you just hear a beat, you’re enjoying yourself, vibin’ out, listenin’ to it.
GW: On “Waiting for the Beat to Drop,” the beat is somewhat club-like. Will you go that route with more of your beats?
Quest: If that was where we’re goin’ and we had to make that move and do more commercial music, it would be our own type of music. “Waitin’ for the Beat to Drop,” isn’t “Shorty, get ‘cha ass on the floor.” It’s not, “My ice, my car, my chain.” It’s still kind of a hip-hop song, regardless if it’s got a party beat to it. I would definitely do more commercial music as long as it has some content to it. Don’t get it twisted, I love some Camron, Waka Flocka, if I’m in that mood. Sometimes I can’t listen to Common all day, I gotta throw on some M.O.P. or Busta. Sometimes I can’t listen to Busta all day, I gotta throw some Talib on. I love all kinds of music.
GW: You have a track, “Make a Scene.” Describe a time when you made one.
Quest: Oh, man. One of my last shows, maybe two shows ago, I was workin’ with this promoter and the promoter was bad. They promised After Image Records 20 minutes on stage but something was goin’ on so they couldn’t give us 20 minutes but bein’ that I brought half the crowd to the place, I had to spazz out on somebody and make sure I got my 20 minutes and my people got 20 minutes. If my peoples comin’ to the club to see me, we put a show on.
GW: What does “Play the Horn” mean?
Quest: You know, like when the king comes through. [CHUCKLES]
Quest: You gotta be humble in this day and age. A lotta people is too big headed. You burn bridges down like that.
Flight 973 to Sydney