An Interview With: DrxQuinnx

 

DrxQuinnx is an MC, producer, DJ and designer from Illinois. Already known for his wild sample chopping skills, Quinn has steady connected himself within the current Midwest underground scene. I came across his art sometime last year and was immediately impressed by how deep his talent and knowledge of the game both run. When we sat down early last week for what turned out to be a 90+ minute interview, I was equally impressed by his conversation. We covered a variety of topics – from his college days, to the genius of Madlib to his multiple monikers, inspirations and side projects. To me, Quinn is a genuine, creative and dedicated artist simply putting on for himself, his people and the culture of hip hop. And you can’t hate on that. – Benny P

 

“What is your first memory of hip hop?”

“ ‘Wild Wild West’…by Kool Moe Dee. When I was a kid. I used to love Kool Moe Dee when I was little. When I saw ‘Wild Wild West’ come on I used to start tripping. Like, ‘what!?’ That shit is raw.”

“You’re from Champaign, Illinois. Where is that in the geography of the Midwest?”

“Champaign is like three hours south of Chicago. It’s not even a suburb, it’s its own city. One of the largest metropolitan areas outside of Chicago.”

“What are some big takeaways from your youth in Champaign?”

“Childhood was cool. We grew up in a pretty good family. Had both my parents, little sibling and everything. The kind of family everyone wishes they had. Was fortunate to have that. It was traditional I guess, other than worrying about the racist bullshit where I’m from. Champagne was cool, but I honestly moved up here (to Chicago) to branch out even further.”

“Can you talk on some of the racism? I know it can be a pretty heavy subject to cover but I think it’s important for people to know how much this shit is everywhere.”

“So, I tell people this all the time. You can get called a nigger every day where I’m from. Straight to your face. In Chicago it’s a little different – big cities like this – they’re different. It’s more systematic than it is in your face than in a smaller city, smaller town. I’m at a point now where I’m always down to stand my ground for the black community, but at the same time I feel like at this point if we wanna end racism white people are going to have to almost end it for themselves.”

“You ain’t wrong. There’s so much hate in people. I appreciate your honesty, man. A lot of people can have a hard time talking about this shit and it means a lot.”

“It’s where I grew up. I can remember one time I went to one of my best friend’s houses for the first time and his mom told me that he wasn’t home, but I could see his ass playing Nintendo in his room on the third floor. Shit like that.”

“Damn. They were white?”

(Nods)

“That’s fucked up man. Was Champaign more rural or was it city vibes?”

“It’s kinda both. There’s a lot of small towns around it and a lot of people come into Champagne to work or just to kick it.”

“How did hip hop play into your youth?”

“When I was a kid I wasn’t allowed to listen to rap. My first love was rock, then drum and bass music. My neighbors were always blasting Twisted Sister, Poison, Def Leppard, White Snake…”

“Foreigner (laughs).”

“Yessss, yes all that shit (laughs). I was into rap, but my parents wouldn’t let me listen to it. I did love Kool Moe Dee and all them, but I wanted to get more into Nas and shit. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. The first ‘parental advisory’ CD I got to listen to was the Rush Hour soundtrack.”

 

 

“When did hip hop really become a focus for you then? Middle school? High school?”

“I would say the first time I actually performed, when I was nine. I was in third grade. I performed in a talent show and rapped the Monstars.”

Space Jam!”

“Hell yeahh. They was going ham over that. People were like: ‘we ain’t never seen this dude rap before!’ My parents started to teach me how to move around the stage and everything. Cause my favorite dude was Busta Rhymes and I was trying to be wild. They were like: ‘nah nah, you gotta calm down. You can’t do Busta Rhymes. That’s not you (laughs).’

Then in like middle school – sixth grade, that’s when it started to change and shit. I changed schools in middle school and got bullied a lot. You know cause I skateboarded, watched anime, I talked proper to most people and shit. So a lot of that same shit carried over to high school. Cats thought that they could fuck with me my freshmen year right. I had been learning how to freestyle since I was thirteen and was working on my skills and something in me snapped at fifteen. Somebody just called me out in the middle of the hall cause I was just coming in to see what cats was rapping about, and I just wound up freestyling back. There was this dude, he was like the best in school apparently, and I took him out. People were like: ‘ohhhhhh!’ You know how kids get? Always trying to make a scene and shit. That granted me a couple years of immunity until one dude two years later beat me in a freestyle battle and everybody was like: ‘ay, you ain’t the GOAT no more man!’ ”

“Were you recording at this time? Producing?”

“I was only writing raps at first. I didn’t know how to make beats. This one dude in my school named Eric, he was making all the beats and shit. I was trying to gather pieces together, but I had no money and dudes was charging. So I couldn’t record. Some of the beats he had were dope to me, and then I was like: ‘I think I can make my own. Imma just try it.’ So, I was looking for a surplus of people to help with the beats, and my Jazz combo instructor got me onto Sony Acid 4.0. I asked him if he would let me in on the program and he gave me his serial number. At seventeen that was the first time I started making beats.”

“That’s pretty sick your teacher helped you out like that.”

“Yeah man, it’s funny man. You’d never guess a black rapper had a lot of white dudes teach his ass some shit early on (both laugh). The dude kinda taught me how to use Sony Acid, but the rest was up to me. It was a pretty good program I fucked with it.”

“What instrument did you play in band?”

“Trombone. I did concert band and jazz band.”

“That’s dope. Let’s get into post high-school. What was college at Eastern Illinois like? How much of your daily life was focused around hip hop, and how much was focused on what you were studying? Actually…what did you study?”

“Art and graphic design actually. And I was on the track team.”

“You were running, dude? Making beats and running track?”

“Mhmm. But I had a chronic knee injury and after a while had to stop. I was like: ‘what’s more important? Walking, or trying to win the Olympics?’ (laughs). I was a pretty good jumper though. My best high jump ever was 7’6” in my life. I hold the school record at 7’ though.”

“So were you just pretty much on the grind every day then? Making music, art class, track practice…”

“Yeah, it was a bit of a struggle. I just learned to balance it out. But I was fucking up in high school so I was lucky to even make it to college. So I was like: ‘aight, might as well. Cause I ain’t trying to go home. I got shit to do.’ ”

“From when you first started, to when you graduated and got out, how much do you think you personally grew during those years?”

“A lot. A whole lot. And it wasn’t only even the classes. I had to teach myself how to be a businessman because I did freelance graphic design work. Like, one year I saw an opportunity to make the booklets for homecoming, and I just ran up to the offices and was like: ‘I can be your freelance graphic designer and if not match your price, make it cheaper.’ On some hustle shit. ‘I’m a student, it’s going to look good for you guys cause you’re putting a student on and it will also save you some money.’ So I started making my own connections around the school just to make my self ensured a little bit.

There also was this class my senior year called ‘Exhibition Techniques.’ There wasn’t actually a graphic design program but I still got to major in it and do other art practices. That’s a complicated subject. Anyway, I’m in this class and this teacher is like: ‘how many of you guys have actually showcased or presented your art for work?’ And I’m the only one who raised his hand. And I’m thinking of all the work I’ve done from freshmen to senior year. With graphic design, music – and I’m looking at them thinking ‘what have y’all been doing this whole time? Are you just going to class just to go to class or are you taking this shit to go further with it?’ ”

“When was your first show?”

“I believe that shit was early on in college. I started rapping in the bar scene of Champaign – I was doing shows in Charleston, Champaign, Bloomington, Carbondale – I was all over Illinois and shit. I actually won a contest at 21 to open for Lupe Fiasco. At this point I had already been making my own beats. When I finally opened for him it made me say: ‘if I can open for this dude, I can probably open for others.’ ”

“What was that night like opening for Lupe?”

“I kept my expectations low. I already knew, I was thinking: ‘after I meet this dude he’s probably going to leave. He definitely ain’t trying to sign nobody. We doing a nice meet and greet.’ Nothing against dude, it’s one of those realistic things a lot of artists don’t understand. They think it’s like: ‘I met an artist – if I spit a hot 16 or do this’ – nah. I met him and all, shook his hand said my peace and everything. But after he took off it was just the end of the night. I knew I was probably going to have my fun, but other than that I was like: ‘let’s start planning some more shit.’ Cause, you know, I’m not gonna stop. I was even thinking that I could probably e-mail people and do the same thing. Talking and working with the school, I kind of understood how the business worked.”

“Where did your inspiration come from at this time? I’ve seen the names Madlib, Dilla, Lupe and Kanye – were those the big four? Any other names that really inspired you?”

“Those are the big four. I have to say dearly with Madlib, with Madlib. Aye, Madlib may say ‘Dilla still king,’ but to me, Madlib is God. Had Madlib not rapped over Dilla when they worked on the Jaylib stuff then I think J Dilla would not be weird. I’ve studied the game dude. I’m the guy copping bootlegs online. I’ll keep it funky. I had like all the Jaylib outtakes before they re-released them.”

 

 

“Man, what the fuck is it about that stuff? Like, I’m in the same boat. Madlib to me, Madlib’s Beat Konducta tapes exhibit so much craft that no one else – I can’t even fathom how good that shit is.”

“Right!?”

“What specifically about his music do you think influences you? You’re heavy into samples…Madlib, Dilla, Kanye. Their sample game is all second to none.”

“Madlib to me…he said his influences were Dr. Dre and RZA. He can capture that. But what Madlib does, something I learned early making beats, is blend. It’s a technique he has in his beats that I’ve learned. It’s a way of making a synthetic drum sound like it was part of the sample itself. The way he chops the beats. The way he puts the stab in them shits at certain moments, that was sooo mesmerizing to me. I heard it and I was like: ‘I want to make beats like that.’ You can throw a loop on and it can change up every now and then. You can keep it simple. That’s what I love about Madlib. Now you can hear all the people that’s birthed off Madlib and Dillas’ sounds.”

“I want to hear more about the name and your different monikers. I love that almost scribbled-in, big smile, mask looking image you have…”

(Laughs) The Gooch! That’s The Gooch. Yeah yeah. I think that people need to know now. So, DrxQuinnx has three sides to him. If you look into my tracks you can see that each character has a different tone, a different side of Quinn. The smiley face is ‘The Gooch.’ That was actually the title of my first EP on Reserve Records. Here’s the story behind that. I was talking to somebody on SnapChat and decided to send them this goofy ass picture. And they was like: ‘what the hell is that?’ And I was just like: ‘The Gooch’ (laughs). But then I started looking at the picture and I was like: ‘I fuck this with this.’ There was this guy on Different Strokes who was always fucking with Gary Coleman and they never showed his face. He was ‘The Gooch.’ And then I was thinking of the RZA on ‘Clan in Da Front’ – ‘Up From the 36 Chambersss! It’s the Gooch!’ So, I was like: ‘I fuck with this.’ ”

“You said you have three different characters. What’re the other two?”

“DrxQuinnx, and then you have Don Brisco. Lemme get on The Gooch a little more. Gooch is more the aggressive, ‘I give no fucks, I’m coming with bars and saying whatever,’ ratchet raps.

Then you got Don Brisco. Don Brisco is kinda like the, the self-conscious shit. I get more personal. I like mob movies. So I kind of thought: ‘okay, what’s my kind of character if I want to be in a mob movie? If I had one, I’d probably be the busboy. The Wiseguy who really didn’t say shit, but always knew what the fuck was going on. Just kept his nose clean and kept his mouth shut. So I thought: ‘what’s kind of a funny name for that?’ Don Brisco.

And then there’s DrxQuinnx, who’s a happy medium between the two. Either way though I’m giving you conscious shit.”

“I like that. What are your thoughts on being an artist in this digital age? There’s so much technology out there connecting us unlike never before.”

“I’ve always been a nerd. So I’ve just learned to adapt. Anything on a computer at this point I’m like: ‘Imma just learn this and figure it out. I will admit, this age has made it easier. It really makes you branch off and do your own thing. I feel I have a lot of avenues I can take advantage of.”

“The Midwest Scene right now…blows my mind. There are so many artists on different levels completely killing it. How does it feel to be apart of this booming scene?”

(Pauses) I’m still taking it in. Like, man, I went from working with Denmark (Vessey) to working with Vic Spencer and Chris Crack…I mean, ran into Mikey Rocks last night g!”

“Woah, Mikey. Him and Chuck – The Cool Kids? What they did on that Bake Sale EP. That opened doors. Changed the game honestly.”

“Dude, it’s like. One embraces hip hop and one embraces swag and they just bring it. To me they were almost like a new-age version of Run-DMC.”

“So influential. How did you and Denmark Vessey link up? He’s also in a different league.”

“This was random right. We actually met each other in Champagne. He was living in Chicago at the time I met him. I was doing a show with my homies Bad Wolf, and my homie Azarias apart of Bad Wolf too. And he was doing shit with Denmark. Denmark introduced himself to me by his real name and I didn’t know who he was. I was in my mind of doing the show. So then I’m at a Madlib show and my friend and I are waiting outside. And Azarias came up with T-White who was signed to Street Corner Music. We showed each other some stuff and were like: ‘we gotta link up.’

So I went over to T-White’s for a while and stuff, and then one day Denmark popped the fuck over. Oh – I had given him a beat too but didn’t know it cause I hadn’t seen his face. And that was even before I met him in Champagne. So when I finally actually met him I was like: ‘oh shit you’re that guy I gave that beat to!” And he was like: ‘wait, which one?’ So I played it for him and he was like: ‘oh dawg, that was you? Oh shit.’ After that we just connected. Denmark and I didn’t make music right away. I was hanging with Azarias all the time and shit. And then Denmark was over there one day and – you can actually here some of this story on end of the track ‘Bo$$hogg’ – and that’s when him, Azarias and I decided to make Doppelganger.”

 

 

“Y’all were like: ‘we got good vibes. Let’s just link and make a quick EP?’ ”

“Yeah this is what happened. We was over doing an open beats day and it was the ‘Maury’ beat that really got us into it. I had been over a different day and I had heard that same beat and wanted it, and Azarias said: ‘you gotta talk to Denmark.” So back when all three of us were doing the open beats he threw it on – I think we recorded it that night. Or – we wrote it that night and recorded the next day. ‘Maury’ was the first track we recorded. We just kept making shit. We got a lot of shit that people don’t know we have. It’s gonna drop soon so…”

“This year? Trying to drop in 2018?”

“Yup.”

“Oooh.”

“Yeah, maybe like Halloween or something like that.”

“Fuck, man. I could have a whole interview just about Doppelganger. How much talent y’all three have, how different you guys are too. You have these threads that tie you together, but you’re definitely each your own artist. I think that’s important.”

“I think some cats learn from Wu-Tang, I mean I learned from Wu-Tang and a lot about their philosophy on how they work as a unit. Everybody is an individual first. We’re actually renaming ourselves to ‘Bullies’ to pay respect to The Dopplegangaz. We don’t want to get us confused. Denmark knows those guys so we wanna pay them respect.”

“You guys are doing it right. Let’s move onto some rapid fire questions now. Dream collaborations?”

“Ooooh. Mach-Hommy. Really trying to talk to Pounds right now. I owe him some beats. Westside Gunn! Westside Gunn would be a dream. Oh, and a real dream collab for me though would be OG Maco. Fam, cats sleep on his ass. If you listen to his shit – go back – go back before ‘Bitch U Guessed It.’ All his music. He just came out with a new song like in February called ‘Pigs’ too. I’m mad as hell OG Maco ain’t getting the plays he deservers man. That nigga cold.”

“What advice would you give to your fifteen your old self?”

“Do not change a thing.”

“Strain of choice?”

“Man, this ain’t technically a strain but I’ll take Moonrocks.”

“You can switch lives with anyone for a day? Who you switching with?”

“Oooooh. That’s tough. Cause then they’d be fucking up my life.”

(Laughs)

“Kanye. To put his ass back on track. Nah, you know what. I would switch with Trump.”

“Woahh. And do what?”

“Just do everything he don’t want and bring everything that Obama had back (laughs).”

“Can you imagine waking up one day, and DrxQuinnx is in Trump’s body? And no one knows. And you go on TV and you’re like: ‘any brotha with a weed conviction is out the pen. I’m ending private prisons. We’re ending all this shit.’ And then you throw up the W and walk off. People would be like: ‘what the fuck!?”

“It’d be so epic man (both laugh).”

“Wrapping up here, what are your goals for the rest of 2018? You have the Black is Gold EP dropping at the end of May right?”

“Yup.”

“Inspiration and themes for that project?”

“My head before that project was that I didn’t want to make something uplifting just to make something uplifting. I wanted to make something uplifting because that’s just how I felt. I wanted to make something based off how I felt. How I felt about everything as a black man. And, it’s like, this is for y’all too. Here’s your ‘Wakanda Forever’ and you can take what you want from this shit. I wrote it with a purpose for people to see that black is gold. We all gold. All races all people are good you know, but this is something for my black people. We are gold. That’s basically what Black is Gold is about. It’s about black empowerment and the black struggle.”

“I have infinite respect for that man. Using your voice. You and Lil Kydd are dropping a collab project under the name ‘Citizen’ as well. That’s coming out in 2018?”

“That’s coming out in August.”

“Dope. Overall, what are your goals for these three projects (Black is Gold EP, Citizen project, Bullies project) and the rest of 2018?”

“The goal for the rest of this year is to keep producing and keep being active. Keep executing, just getting myself further out there. I look at it like this. It can go away tomorrow. I just gotta stick to my guns and do the things I gotta do. Promote yourself and get it out there. Always room for change and always room to grow.”

 

 

“Last question. Where will DrxQuinnx be a year from now?”

“Probably on tour…doubling up on what I’m already doing. If not tripled. I got some shit in the chamber for next year already so…all it is is just fulfillment.”

 
 
 

For more info on DrxQuinnx, please visit his Bandcamp, SoundCloud, Twitter or Facebook. Make sure to also peep his new EP ‘Black is Gold,’ which dropped today! It’s available on all streaming platforms – you know I’ll be peeping it. – Benny P

 
 

images via DrxQuinnx and All rightful photographers/directors

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Whatchu think? Sign in and comment below, friends!  #SupportHipHop #SpreadLove #RhymeBeat

 
 
 
 
 
 

– Benny P

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