Next to Meek Mill, Quentin Miller is hip-hop's second-biggest punchline of 2015. Any mention of the kid’s name is likely in the form of an inevitably corny joke at Drake’s expense, or his own. Miller has somehow earned this indignity despite his having inspired, if not totally written, Drake's recent hit records "10 Bands," "Know Yourself," and "Used To," plus Drake's verse on Meek's "R.I.C.O." His talents withstanding, Quentin Miller gets no respect.
Meek's provocative disclosure of Quentin Miller's contributions to Drake's If You're Reading This It's Too Late has sent many of us combing through Miller's own SoundCloud, digging for potential hits or, in any case, some hints of a promising solo career. Meanwhile, Drake's partisans, desperate to tarnish Meek's motives and honor, have chided Meek for "fucking Quentin's money up." (I can't imagine that Meek's claims against Drake have irreparably damaged Miller's credibility, considering that Miller presumably had nothing to do with the disclosure of his involvement.)
As a ghostwriter, Miller's bona fides are public knowledge only so far as Drake is concerned; his profitable involvement with however many other rappers is an outstanding point of speculation. As a rapper, however, Miller and his WDNG Crshrs crew are very much so a work in progress.
Some might go so far as to call Quentin Miller a struggle rapper. Given the notoriety of his songwriting talent in other capacities, that term is harsh, though it's hardly off-mark in describing a kid who, less than a year ago, was cheffing donuts at a bakery in Atlanta while finessing SoundCloud on the side; he was literally struggling. In July, after the initial ghostwriting rumors broke loose, Miller confirmed (via Tumblr) that Drake called him up last winter and asked him to observe a few late-stage recording sessions for If You're Reading This It's Too Late. (In Miller's account, the pretext to Drake's having reached out to him remains unclear, and the "I watched this man piece together words in front of me" nature of Miller's involvement is implausible.)
The mixtape, album, whatever you want to call it—Drake's If You're Reading This It's Too Late was a commercial success. Meanwhile, Quentin Miller's SoundCloud is still a graveyard.
Hit-Boy, a friend of Miller, is a potentially predictive example of just how difficult it is to leverage one, specific, relatively marginal hip-hop talent into headline, frontman stardom. Hit-Boy, a former G.O.O.D. Music producer who's now signed to Interscope, moonlights as a rapper and member of HS87, which also includes rappers Audio Push, K. Roosevelt, and several others. Last year, on the strength of "Grindin' My Whole Life" and “Parade," HS87 debuted on Billboard's Twitter Emerging Artists chart but nonetheless failed to crack the R&B/Hip-Hop category or the Hot 100.
"Grindin' My Whole Life," which HS87 dropped in May 2014, only really took off online once G-Unit remixed the song two months after its initial release. So, in effect, instead of selling a beat to 50 Cent and then making cake from the publishing split, Hit-Boy made a beat for himself and his crew, which G-Unit then just went ahead and jacked for their own purposes. Which would be a real shame if not for the fact that G-Unit’s take on the song is so decisively superior to the original, mostly on the strength of Young Buck’s aggressive delivery.
As my colleague Angel Diaz recently noted, Hit-Boy is a gifted beatmaker whose knack for rapping is (shall we say) modest in comparison. "Just throw in the towel and hire a team of ghostwriters," Diaz suggested. "Yeezy did it."
Where I disagree with Angel—we were talking about this in the office—is with his suggestion that Hit-Boy is deficient in songwriting, of all things. Hit-Boy can't buy charisma, just like Quentin Miller can’t develop an impressive mic presence overnight. Miller may understand songcraft, but listen to his "10 Bands" reference track, for instance, and behold the disparity between Miller, who sounds meek if not sedated, and Drake, who's so nimble and punchy while rapping a verse patterned after Miller's reference track.
Unfortunately, Quentin Miller will never escape these one-to-one comparisons with Drake. It's likely not his fault that this ghostwriting drama unfolded as it did, though, arguably, Miller should've kept off Tumblr and kept entirely quiet; his having publicly, extensively acknowledged his clandestine collaboration with Drake has effectively locked Miller into Drake's narrative orbit—the same orbit where a dozen other OVO affiliates that you've barely heard of all seem to be suffocating in concert.
While I was writing this analysis, Quentin Miller dropped two new songs, "T.G.I.W. (TakeAwf)" and “Cease and Desist,” via SoundCloud. On the latter song, Miller raps, “[I] gave niggas some of the hottest songs of the year and I’m still underrated,” which KanyeToThe and a few other deep-web spectators billed as a Drake diss. Despite that hint of high-profile controversy, “Cease and Desist” has so far struggled to attract more than 6,000 listens. For Quentin Miller, a guy who's officially credited with co-writing a few platinum-selling “mixtape” cuts, here’s a sobering reminder that none of those hit records are his.