If there’s such a thing as slowly blowing up, Quin NFN is a test case. The rapper has been steadily rising to the top of Austin’s surprisingly resurgent rap scene since 2016, but it wasn’t until national outlets started paying attention that the teenager began really buzzing.
Quin’s first big break came when he put out “Game Time Pt. 2” in 2017. At the time, he was 16. Slowly, song by song, Quin grew an online-based, national audience. The slow release of singles worked out well for Quin, who eventually signed a deal with 10K Projects, home to labelmates like Tekashi 6ix9ine and Trippie Redd. “I fuck with Trippie,” he says. “I don’t really fuck too much with Tekashi like that.” Quin has built his discography up song by song, using the strength of a dozen or so tracks to gain the deal. Now, with the label at his disposal, a song like this year’s frenetic, hyped-up “Talkin’ My Shit” has 20 million views on YouTube. The kid from Austin, Texas became a national rap star, just like that.
With Quin’s just-released debut mixtape, 4NUN, he has positioned himself in a way that few other young, breaking artists have. He has the streaming numbers, a growing discography, and the ability to turn the club up off one track or soundtrack a laid-back listening session. It’s a mature approach for someone who still can’t legally drink. By patiently dropping tracks, and keeping enough distance between them to avoid saturating the market or overselling hype, he’s allowed his music to spread organically. Now, he has a mixtape with features from NLE Choppa and PnB Rock.
His heroes are a bit unorthodox for a kid of this generation. He loves Lil Wayne, but also digs Quando Rondo and Cassidy. He’s the product of the projects he grew up in, along with a strong mother and older siblings who taught him about rap. He cares more about metaphors than album streams, but the former is likely to make sure the latter never runs out. Quin NFN is Austin’s newest rap hero. The next generation may still revere Wayne, but they might be blasting Quin NFN tapes, too.
When Quin spoke with Complex, he had just returned from a recording session in L.A. Now, back home, he’s had some time to think about his success and what his future holds. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.
You were just in L.A. Were you working on new music out there?
I went down there because I just did a song with NLE Choppa. We were supposed to shoot a video but it didn’t end up happening. So I just spent my time buried in the studio the whole week.
How are you feeling about 4NUN now that it’s out?
It’s been really good. I’m messing with it. Tracks have shown up on a bunch of really good playlists. It’s hard not to feel confident about it. I’m really liking it.
How involved was 10K with the mixtape? Were they in the studio with you?
They were in the stu’ with me every time I touched down in L.A. When I’m in Austin, though, I’m left alone. They don’t really come out here. I just hit them with the records and if they like them, they mess with them. They had a big part in it, though.
I just get motherf***ers hyped.
Are you working with [founder] Elliott Grainge directly?
My A&R is always in the studio with me, but Elliott had a big role in it, too.
What’s it like being co-signed by someone so big in rap right now?
It’s amazing that a n***a got signed by him. I ain’t gonna lie. [Laughs]. I don’t gotta do nothing no more. I ain’t in a rush to get money. It’s taken a lot of weight off my shoulders to be in my position.
You’re one of the most popular rappers in Austin now. Can you just describe what that’s like?
It be crazy. I’ll still pop through and go to a little hood function, and I roll through and I’m the only person with designer clothes. [Laughs]. It be crazy. But they mess with me. I can go anywhere in my city and they mess with me. I’m tough like that. I fuck with my city.
Do you want to stay in Austin, or do you want to go somewhere like L.A. or New York?
I’d rather stay in Austin. I gotta have a house in L.A., though [laughs]. I wanna stay here. It’s a good place to live, just not around a lot of people I used to be around.
You’ve had to tighten up your crew?
Hell yeah. It’s like, a lot a shit comes to the light once you sign, once you get money. Once you start playing with that money you see a lot of shit. I definitely had to cut off a few motherfuckers.
That’s a tough position for an 18 year old. Do you consider yourself mature for your age?
I’ve always kicked it with people a little bit older than me. I got a big brother that’s 15 years older than me, so I’ve been around his partners since I was a kid. I just had to grow up real fast.
What’s it like being on a record label with rappers like 6ix9ine and Trippie Redd?
I fuck with Trippie. I don’t really fuck too much with Tekashi like that. [Laughs]. I don’t wanna speak on that too much, but I don’t really fuck with him like that.
I like making pain music, too. I’m not always tryna be on that turnt sh*t.
What do you like about Trippie?
Shit, the things I’ve heard, I’ve fucked with. It’s not my kind of music but for him to be in that lane is tight.
How would you describe your music?
I make metaphors cool. I make wordplay cool. But I like doing it on a bouncy-type beat. I’m really versatile. I can do anything. As far as how I came out and how I portrayed it, I’m more on some fun, turnt trap shit. I dunna. I just get motherfuckers hyped.
Who were some of your favorite rappers growing up?
It was all Lil Wayne. That’s the person who basically inspired me to rap. He plays with his words so nice. He can be really funny sometimes. Not everything he’s saying is fun, but he can turn up, too. He changes his swagger up, too, so I gotta fuck with him.
What do you hope people listening to the mixtape learn about Quin NFN?
I want ’em to know that I can do anything. There’s turnt shit, there’s melodic shit. I can get any crowd. That’s just how I go about rapping. I like making pain music, too. I’m not always tryna be on that turnt shit. I make pain music when I’m in my feelings.
Where does that side of you come from?
Everything, really. Anything that’s going on in my life goes in there. I didn’t do everything, but a ni**a has definitely been around it, or did it myself. It’s real life experience for me and the people around me.
Do you fuck with rappers that put on a persona?
I don’t really care what someone else is saying. I don’t know who’s lying. I can’t jump the gun. Looks can be deceiving. I don’t jump the gun on nobody. If I feel like you’re cool, I’ll do a song with you. That ain’t have nothing to do with me and my problems.
How do you stay humble and hungry when you’ve already found success?
I will never forget where I came from. I’ll always remember what was happening before I was fucking around with this rap shit, and before I had money. It keeps me level-headed, really. Things started from the bottom, I didn’t have any choice but to make it to the top. This hustle is gonna stay with me forever. It goes away for a lot of people, though. A lot of ni***s get big-headed. It ain’t like that with me.
Is that something you’ve witnessed?
My mama raised me right. I’m one of them ni***s that got raised right. Even though I be fucking up sometimes, I was raised right. I already had that with my mama before I started this shit.
Has your relationship with her changed?
My mama still means the same to me. She’s been supporting since day one. We still have the relationship. She’s more like one of my partners. I’ll tell her whatever. She knows about everything.
Is that also what drives you? Taking care of her?
That’s my main goal. That’s everything. It don’t matter what I’m doing, I’m doing it to take care of my mama.