Rich Homie Quan has emerged as a frontrunner in Atlanta's next wave—a new, hyper-modern raft of hip-hop talent following in the footsteps of household names like T.I., Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane, and 2 Chainz. He's distinguished himself with a well-rounded approach, combining the hookcraft of artists like Future with a fully fleshed story, a deft hand at creating both party raps and more serious narratives alike.
And of course, most importantly, he's got hits. Starting with 2012's "Differences" and confirmed with the unprecedented success of this year's "Type of Way," Quan's music has provided evidence of his mass-appeal bona fides and his substantial underground fanbase. For weeks now, Quan has floated in the top five most-searched artists on LiveMixtapes, thanks to his mixtape Still Going In Reloaded. We sat down with him recently in the Complex offices to find out Who is Rich Homie Quan?
As told to David Drake (@somanyshrimp)
Earliest Music Experiences
Rich Homie Quan: “The first music I remember listening to was the Hot Boys. Guerilla Warfare by the Hot Boys had me brainwashed. [Laughs.] White tee, very clothed. My Uncle Meek, he was always into music, I was just all over him when he came over. I knew he always had the CD and he always put me on to new music.
For my birthday, my Auntie Tracy, she bought me JT Money CD. It was some little song in Atlanta that was hot. She bought me the CD, man, I put the picture on the wall and everything.
“For my birthday, my Auntie Tracy, she bought me JT Money CD. It was some little song in Atlanta that was hot. She bought me the CD, man, I put the picture on the wall and everything, you know? I remember, it went from that, then she bought me that Hot Boys CD. I played it forever. Hot Boys and Lil Wayne’s Tha Block Is Hot. When I found out Wayne was 15, I was like, “They say he just 15?' I know I was like, 'Damn, so in a couple years...' I started saying, 'If I grow me some hair, I’ll have braids like Wayne.'
“But I like slow music, old-school music, like the oldies. Like The Temptations. I used to ride with my grandmother to school everyday, that’s all she would listen to. She wouldn’t listen to no rap. All she would listen to was like oldies, blues, and stuff like that. One thing, like, my music, it be melodic. I get that from her.”
Starting To Make Music
Rich Homie Quan: “I first started thinking about making music when I was like in 11th grade. I ain’t really want to do music, it was just like one of my hobbies. I was like, might as well try. But when I really started to want to rap, started thinking I can make music on my own, was probably when I was in jail. When I was in jail, I started making music on my own. That was two, three years ago.
Teezy was like one of my first people who ever believed in me. He ended up getting killed. It really added more motivation for me. Like, I got to get it now.
“I done went to jail for a little minute. I went in for 15 months for burglary. I knew my dream of being what I wanted to be were scarce to none. So I knew I had to come up with a new hustle. I sat, I thought.
"From then, I was just like, 'Man, I’m trying to rap,' but I ain’t know if I was good at it. I ain’t know if it would work. I was shy at first. Ain’t know if no one would believe in me. But it worked. Started from jail, came out of jail, came home, got in the first real studio. From the real studio, started coming up with good songs. And then it just went forward.
“My friend Teezy connected me to the studio. Like two years ago, I met Teezy, almost like a year after I got out of jail. We was kicking it everyday. Teezy built a little studio, invited me in. He was like one of my first people who ever believed in me. He ended up getting killed. It really added more motivation for me. Like, I got to get it now. You know, I got someone pulling for me. From then on, I just ain’t never look back."
Rich Homie Quan: “To be honest, when I first started I wasn’t even listening to nobody else. If I go to the studio, I’ll drop something in right there and I’ll keep listening to the song I wrote myself because I want to make it better than my last song. But I still would listen to people. At that time, 2 Chainz had shit on smash, T.I., Gucci, Jeezy, all them have always been an influence. Webbie, Boosie.”
“For hooks, I’m inspired by The-Dream and Drake. I remember I was like in 11th grade and my best friend Jared, he used to always have an iPod, and I was like 'Dream? You listen to The-Dream?' He was like, 'Bruh, you got to just listen.' When I listened, that might’ve been it. Love/Hate, oh my god man. Honestly, that’s probably one of the biggest musical influences. That made me want to just step outside the box.
The-Dream wasn’t really singing, but he was. But it was like he had his own style. Despite what anybody thought, he was riding to me, and that’s all that matters.
“I think I got a tone, but it ain’t no tone because I was like, The-Dream wasn’t really singing, but he was. But it was like he had his own style. Despite what anybody thought, he was riding to me, and that’s all that matters. Love Hate signified who The-Dream was.
“His music, it’s not the same no more, but he’s still one of the greats to me. He’s still one of my favorites. As an artist, he’s different. He brought something different to hip-hop. He stood out. He knew what he was doing with the 'Falsetto' song, c’mon man. It’s a perfect song. That’s one of my favorite albums. When I’m 50, I’m going to always play that. My favorite song is 'Purple Kisses.'
“But I’m Quan, I feel like I’m different. Who had it like Dream with the hooks or Drake with the hooks? Because a lot of my hooks stand out. Even a little bit of T-Pain with the hook. When I was locked up, I had never heard of Future. It was T-Pain who was the man of the hook game. Everyone wanted Pain on the hook. I remember even going to court one day and I heard a T-Pain song and I was just so crunk in the van, I was like, 'The radio still turnt up!' I like all them on the hook, but Drake and Dream, c’mon man, they’re the hook kings! As far as melody. And Drake still spitting.
“I listen to Meek Mill and French Montana hard. Even when I’m on the road, if it ain’t myself I’m listening to, it’s Meek Mill and French. Rick Ross, Drake, Young Money, and MMG right now. They got the key right now. So Young Money and MMG is what we listen to when we on the road, other than myself.
Rich Homie Quan: “When I’m in the studio, I ain’t picking up no paper, no pen. I’m going in off straight feeling. If I’m feeling sad, you gonna know it on a song. If I’m crunk, then it’s a crunk song. If I’m going through something with my girl, you’re going to hear some love songs. That’s just how it is, I don’t write nothing. I live off emotion, off feelings.
“I’m a studio rat, though. If I go in the studio, I ain’t trying to leave. We’re really trying to work it out for like 10 hours. I work better during the day though. I’m not like a night owl, I’m a during-the-day person. During the night, nah man, I’ma still want to go home and chill.
“When I was in jail, I wrote so much that when I came home I was remembering some of the raps that I rhymed. So I start going from, 'I don’t need no paper, I can remember these two.' So I start punching in. I might not say a whole 16-bar verse, I might come do four, then, come back in, punch a six, then come back in, punch a two. Hey, we got a 12-bars. I remember the hook. I’m coming up with them things so fast.
I’m trying to create my own lane. It comes from me listening to myself so much. I want to make it better and not to sound like nobody. I think about every line before I say it, even an ad-lib.
“I’m trying to create my own lane. It comes from me listening to myself so much. I want to make it better and not to sound like nobody. I think about every line before I say it, even an ad-lib. I want them to make sense with what’s going on, try to paint like real pictures, make you feel like it’s your song. I’m always like Picasso with music notes. Just take you out of the element of rap. I don’t even want to be looked at as a rapper, just a hip-hop artist.
“'Type Of Way' is not really a crunk beat. It’s smooth, but like the feeling you get from it, and that’s what I think get people crunk. I’m not a crunk artist, I’m not a hardcore rapper. But I feel as though I can spit. I like a smooth beats man, I love 808s. Long as it’s smooth, I feel as though I can talk, get a message through, it ain’t about making a good song, what’s the message I can get on the beat. That’s what I be looking for.
“I always had melodies, but my rap style wasn’t so much about the storytelling. I didn’t have a story then. So it grew, you know, but I always had my same style, I always sung. I always felt as if that was going to differentiate me. I would just sing a little bit. Because I feel like, I’m telling myself, ‘I ain’t singing, but I ain’t hardcore rapping.’”
His mixtapes, Still Goin In and Still Goin In (Reloaded)
Rich Homie Quan: “My first mixtape, I Go In On Every Song, came out in—what year is this? 2013? So, 2012, the beginning of 2012. I dropped that mixtape by myself. I didn’t go through the process of putting it together, it was just when I wanted to drop it. I could’ve put it together, because over that time I probably had like 100 songs, so it was me just picking from the list. I probably could’ve done it in about two weeks. I had a lot of songs, I put it together, and got a good little response from it. But I just wanted to see what people were gonna think really. It buzzed up a little stir.
“After I Go In On Every Song, I dropped Still Goin In. Still Goin In came out with a big stir. It was the 'Differences' song that got everybody attention at first. Then we came, we dropped the 'Differences' video, we came back to [Still Goin In (Reloaded)] the same day and had four new tracks including 'Type Of Way.' 'Type Of Way' just took off. 'Type Of Way' shattered 'Party,' but I feel like when Type Of Way' dies it’s gonna make 'Party' bigger than life. 'Party' was the one we thought would blow up at first.
We rented out a studio and had a listening party. We got sheets printed out with all the songs and a tally mark, and we would let the people pick. So out of 60 songs, those were the songs they liked the most.
“It wasn’t even really a track, it was the whole mixtape, Still Goin In. When we dropped it, we put out 10,000 CDs—BET weekend, when they came to Atlanta. Out of 10,000 you got to think like, even at 10,000, you know 10,000 people ain’t gonna listen to em. Look, 3,000 might get them in the right hands. That’s just being real. From then, it’s them not picking any particular songs, it was the whole mixtape. Everybody had their own favorites.
“The way we picked out the songs was so different. We didn’t even pick out the songs, really. I don’t know if anyone has done it, but what we did was, since my first mixtape to the time before Still Goin In, I had probably done about 60 songs. What we did was, we burned three CDs and put all the songs on there and rented out a studio and had a private listening party. Well, it wasn't so private—we told everybody to come. [Laughs] We got sheets printed out with all the songs and a tally mark, and we would let the people pick. So out of 60 songs, those were the songs they liked the most. So I can’t go wrong if I leave this in, this what they want to hear. I had songs about cars, songs about girls, and when they picked, they wouldn't want to hear the real pain music. That’s what they wanted, so that’s what we started to do.”
His Identity & His Brand
Rich Homie Quan: “Trinidad James and I are signed to the same label. He got a major deal through Def Jam, I’m still just with the label [T.I.G. Entertainment], so I’m still independent. But that’s my dog. We went to the South by Southwest festival in Houston, that was my first time ever going out there. You know, it’s a different crowd, a different atmosphere. Especially coming from Georgia.
Trinidad James and I are signed to the same label. He got a major deal through Def Jam, I’m still just with the label [T.I.G. Entertainment], so I’m still independent.
"In Georgia it’s so hard to stand out. People try to do too much to fit in, and that’s what I was thinking about: How can I approach this game and be different? What can I offer that another rapper ain’t trying to offer? What’s gonna make these people like me? Why don’t some people like me. It’s all like, if I can just tell my story. Ain’t nobody got my story but me.
“I think my music resonates because it’s so real that people can relate to it. They like, ‘It feel like your music.’ It’s really from the heart, it’s not like I’m out here rapping like, ‘Okay, I wanna make a song about nothing but cars.’ Nah. My following’s been growing so fast. I don’t put a lot of tweets up, I don’t put a lot of pictures up. People just feel as if we each other and I say everybody Rich Homie, it’s a brand. Everybody can be a Rich Homie, anybody.”
Picking out Singles
Being Compared to Future
Rich Homie Quan: “I salute Future because he’s doing his thing. We from the same side of town in Atlanta so there might be a little bit of similarity here. I can’t help how I sound, but what we talking about, that’s a total opposite thing. That’s what it come down to in the end of the day. I’d rather be judged on what I’m talking about, as opposed to how I sound, because that’s something that I can control. I can’t control how I sound at all, but I can control what I talk about.
Future and I from the same side of town in Atlanta so there might be a little bit of similarity here. I can’t help how I sound, but what we talking about, that’s a total opposite thing. I'd rather be judged on what I'm talking about.
“I don’t use autotune. You can hear my voice, you can hear my pain. I want you to hear more pain in my voice, that’s why when I do my shows, I can do any song on my mixtape at-will, on the money. Because that’s how I want to keep it. I want to make it too real. I don’t want to sound like nobody, I want to sound like me. I want to establish my own lane.
"Nobody go in on the ad-libs like I do. Just like the way they just coincide with each other and compliment the verse. There’s no ad-lib without a verse, no verse without a ad-lib, that’s the way I make my music. The talk, I talk to myself almost like how they had the T.I. vs. T.I.P.. I’m talking to myself on there man, I’m schizophrenic almost. That’s how I be looking at it.”
Rich Homie Quan: “We’ll drop another mixtape before the summer ends. It’s still untitled. I’m not going to give away any features, but I can tell you people I been working with. I been working with Wale, I’m on the Jeezy and YG song ['My Nigga'], me and Gucci did a lot of songs together, of course me and Trinidad got stuff.
I seen Drake at the Birthday Bash in Atlanta. He stopped, we dapped up, and he said, 'I came here early just to see the song 'Type Of Way.'’
“It ain’t so much as anything major I’m trying to get across. I just want to tell my story and hope that it can influence any of the kids, to tell them you can be whatever you want to be. My music, it’s different. I don’t rap about stuff I don’t have, I try to rap about stuff I got.”
“Any rapper is my competition. Anybody with a microphone. No friends, it’s a business. It’s one spot at the top. You’re gonna always think you’re at the top. So everybody’s competition.”
“I seen Drake at the Birthday Bash in Atlanta. He stopped, we dapped up, gave him one of them hugs and he said, 'I came here early just to see the song 'Type Of Way.'’ It did something to me. Of course, I didn’t tell him like, 'You had a lot to do with my career,' but man it did something to me. Ever since that day, I’ve had a smile on my face for like two weeks. Like the little Grinch, the little wink in my eye because of that man, it did something to me. Motivation.”