One of the best ways to get someone’s attention while trying to make it as a rapper? Compare yourself to André 3000. At least, that’s what Baton Rouge rapper QUADRY did four years ago to secure his first placement on Pigeons & Planes. Reaching out to site founder Jacob Moore, QUADRY (born Quadry Winters) described his track “2 Lbs Of Sad” as “in the vein of André 3000.” Moore bit, with good reason, and QUADRY remained on indie rap’s radar ever since.
“That gave me the thumbs up that I’m meant to be doing this,” QUADRY tells me over the phone, speaking on his placement. Beyond Three Stacks, QUADRY's influences include giants like Gil Scott-Heron, the Fugees, and Lil Wayne. Yet, he was never crushed by the weight of his idols. Pressure only came from his contemporaries: Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and J. Cole. Twitter, he admits, put a lot of pressure on him, too. At 23, QUADRY finds himself looking over his shoulder and wondering if he’s accomplished enough for his age.
Anxiously comparing himself to his peers, and dealing with a string of heavy losses—QUADRY lost his father at the end of 2016, as well as another close friend and mentor at the top of 2018—he still has yet to lose his resolve. Even out in Los Angeles, with his album Malik Ruff wrapped up and ready to go, while QUADRY was struck with equal parts grief and emptiness, he had no intentions of throwing his music career away.
“I was in LA, just alone. I didn’t wanna quit, I just wanted to stop doing it for a minute,” he tells me. “At the beginning of 2018, the album was done. I had an amazing body of work sitting under me, and I was like, ‘Damn, it’s just not what it was when I started.’” Read as: this rap shit is not all it’s cracked up to be.
“What made me not quit was just the simple, primal: I’m the shit, I can’t quit,” he continues. “I’m the best rapper, to me. I know I was put here for a reason. It was just that ego!”
While upcoming artists are focusing more and more on virality, QUADRY has his eyes set on crafting lasting bodies of work. “People hold albums close to they heart more,” QUADRY explains. “They remember where they were when they listen to an album. People don’t remember when you hopped on a jet. People don’t remember when you got a new chain. To me, bodies of work breed longevity.”
DJBooth’s full interview with QUADRY lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: What one song of yours drove you to keep making music?
QUADRY: The one song that made me wanna keep doing it is called “2 Lbs Of Sad.” The other one that people really liked, that got more attention, is called “Monday.” I like “2 Lbs Of Sad” because it was the first time I compared myself to somebody. When I did it, I sent it to Pigeons & Planes in 2014 and I said it’s in the vein of André 3000. I presented my artistry and who I’m listening to, and the goal and message of what I’m going for. Jacob [Moore] loved the song and it confirmed for me that I’m going to the right place and touching the right subjects. That gave me the thumbs up that I’m meant to be doing this.
Who else would you say your work is most kindred to?
The Fugees! The Score, it’s one of my favorites. Hot Boys-era Lil Wayne, and Webbie. He’s like one of my top four rappers, period. I like FKA twigs a lot. Lorde, of course. Portishead… I like Curtis Mayfield a lot. Gil Scott-Heron, and Juvenile, and Devin The Dude…
Where does that great taste come from?
My mom had an amazing CD collection. Just burnt CDs, bootleg CDs. So it’s like, let me just walk around the house and see what I find. It’s T.I.’s Trap Muzik, Lil’ Kim’s Hardcore, Stevie Wonder’s Greatest Hits. This is all just laying around the house. Stuff that I would relate to, later on, my mom never shielded me from it: UGK, Scarface. I was always ahead with that.
With so many great influences, did you feel any pressure when you started making music?
Not when I first began, because my parents come at it from a fan point of view. They never pressured me, even when they heard my music. Around the time I started making my first couple projects that started getting on blogs, I got that pressure when I started researching music on my own. Early Kendrick and stuff like that, that put the pressure on me. J. Cole, Drake, good albums. I feel pressure now. My age… I’m 23. I look at who made what at 23… Twitter really did it, I think.
How do you focus back on yourself?
I try to just go outside. When my phone bill is up, I just don’t pay it for a week or two. That forces me to walk to a place that has Wi-Fi. I find myself walking more and hanging out with friends more, too.
What impact has Baton Rouge had on your music?
It’s the biggest impact! More than the music, the way I act and my code of ethics and morals is Baton Rouge. What I talk about and the way I talk about it is Baton Rouge. If you pay attention to the artists here, what they do is so truthful. To the utmost extent. It’s almost too much information [laughs]. Not being scared to share the low parts and the high parts, that’s something that where I’m from instilled in me.
How have you seen the Baton Rouge scene evolve?
In the beginning, before I started recording myself, it was no alternative or backpack-ish scene. Just nothing opposite of street music. It was none of that. Everything you heard coming out of Baton Rouge was really aggressive, really flashy, like ultimate bling. Kind of ‘09, 2010, as I was coming of age, that’s when rappers from here started talking about different stuff and lives to the point where they not rappers. Talking about jobs, relationships, families, friends… That’s still growing.
Where do you see yourself fitting into the new scene?
I just wanna be a glue and a link to certain people. My friend Joe Scott and my friend Caleb Brown… Caleb is signed to Rostrum [Records] and Joe is a local superstar. Joe is from my side of town, and Caleb is from the Northside. Those guys, they would never know each other, but they do because of me. It’s like, everybody knows QUAD, so everybody should be cool.
That’s how local music goes up.
Exactly! That’s another thing I wanna say is blossoming, too. People are not afraid to cross… Even the simple fact of extending yourself for a feature to a rapper you like, that’s a thing to rappers from here. Shedding of ego, that’s a thing I’m seeing now.
Pivoting to your music, so much of Malik Ruff and the visuals strike this balance of somber and hopeful. How did you arrive at that place?
At the end of 2016, I lost my dad. I was making Malik Ruff the whole of 2017, and at the beginning of this year, I lost a really close friend and mentor, Leonard Cummings III. At the bookend of those two, I was making this album, and after that happened with my friend I sat back and reflected. I really created something honest to me because of tragedy. Most people would have folded, would have stayed in the house. That showed me that you have to keep living, you have to keep growing. Not saying be numb to trauma and tragedy, that is a part of life, but there is no reason not to be happy. There is no reason not to be optimistic because there is a tomorrow.
When’s the last time you wanted to quit music, and why didn’t you?
I was in LA, just alone. I didn’t wanna quit, I just wanted to stop doing it for a minute. At the beginning of 2018, the album was done. I had an amazing body of work sitting under me, and I was like, “Damn, it’s just not what it was when I started.” In the beginning, I was just with my friends, rapping. Okay, let’s get a mic. Let’s get Logic or some shit and see how I rap over beats. We laughing, smoking, drinking. It wasn’t that anymore. It was, the engineer comes. I rap. Alone. The producer might come. Homie might come. So I was like, man, I wanna just go back home. I didn’t wanna do music.
What made me not quit was just the simple, primal: I’m the shit, I can’t quit. I’m the best rapper, to me. I know I was put here for a reason. It was just that ego! What the fuck would it be, the best rapper not making it? My friends know I’m good. My mama know I’m good. What would that sound like? That’s what makes me not quit every time I think about it. The best should never quit.
A lot of upcoming rappers focus on viral singles now, not albums. Why the dedication to a complete body of work?
The kid that’s in eighth grade now, that’s going to be a senior in high school… I blew up, I’m probably on my fourth album, and they hear that and they like it? They’ll go back to my earlier stuff and be like “Yo! This shit is classic.” Bodies of work, people remember more. People hold albums close to they heart more. They remember where they were when they listen to an album. People don’t remember when you hopped on a jet, people don’t remember when you got a new chain. To me, bodies of work breed longevity.
I like that you approach everything with the certainty that it’s going to work out.
I have to be certain with this because this is the only thing in my life that I can control. When I walk outside the door, I don’t know what’s gon’ happen. I kinda know: I’mma hang out with my friends and do our thing, but I don’t know what’s gon’ happen. I can’t control my life, and that’s a nagging paranoia. With my music, I try to be like “Yo, I’m the shit,” because that’s the only place I can be like that.
What do you want prospective fans to take away from Malik Ruff?
I want people to understand the camaraderie between me and my friends because I got my friends sprinkled throughout. I want people to take away how difficult it is to maintain strong bonds with people and friends while chasing a dream. That’s what I want people to take from it: camaraderie, and how easy we make it look even though it’s one of the most difficult things to just being close to people.
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