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by Max Herman
27 October, 2004@12:00 am
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Sometimes support from a friend or family can quickly turn turmoil into triumph. For Q-Unique a simple phone call from longtime friend Ill Bill (of Non-Phixion) was the spark that helped ignite his solo career. When Q’s days with the Arsonists seemed to be coming to an end, Bill jumped in, ready to help get his album and name out and into the public. Now, approximately two years later, Q-Unique has been across the country performing on the Warped Tour and is set to drop his surprisingly personal solo debut, Vengeance Is Mine, October 19th on Uncle Howie Records. While the future of the Arsonists has yet to be written, one thing for certain: Q’s name is getting out there and he’s got plenty to say, so listen up.

HipHopSite: What was it like performing on the Warped Tour?

Q-Unique: Ahhh man, you know it was good because I was performing in front of people that I normally never perform for really. You know–punk rockers, people with Mohawks. Obviously you get your fan-base that come in because they want to see you but just being surrounded by rock people all day was definitely a dope experience for me.

HHS: And how did the punk-rock kids embrace you Non-Phixion and Immortal Technique?

Q-Unique: They were good–they were with it you know? When you do something and you do it from the heart and it’s real according to you, people are gonna accept that. You know what I mean? People can sense what’s real. I’m not saying what’s real for hip-hop itself ’cause I’m not cocky like that. I’m not saying that what I do is supposed to be all of hip-hop, but it’s real according to me. You know what I’m saying? So that’s the way I see it.

HHS: What are some of the craziest things that happened on tour?

Q-Unique: Man first of all just traveling in a 15-passenger van with Non-Phixion across the U.S. being cramped… that in itself was crazy. And driving for seven hours, fourteen hours–all that shit was absurd. Because you’re cramped in a van all day, after a while it just starts working with you, so you do something about it or you don’t. For me I would do things like crowd surf in the van and brothers would get mad at me (laughs). I was getting fed up kid so I would put on like the Slipknot album–the new Slipknot album– and the shit would come on and I’d start crowd surfing and slam dancing in the middle of a 15-passanger van (laughs).

HHS: Yeah, I can’t even imagine how some cats are on tour for half the year. It’s ridiculous.

Q-Unique: Yeah, it gets to you after a while but you gotta really make (the) best for what it is because you get homesick real quick.

HHS: So once you got home did you guys run into any of the (Republican Convention) protests or did you kind of steer clear of Manhattan pretty much?

Q-Unique: I stood clear of it. I mean I got peoples’ backs for what different people stand for but I definitely ain’t trying to be in there like that. You know what I mean? That’s not my bag.

HHS: About your album that’s coming out, Vengeance Is Mine, it’s a lot darker and more personal than anything we’ve heard from you before. How long have you been waiting to make an album like this?

Q-Unique: I think it’s been since the middle of the Arsonists. I would do things on the side that would be really personal and really dark but it just never made the album because the Arsonists’ albums were more of a compromise of five different people and a certain direction. The Arsonists had it’s own direction and obviously the direction that I went wasn’t the majority of the direction. So I’ve always wanted to do it, but there was always something inside me that also stopped me from doing it for myself. It was more of like me having it inside me and then Bill saying, ‘Yeah, that shit’s gonna work, that shit’s gonna be hot.’ So once he co-signed it, I had all the more confidence to say, ‘Okay, that’s what I’m gonna do–I’m gonna tell people my story.’

HHS: Was it a relief to get all the strife from your childhood onto record?

Q-Unique: Yeah. Yes it was. You know what? At first as an MC you got that ego, you know what I mean? So you feel vulnerable, but then after a while, as a human being, it was like therapy because I was able to get rid of a lot of demons–not really get rid of them, ’cause you never get rid of them. But at least you get them outside in the open. It’s like ya’ll are listening to me vent and I appreciate it… and also tell ya’ll a story–a real story to hold your interest with that. You know?

HHS: So how long has this been in the process of being written–this album right here?

Q-Unique: (Pauses) You know (laughs), that’s a good one. I started out a solo artist right–in the late ’80s–from there (I) just kept on getting with different groups and different things. So if it’s based on just being from going solo to getting back to solo, it’s been a long adventure. The album itself took a couple a years to really map out, get all the beats and get all my ideas together and also to warm people up to my presence. It was a whole strategy… ’cause not only did I have to go and write an album and get everything together, but I also had to get on the road and get on stage and alert people to the fact that Q-Unique was standing alone. And Non-Phixion helped me out a lot with that ’cause they took me to Europe and they took me on the Warped Tour and they took me to different places and they were like, ‘Look, this is our boy, believe in him and this is what he’s doing now.’ You know?

HHS: Yeah. On “One Shot” you speak on how A&Rs told you that a Puerto Rican could never sell but then Fat Joe and Big Pun come along and then things changed. So did any majors approach you about putting this out?

Q-Unique: No. I’ve lost my confidence in majors. I never considered shopping this to a major. Those experiences were based on when I was a little younger and I went and shopped my demos and people would say the most absurd, racist things to my face. You know? It was bizarre. When you’re an artist sometimes you fall naive to the reality and you want to believe that people listen to you music based on skill and merit and that it’s a good song, but the way the business breaks it down is: race, creed color and where you’re coming from and what kind of character you’re bringing up. So I’ve been told everything from ‘Puerto Ricans won’t sell’ to ‘You need to rap in Spanish’ to all types of shit. You know? And for me I was like, ‘Fuck ya’ll, I’m a hold my ground’ and I wasn’t dictated. The Arsonists shit was real successful in a sense of getting my name out there and getting the whole crew’s name out there. You know we did our thing. And Bill and the rest of the Uncle Howie people–they got my back. And people that have been hearing the album, slowly but surely, everybody’s been okay with it. So I believe I’m doing something good. You know what I mean?

HHS: Definitely. So that’s why you went with Uncle Howie–because you knew that would let you do whatever you wanted to?

Q-Unique: Nah, not at all. I mean I easily could have just did my own thing. It was just to have a brother of mine that believed in me. When you see hard copy of the album come out, there’s gonna be a little story in the jacket and it’s gonna say that the album was put together through friendships–because it was based on Bill calling me. You know me and Bill and have known each other for a long time so toward the end of the Arsonists whole thing he just called me out of the clear blue sky like, ‘Yo, what are doing?’ ‘What are you doing with yourself?’ And he was concerned. And I told him, I don’t know if I’m gonna do this Arsonists thing and initially he was like, ‘Just come on the road with us.’ And then it went from there and he’d seen me performing and he was like, ‘You know what? Let’s do a solo album. I think you deserve it.’ And that’s how it came about really.

HHS: So are the Arsonists officially done now?

Q-Unique: For now it’s my turn. That’s all I can tell all the fans. I know what everybody’s thinking–I know what everybody is wondering. I guess everybody should ask me that question in about a year or so. You know what I mean? After I get my fill (laughs lightly).

HHS: I guess everyone’s wondering ’cause back in the ’90s the Arsonists were mad deep and the numbers just started dwindling down. Is it because people just wanted to do their own thing?

Q-Unique: It was a lot of things. It was bad internal–not really bad where cats is trying to kill each other–but it was internal beef and just not being able to see eye to eye. We grew up together man and so when you have that and you’re really that close as brothers man, after a while you need space–you’re growing up, your ideas start to change, your ideas ain’t the same as the other cats’ ideas and you want to see things in a different way. You need the space so that’s exactly what happened.

HHS: All right.. Most people don’t know that you make beats too but you produced both of the Arsonists’ albums right?

Q-Unique: Yes I did.

HHS: And also a lot of this album right?

Q-Unique: Yes I did.

HHS: Okay, do you have any other production in the works for other people too?

Q-Unique: Yeah, me and Bill are getting together to do a production company called Hit Mongers. And I’m going to be producing for the Non-Phixion album and my main objective is to get my career going, but what I really love to do the most is to find some new cats, a new group or whatever and bring them up through the ropes and produce for them and give them the shortcuts. You know what I’m saying? Just do that. I want to be one of them kind of cats. But at the same time I’ll bow out gracefully. I’m not one of those rappers that just won’t go away like some of these ignorant fools, but if the Supreme Being blesses me where people just want to keep hearing Q-Unique then so be it.

HHS: Basically you also want to be an A&R with integrity?

Q-Unique: An A&R with integrity and a producer, you know–somebody that they can trust. I’m not walking in there like on some scheming and on some half-ass shit. The way things is with my album is the way I want to do other people’s albums. Bill came through (and) he not only said, ‘Let’s do a solo album,’ but he sat with me through the whole thing and he made sure shit was tight. He was there like Rick Rubin–like Rick Rubin does with all the groups he produces. That’s the way I want to be. I want to be able to spread that kind of love too–make sure that shit is tight. Know what I mean?

HHS: Being that your album is about come out pretty soon, what else do you want people to know about it?

Q-Unique: I just want people to really pay attention. I know that sometimes as a musician we get over-detailed with our work and with other people’s work–meanwhile the average consumer could just breathe through your chin and they just look for the basic elements. I’m like, that’s cool, you can look for the hot beats, you could look for the quick one-liners here and there, but overall I just want people to listen and really pay attention. I really put my soul into this and I really feel good about it and the people that surround me feel good about it and now the strangers that I don’t know feel good about it, so I really want people to pay attention and just enjoy it and peep it out.

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