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TQ: Paradise Found

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The combination of R&B melodies and West Coast rap has proven itself useful throughout Hip-Hop history – just ask Nate Dogg. However, while the West does appear to have stagnant R&B star power, there are some talented gems under the sun. A Compton native by way of Mobile, Alabama, TQ came onto scene in 1998 as an opening act for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s tour. He inked a deal with Epic, but this led to a trying time for TQ; his first album wasn’t received warmly, and his second barely made it to release in US.TQ still has some tricks up his sleeve and is working on the debut album of athlete-turned-rapper Troy Hudson, point guard for the Golden State Warriors. The soft-spoken but expressive singer still found the time to record his own album, Paradise. Taking some time off from a recording session in his Las Vegas home, the singer-songwriter discusses how he’s managed to remain relevant after all these years, how he hooked up with Troy Hudson, and how Myspace aided in delivering him to Paradise.AllHipHop.com Alternatives: It’s been close to nine years since your debut, and a lot of projects have happened in-between. What’s changed?TQ: Well, I mean, I grew up. I think across the board, my writing ability [has improved] which is first and foremost to me. I didn’t get into this thing to be an artist. I got into this to write songs. What happened was that an artist situation fell into my lap so I went with it. Across the board, from a business standpoint all the way to the artistic side, I’ve just grown. It’s extremely hard to put anything over my head at this point. I think it’s been such a lapse in between big releases for me because of that fact. Aside from being willing to work and knowing how to do what it takes to market and promote an album, I just haven’t gotten into the right situation since the first one.AHHA: You’ve been in the studio with Troy Hudson. How is the vibe with an athlete turned rapper?TQ: It was hot. My boy came up with this idea. He’d been working with Troy for awhile selling me on him, but I’m thinking what anyone else is thinking – athletes trying to rap? Everybody’s been pretty wack. He kept trying to sell me on the idea, telling me I need to do a song. Being that that was my homeboy, I was like “Alright, send me the joints.” Sure enough, he sent it. At that time, he was working on Troy’s album. He sent the record and I automatically thought when it came on that it was a hot, and then Troy starts rapping and like…he shocked me! I ain’t going to lie, and I’m not the easiest person to shock, but the fact that the dude really…he’s really got skills! I honestly think that if he wasn’t playing basketball he really would have a shot being a real MC.AHHA: What are the advantages of having your family come from Alabama while growing up in Compton?TQ: There’s something about the South – that real family-oriented community. Especially were I came from, everybody scratches each other’s back. Nobody has anything, so we need each other to make it through life. Even though I moved when I was a year old, I would go back every other summer.[Compton] gets you ready for real life. My little neighborhood in Alabama, where my family is from, that’s like some old-school fairy-tale type sh*t. Nobody on my block in Compton could leave any doors open at night. My grandma’s house – you wake up in the morning, there’s no telling who’s asleep on the couch that wasn’t there when you went to sleep. The real world is more like my neighborhood in Compton than it is in Alabama, especially with this business that we are in. It’s cutthroat, so growing up somewhere like that allows you to have your guns blazing when you go into it.AHHA: Has anyone brought up the fact that you began singing in the church, but are now singing about intense street situations?TQ: I’m sure someone has, but anybody that knows anything about Black music, especially R&B, knows that the church is where you get your practice from. That’s how you learn to perform, that’s how you learn to get a crowd into what you’re doing, that’s how you learn to reflect and be able to deliver. Nine times out of ten, if you’re from the hood and you grew up in a Black household like I did with your mother and your father, your ass had to go to church! The bottom line was if you didn’t get up Sunday and go to church you weren’t doing sh*t all week – no football practice, no nothing. In order to be able to move around during the week you had to make sure you went to church on Sunday. I always liked to sing, so there it is. Let me get in the choir and do my thing.AHHA: Do you have an overall concept for the new album?TQ: I’m calling it Paradise because this album for me is liberation. This is the first time where I’ve gone into a project for myself, where I just had total freedom and did it the way I wanted to do it without any constraints. It was freedom. I think for an artist, freedom is next to success on the totem pole.AHHA: You were signed with Epic Records for sometime. What happened with that situation?TQ: I did [this past album] with so much freedom. That situation was the same thing. I went and recorded an album before I actually got a deal, walked from record company to record company pitching that album, then ended up signing with Sony. The thing was you didn’t have all the bureaucracy of a record company, you didn’t have people breathing down your throat saying, “You should do it this way or do it that way, or you should be like this person or that person” because the album is done. It’s like here it is; if you don’t like it, I’m going to keep it moving. The staff was in love with the record. They came up with the most explosive, unbelievable worldwide marketing plan for the project. They just had it together overwhelmingly over everybody else. No sooner than we get together to drop this single that’s blowing up worldwide, everybody gets fired. Then, you got a new regime of people coming in who weren’t there from the beginning, who are from a different place and didn’t necessarily love the project or love the artist as much as the last people did and had their own agendas for keeping their job. I think that’s what slowed the momentum on They Never Saw Me Comin’ and that’s why The Second Coming didn’t really get out of the gates. With the second album that I recorded there, there were like six A&R men in the studio everyday reporting on my every move. It was f**ked up. It was f**ked up to the point where I stopped recording and I went on tour with Dre and Snoop. That was it. They said, “F**k me,” and I said, “F**k them. Give me my money, I’m out. Do what you want with the album.”AHHA: Has MySpace helped that effort in staying in touch with fans?TQ: You know, I just started using it within this last year. It’s a great way to network. Not only am I able to keep up with my fan base, but promoters have hit me on Myspace for shows, and people have submitted me tracks through Myspace that ended up getting on my album.AHHA: Who are some of the new up-and-coming writers and producers you’ve worked with via MySpace?TQ: There was this one cat called Nigel Payne. I call him “Rookie.” I ended up hooking up with him through MySpace; he’s 17-years-old, hot to death! He plays about three or four different instruments and just took the shot of telling me on Myspace that he had some sh*t. I was down [in Mobile, Alabama] and told him to come to the studio and play. He got on one of them, and it’s one of the best songs on the album called “What You Going to Do?”AHHA: Any advice for artists who might be leaving one record deal in search for a better one?TQ: They just got to try to stay the course. I know it sounds cliché, but if you believe in yourself and believe in what it is that you’re doing, I think you’ve got to stick with it. You gotta almost put on blinders, shift gears, go into overdrive and stay in overdrive until something pops.

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