QD3: Lights, Camera, Action

Nas is the son of a Blues player; QD3 is the son of a Jazz icon (Quincy Jones) and brother-in-law to Tupac Shakur. The man who gained accolades producing for LL Cool J and scoring The Fresh of Bel Air became a top producer, and Hip-Hop’s premier documentary filmmaker. Q’s Beef series and Thug Angel are essentials to any Hip-Hop video library as the Swedish-born multi-talent now moves to producing Paul Mooney DVD performances and hosting channels on Comcast.

Amidst all of his accolades, QD3 looks back fondly on living with T. La Rock in the ‘80s, producing hits for Tupac, and later, making film that would educate viewers on Hip-Hop’s history and humanity. An admitted poster in AllHipHop’s Ill Community, Q revisits various points in his career and shares opinions and views that can inspire any novice, as well as add to history that’s presently being written concerning numerous Hip-Hop luminaries. Whether behind the boards, behind the camera, or behind the backspin, QD3 brings a humanity to Hip-Hop in an age of materialism, machinery, and machismo.

AllHipHop.com: What do you think has been the positive role of the Beef series in Hip-Hop’s understanding of its history?

QD3: I had done the Thug Angel documentary on Tupac after his death, and put it out. I felt like there were still some pieces about Tupac that weren’t explained. I felt that one of the pieces was that…like my sister was engaged to him when he passed away; she was in Vegas and all that, it was her car right behind the car that he was in [at the time of the shooting]. I saw the devastation with her, The Outlawz, a lot of these people depended on him financially, spiritually, paternally, and all that stuff. So when he passed away, I wanted to show people that some of these situations are just rap beefs, and they can be looked at as such. In other cases, we’re kind of encouraging situations where people can end up getting killed – particularly leaders like Tupac and Biggie. That was the motivating factor for making the [series], and educating the audience as to when these situations are real �� and we shouldn’t encourage it, and when to look at it as entertainment. [We tried to] humanize the beefs so that people don’t like at it like, “Hey, this is the cool thing to do.” I wanted to pass on somebody’s mistake as a lesson.

AllHipHop.com: A lot of scholars and rap critics look at the Tupac and Biggie situation as the first time Hip-Hop witnessed battles extend to beefs. However, look at KRS-One and PM Dawn; a physical situation. When do you think battles became beefs?

QD3: Having worked at Power Play Studios back in the day, there were always certain characters aligned with Hip-Hop artists at all times, so that energy’s always been there. The first time it came into the industry, personally, when it started spilling over, was the whole N.W.A. situation. I remember when they were trying to separate themselves from the group, that took things to another level. That was the first time cats were rollin’ with a lot of security guards and all that sort of thing. I was there, working under Dre the whole time, so I remember things turning around that time – ’88, ’89, around that time.

AllHipHop.com: Looking at Proof, he was in Beef concerning the Royce Da 5’9” situation. When people look back at Proof, do you think a portrayal of that short-lived situation will misrepresent the way this artist is remembered?

QD3: I’m glad you brought that up, actually. Because if you look at the piece we did on Proof, really, that was more of a tribute than a beef. What we did was, we celebrated who he was when he was alive, and then we touched – we didn’t talk at all about how he got murdered, too much – it was more a celebration of who he was. That’s what I felt was important, and not enough people knew. If anything, it makes the viewer feel like they wished they would have known him more versus anything else.

AllHipHop.com: It might be on the table now, but now that you’ve succeeded in the documentary medium, will you go on to feature film?

QD3: We’re actually working on a feature right now. It’s like a Puerto Rican City of God. We’ve got Freddy Rodriguez playing the lead, and we’re shooting it in La Perla, Puerto Rico, which one of the most dangerous housing projects, where drugs come in and out of American. I’m working on it with the guys who did Barbershop and our other partner is the Reggaeton record label White Lion, home of Calle13. I think our main focus right now is, we’ve recently launched a new media channel.

AllHipHop.com: How do you fill that with content?

QD3: We’re still figuring all the details out. We’re essentially shifting the focus from doing just DVDs to servicing other platforms, to just keep up with the times and stay relevant. So we just launched www.QD3.com, which pretty much lets you know where all of our outlets lie as of right now. We have a VOD channel on Comcast, some mobile channels, and the website, which is like a broadband video channel.

AllHipHop.com: What are you working on otherwise?

QD3: We just opened a comedy division. The first DVD is going to be Paul Mooney on February 6th. We shot it at The Laugh Factory a week before Michael Richards [outburst]. So it’s the last performance using the n-word. It’s classic Paul Mooney, and I think it’s his only high-quality stand-up DVD, ever. We also did a lil’ documentary with people [paying honor] ‘cause he wrote Richard Pryor’s jokes, he wrote for In Living Color, [and] Chappelle.

AllHipHop.com: So many “hood DVDs” come out anymore. In the Hip-Hop film field, you’ve become the guys others have strived to be. How much of that do you attribute to quality editing, lighting, audio, and just going the extra mile?

QD3: That was one of the main goals when we started this whole QD3 Video collection, was to just to come in at a higher quality level. I felt like…for instance, right now, an artist past their prime, we disregard them so quickly. People, nowadays, even in AllHipHop, I see them in the [Ill Community] talking about “Why is Rakim so great?” and “Who is KRS-One to be saying this or that?” I’m like, “Wait a minute.” I felt like if we documented history in a really high quality way, then people would view their own history in a different way, and hold it a higher value. If we don’t respect it, I don’t see why anybody else would.

AllHipHop.com: You talked about Hip-Hop treating artists past their prime a certain way. You spent time living with T. La Rock in the late ‘80s, what was that like?

QD3: I got into Hip-Hop through breakdancing when I was like 13; I was a pro-breaker, went on tour, did all that. When I was 14, 15, I got this drum machine and started producing for all these local acts in Sweden. Me and my buddy set up this 24-hour Hip-Hop Jam in Sweden. [T. La Rock] and The New York City Breakers came out. He said, “If you ever wanna come to New York, let me know what’s up, and you can stay at my pad.” About a year and a half later, I moved to New York and hit him up, and just stayed with him in The Bronx. It was incredible ‘cause all his brothers [Tone and Special-K] rapped. On any given day, I’d roll out with them, bump into Mele-Mel on the corner, Cowboy. I was basically giving him beats in exchange for rent money; that’s how I came to America. I really came into a situation that was organic and real. I’ll be forever grateful.

AllHipHop.com: Was there a reason you left music production for film in the late ‘90s?

QD3: I always follow my heart, that’s why I’m in Hip-Hop now. At the time…when ‘Pac passed away, you started a lot of people taking the parts of him that weren’t so substantial and they didn’t even pick up on some of the heavier s**t that he was on – the reading and all that other stuff. So I thought, in order to infuse some inspiration into this new generation, why don’t we go document the realness that just happened in the last 15 years. That’s what it was, and I started with Tupac [on Thug Angel] ‘cause I felt he had the most to say, and was the most misunderstood.

AllHipHop.com: A lot of people focus so much on Tupac. But with a lot of producers, we look at that one track. To me, “Lost Souls” with ‘Pac and The Outlawz was an amazing record. Tell me about that record, and the making-of…

QD3: That track, I actually did with this other producer, Sean “Barney Rubble” Thomas; he was down with Death Row [Records]. We were just hangin’ out at my pad one day, and we just came up with that track. We actually made that track for Snoop. We made about five or six for Snoop, and all those tracks ‘Pac ended up rappin’ on later. Snoop, for one reason or another, didn’t end up getting on them. I played them for ‘Pac, right next door at Death Row, and he was like, “S**t, I’ll rap on ‘em right now.” That was it. “You Don’t Have to Worry”, “(F**k) Friends”, “Lost Souls” and “Letter to the President” [were in that batch.]

AllHipHop.com: Your production of “Soon As I Come Home” was the only original track kept on Pac’s Life. There were rumors of a lost reel, are they true?

QD3: Actually, you’re right. They told me that the entire was stolen or disappeared. For years, we thought that song was just gone. Eight months ago, somebody from the estate called, saying they found the two-track master in somebody’s closet. We just threw it on there. If you listen, in the first chorus, you can hear us pulling down the chorus – it’s a real rough mix. It’s too loud. It just a rough mix, and we never intended it [to be released like that], it’s just the music running, four bars, over and over. Since that’s all we have, we put it on there.

AllHipHop.com: You’ve always been an advocate of the underdog in your documentaries. Do you think it’s fair that people that Tupac worked with late in his career have seen their verses replaced by today’s bigger stars?

QD3: I used to take it a lot more personally. In some instances, the people they were taking off had deceased. It just felt…that’s a different situation. Now, I feel like…whatever they feel is gonna work for the record today, that’s their business. In this day and age, I don’t care one way or the other. Even if it’s my song, and they feel they gotta remix it – which happened in one instance – different strokes for different times. At some point though, I hope they release songs as they were originally recorded, just for his legacy. We got a really, really good relationship with the estate. They’ve always been good to us. <br