You ever look at directly at the sun? One blinding light in the hip hop universe that is and has been doing extraordinary things is Quincy Jones III. Better known as QDIII this man has been a visionary in hip hop and the complete music industry for nearly twenty years. His father, the pioneering legend of jazz and R & B, Quincy Jones, has certainly raised a successful man. From growing up in Stockholm Sweden where he says during the 1980’s the hip hop atmosphere was more pure and unbiased than in the United States to earning his first gold record at age 16 QDIII is surely a master of many talents.
He toured with a group of break dancers at an early age and brought his mastery of musical production to the United States shortly thereafter. Working with legends like T La Rock and Special K, QD adjusted extremely well in his production style to fit the needs of more contemporary artists. In the 1990’s QD went from working on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air to doing production for 2pac, LL Cool J, Ice Cube, Mack 10, Too Short, and Monica. He hopes his legacy will be immortalized in a 12-part hip hop DVD collection. Already entrenched in the work he has released “Thug Angel,” “The Freshest Kids,” and most recently “Beef.” AllHipHop.com got a chance to speak with the true Renaissance man Quincy Jones III aka QDIII
AllHipHop.com: You’ve been involved in a lot of projects lately, and I want to start with the most recent, the “Beef” DVD. What was your involvement in this project?
QD: Yeah it was something kinda just came to me as an idea. My involvement basically was that after I finished “Thug Angel” I wanted to make basically a “Thug Angel” part two because we had so much footage left over and there was so many aspects of Pac’s personality that weren’t clarified. And I was like damn how can I clarify like his anger, and why he got in all these beefs because we had kind of left the darker side of him alone. Out of that whole thought process we thought of using the “Beef” DVD. And my involvement was as the executive producer.
AllHipHop: What were your goals in showing the different aspects of beef in hip hop, and how were you trying to affect your audience?
QD: Really my whole intent with it was to show people what not to do and still present it in a way that is palatable by consumers today where they will still be entertained by it. For instance, if you have a drug problem. There’s a twelve step program that details admitting you have a problem, look at your problem, and admit that your problem is over. It was a diagnosis of looking at the problem. Its kinda like holding the mirror up to hip hop and showing them (the audience) ‘here’s where were at.’ Then we’ll figure out the next step.
AllHipHop: So do you feel like conflict lyrically or otherwise is bad for hip hop itself as you implied?
QD: It depends how it is handled. If it is lyrically conflict I feel it makes two MC’s better. Ya know when it goes to the streets though, depending on how its handled and how publicly it goes down that it can send some confusing messages to viewers. And a lot of times I think rappers hold more power than they know. And that when it comes right down to it they can hold more power than the parents. So they have to watch the message they are handing out.
AllHipHop: Why did you go from in the beginning of Beef by discussing a more lyrical conflict such as Busy Bee/Kool Moe Dee to at the end focusing on more physically violent conflicts within hip hop like 2pac/Biggie?
QD: We wanted to show how battles and beefs have evolved. We wanted to show that in the beginning of hip hop, not to say people did not pass away, but it was a lot more about who was the better MC and if one guy lost one week they could come back the next week. And I think the Busy Beef/Kool Moe Dee battle showed that very well and how they’re cool now and the whole nine. Where as now as soon as somebody says something it goes straight to the streets mainly because they’re protecting their street credibility. On one hand I really understand that reality, ya know the whole reality of that kind of cred, but on the other hand I feel were kind of cheating ourselves by adhering to that standard. The only people that get hurt are us, not the record companies.
AllHipHop: To switch gears for a minute, you were born in Stockholm Sweden, correct? What was it like growing up there?
QD: Yes, yes. It was cool growing up there. It was kind of like a culture shock because I moved from a house in Beverly Hills with my pops (he moved to the West Coast for a few years shortly after being born in Sweden) to basically public housing out there. It was just a culture shock on a lot of levels. At the time we lived in public housing and it was just such a big difference. There’s a very large population of mixed people over there and that was basically my whole crew out there.
AllHipHop: Do you feel growing up in Sweden set you back as far as knowledge and experiences with the hip hop culture because you were so far removed from NYC, Philly, and LA?
QD: I think it was the other way around. What happened was is that at the time I was doing breakdancing tours and all kinds of different stuff. The first people we were introduced to were Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Crazy Legs, those were the people we looked up to. There was no commercial wave of hip hop over there at all. We got it straight from the source and because we didn’t have major access to it we studied it religiously. Any magazine that came out we’d read it, any record that came out we memorized it, and we collected everything. And there was no coastal bias from that. We had a lot of access to everything and loved all of it. When I came to New York it was like I had a bird’s eye perspective. Now I may not know all the intricacies of every single borough but it definitely gave you a hunger to learn everything.
AllHipHop: With your father being as influential to jazz and the entire industry’s history in general, what aspects of his personality and style do you believe you inherited?
QD: The visionary aspect of it. He is the kind of person who has never been afraid to bring together a lot of different flavors. For example, on one of Michael’s records’ he might have Africa percussion, Brazilian percussion, and African choirs all on one song that has a disco undertone. He also has been a pioneer in one sense in that he could hear something somewhere and he could be like ‘oh I want to incorporate that into what were doing here,’ basically taking something that might not already be in fruition and bringing it out. That type of vision. I feel I got that same kind of sense.
AllHipHop: Did you ever feel growing up in your teenage years or even your early to mid 20’s any pressure to succeed because your father was so well known and famous?
QD: Yup. When I was younger it used to be like when I was breaking people would be like “you gonna do music?” and I was like “no.” It was the standard question everyone would ask and I almost tried to move away from that to not me compared. And then low and behold it grabbed me. And it just happened, and I had my first gold record at age 16.
AllHipHop: Moving from this, you’ve done a lot of production over the year with scoring movies, television shows, remixing tracks, and production original beats for artists. Who was your favorite artists or group in any of the industries to work with?
QD: I would say 2pac. But really three people, 2pac, LL Cool J, and Ice Cube. To me they are very similar because they are all self made men. Regardless of what else is going on on the outside they were driven to the point where they deserve that everything that comes back to him. Those cats are really doing it and they were all really inspirational. And no matter what happens in the future I’ll never forget what they taught me.
AllHipHop: If 2pac was your favorite to work with, what was your fondest memory of spending time with him, on a personal or business level?
QD: I would say every moment. Just every one. Ya know how some people you see them on TV or hear their records and when you meet them and they’re not everything you expected. But 2pac was the other way around. It was like oh my God! This guy is just intellectually, spiritually, talent wise, he was so direct and so honest. I would say every moment because you felt like you were in the room with a living legend at the time. No doubt about it. Its gets bigger every second. Its also like how if you’re in New York and everyone is walking down the street and you start to walk a little faster because everyone else is doing it? Pac was like those million people, that’s how much energy he had. When you were around him you felt like you could do anything. He never thought twice about anything. He would be like let’s do it and get it done. You got motivated by that. Every time you were around him it was just like a ride.
AllHipHop: What was your motivation for the documentary “Thug Angel” and the goal of that project?
QD: The basic goal of that project was that having known Pac, and I didn’t know him for his whole life, having known him for a portion that I felt he was misunderstood. He was misunderstood by the public. So underrated as an intellectual thinker and leader.
AllHipHop: Your sister Rashida was engaged to 2pac at the time of his murder, how did she regain her strength after his death?
QD: Yup. That’s interesting you ask because that’s had a pretty big impact on her life mainly because she was so young when it happened and she really hadn’t gone down that road before. And she was like ‘aww sh*t this is real.’ Now though she has regained her force and strength and she is happy as ever now. She’s married now and happy as ever. Its one of those things that you have to let time heal and its all good.
AllHipHop: You’ve released the three recent documentaries with your company QD3 Entertainment. They are all supposed to be a part of a 12 part hip hop documentary series. Can you explain any of the ideas for future projects will be? What will be next, will any of the future films focus in another individual artist like you did with 2pac?
QD: This is the Time Life series of hip hop. It’s a series that covers our generation’s struggles, urban Time Life. I really don’t want to discuss any of the future projects, just not yet. I do think we’ll focus on individuals in the future. I’ll hit you off with the rest next time.