Qveen Herby Has Sold Millions As Part Of Karmin. Can She Do It Again Solo?
Qveen Herby is back and better than ever before. Hailing from Kansas City but now calling Los Angeles home, the singer, songwriter, and rapper returns after a short hiatus, discovering and figuring out who she is not only in the music industry, but as a person.
Coming up in a duo as one-half of Karmin and selling multiple Platinum records (such as “Brokenhearted”), Qveen Herby, real name Amy Noonan has a newfound love and respect for her solo artistry.
Her sound and styles transcends the genres of contemporary pop, R&B, and hip-hop, proving no lane is out of reach if you work hard and commit. The result arrives in the form of uplifting, feel-good records for her growing fanbase.
Her recent departure from a major label gave her the freedom to be as creative as she wishes, utilizing her talents in all facets of her life. Most recently, she unleashed the official music video for her new single “Check,” directly inspired by Missy Elliot’s timeless hit “I’m Really Hot.” Fans can also look forward to her debut album and tour, following a series of 10 EPs that coincide with the seasons.
AllHipHop caught up with Qveen Herby in downtown Los Angeles, who describes her recent journey as “reborn.”
AllHipHop: For those who don’t know, who is Qveen Herby?
Qveen Herby: I was born Qveen Herby. She took a little detour and tried to get her bag, then came back to what she really wanted to do. Qveen actually was my nickname in college. Recently I found out I’m Russian, which is why the Qv een.
AllHipHop: You never knew you were Russian?
Qveen Herby: No, my whole family’s like “oh yeah, we’re just German white people.” I’m like cool! I took one of those DNA tests, I’m 70% Russian.
AllHipHop: What made you take the DNA test?
Qveen Herby: I wanted to know. I found I'm 2% Asian, I'm like “yes, at least I'm not just German.” My history, my family doesn't know where the first one came from. It was like a bastard child. For genetics too, it's cool to know I have a mix of things.
AllHipHop: Being from Nebraska, what was that like growing up?
Qveen Herby: Oh man, I compare it to living in a bunker. It was Jesus everything, which is great. I'm really grateful for my work ethic and my morals. But when I got to the city, I’m like “ooh.” This is the music I’m obsessed with, but there were literally no black people. Growing up in Nebraska, I was obsessed with R&B music. Because it was a religious household, we weren't allowed to listen to rap. I’d get the rap feature on the Mariah [Carey] single only. I thought everybody must rap, it's not a big deal. But in 2011 when I blew up on YouTube rapping, I found out not everybody does this. So I had a lot of studying to do, to catch up.
AllHipHop: What studying did you have to do to catch up?
Qveen Herby: I first jumped into Snoop Dogg, the Doggystyle album. A Tribe Called Quest, Low End Theory. It was trying to understand the art form of rap, because it's so different from singing. R&B is very sweet and romantic, or at least it was in the 90’s when I was growing up. Rap has changed so drastically since then, so it’s been fun to be a part of that wave and getting into trap music. Everything changed.
AllHipHop: Did you want to be in the urban space back then?
Qveen Herby: I still hate the word “urban.” I didn't understand it.
AllHipHop: I don't like it either, I didn't know what else to say.
Qveen Herby: Right, what else do we say? I thought “I don't belong to this culture.” The Chronic, 2001, the Dre albums, omg. If you would’ve told me back then as a little girl that I’d someday be rapping, I’d never believe you. I didn't know what b##ches and hoes were, but it sounded great. I’m totally the token white girl who came from a farm and f##king blew up from rapping. Signed a big record deal with L.A. Reid who I expected to teach me the whole game, which he did in a lot of ways. But as soon as we signed, he’s like “we have to beat Katy Perry.” It was disappointing.
AllHipHop: Bring me back to the YouTube rapping. What were you like then and how were you putting your content out? Did it pick up organically?
Qveen Herby: We were two broke kids in Boston, just finished music school. It's funny we’re talking now because it was the last recession in 2010. We did about a year of weekly covers on YouTube. We’d do the popular songs. A lot of the popular songs had raps in them, I’d just do it. “I'm covering the song, I’m not going to f##k it up.”
“Look At Me Now” blew up, real organic. We didn't have people working for us, none of that. We had to learn really fast what to do. We didn't really know what we were trying to be. We met with Jermaine Dupri, he had a really cool plan to write records for us and have us cover them. He’s like “well you’re not urban kids, you don't understand the genre.” We met with Kanye, who’s like “oh I’ll put you in the studio for 8 years.” Looking back, that would’ve been a good move.
AllHipHop: How was that meeting with Ye?
Qveen Herby: It was amazing. It was like this [one on one], but at the hotel in Tribeca. The one that's a triangle. He came down because they’re recording Watch The Throne upstairs. I thought “is this really happening?” The same day we met with L.A. Reid, I’m like “what do we do? Who do we sign to?”
AllHipHop: So you signed with L.A. Reid as the duo Karmin. What happened with Karmin?
Qveen Herby: Yeah, we had a couple Platinum records. We got our bag, and we got out. We’re like “it's time to do what we want.”
AllHipHop: You mean the solo thing?
Qveen Herby: That's what it turned into. It’s funny because it was about me and my man at the time. Me and Nick were Karmin, we were all over everything. The more we learned, he turned into a producer. We got all these sessions with big producers. He’s always been a producer-minded guy, and he was tired of doing choreography. He’s like “I'm not a boy band.” It worked out perfectly, to know that a romantic couple could go through all that s##t and still come out of it. Still want to build.
AllHipHop: I didn't know that you guys were a couple. This is your husband?
Qveen Herby: 15 years. We met when we were 19, at music school. I know, it makes no sense.
AllHipHop: That's so cute!
Qveen Herby: It's cute, but it's real. It's hard. There are days when we want to kill each other, but he pushes me and I trust him more than anyone to get it done. For Qveen Herby, we brought on our friend PomanoPuff, who's worked with Kodak Black and Nicki [Minaj]. He’s got really good cuts. He loves our musicality and he’s not trained, which is really important. If you're a trained musician, you always need somebody who has raw talent to keep it fresh. Our common thread is that we all love Kanye. No matter what he does or says, we think he’s the greatest artist of our time.
AllHipHop: What do you like about Kanye?
Qveen Herby: We always talk about how when he drops a record, it's always 2 or 3 years early. People aren't ready for it, just now I'm like “omg, Life of Pablo.” But it was My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, that’s our favorite #1 album. We knew if we could all agree on this, we could probably make some really good s##t.
AllHipHop: You released “Vitamins” at the end of last year, talk about coming back with a brand new style.
Qveen Herby: That was EP 7. That’s another thing, we’re not doing albums. We’re going to drop EPs. I’m really inspired by fashion designers, they get 4 seasons a year. I want Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. It gives us a chance to evolve and gives the fans something fresh. It's not any lower quality than an album. People are always like “where's the album?” I'm giving you half an album every 3 months. It's getting a lot of attention now of course because the lyrics are “working out, sleeping in, and taking vitamins.”
AllHipHop: Literally! But you can't even workout right now.
Qveen Herby: Yeah, our gym closed this morning. So crazy, but you do need to do your jumping jacks.
AllHipHop: How have you been adapting to the Coronavirus madness?
Qveen Herby: I'm an empath because you feel everybody's vibrations and you can't help but let it affect you. You're embarrassed you let it affect you. I'm supposed to be out here as this boss b##ch, all my music is empowering. You're the s##t, confidence. I felt like s##t all weekend, but now this is an opportunity to level up like we’ve never seen in our lifetime.
Even in China, they have clear skies right now. There's no smog, because it’s been shut down for two months. “The same amount of darkness means there exists the same amount of light.” You have to choose which one to look at. If it's a really dark time, it means there’s a lot of good s##t happening, which is where I'm at today.
AllHipHop: Why is self-care a full-time job?
Qveen Herby: For all of human history, we haven’t put a focus on it. It's not about you, but it is. Without empowering yourself, what the f##k good are you to anybody else? This past week was a great example, I was really down in the dumps. I have a list of all these things I can do to get out of funks, but it comes down to you having to do it for yourself. That's what happened with my career so far.
Even with music, until I took the time to focus on myself and call myself Qveen, I wasn't putting myself first. I was doing it for L.A. Reid, I was doing it for my parents. I was censoring myself for my young audience. I woke up one day completely unhappy, with a bunch of money I never had before. I’m like “wait, I have an opportunity to look at the light in the situation and make something dope.”
AllHipHop: When did you make the decision to call yourself Qveen?
Qveen Herby: Qveen was almost June 2017, so it's only been a couple years. But I‘d never go back. People ask “is Karmin coming back?” No sis, no! It's over. I love you. Stream Qveen!
AllHipHop: What do you do to de-stress?
Qveen Herby: I added a new thing today, a breathing exercise. I have to look up the name of it, it's this dude. Gwenyth Paltrow did a series with her Goop team, her lifestyle brand. They go and do drugs together. Like Chelsea Handler, but the pink, soft version. She doesnt say “f##k” as much, she’s brilliant. She’s been around, doing her thing. This guy basically can eradicate disease from his body. They’ve tested him. He does all this breathing, almost makes you hyperventilate and hold your breath to oxygenate your cells. Definitely, exercise is huge. Whatever that means to you: yoga, stretching, lavender baths. People sleep on bath tubs.
AllHipHop: I try to meditate but it’s so hard for me.
Qveen Herby: Meditation is really hard, I hate it. But if you're really in a bad rut, you have to go in. You have to stop putting your energy out. Recharging, but spoiling yourself too. Even if it means buying clothes or retail therapy. I do drink. Cannabis is wonderful. CBD for anti-inflammatories. I don't like to promote cannabis to my fans because I know some people can't do it. It doesn't work. You have friends that get paranoid, I don't want to give anybody a panic attack but it's an amazing medicine! Amazing for a lot of us.
AllHipHop: What does female empowerment mean to you?
Qveen Herby: It’s like the self-care conversation, we’ve never put an importance on it. As a human race, we’ve never put importance on the female. We’ve actually pushed them down in every possible way. Being a female rapping in a male-dominated genre, and wearing glasses — people are so shook about me wearing glasses. Everybody always makes fun of girls for wearing glasses. “Oh you look like a nerd” or “you're ugly.” I'm going to wear glasses in my biggest moments to make sure that we are seen.
AllHipHop: “Check” is a banger. Who or what inspired this one?
Qveen Herby: Yesss! Missy Elliot for sure, Timbaland. We found out they sampled a hip-hop song from the 80’s called “Wild Thing.” I didn't know that, it’s “I’m really, really hot, mmm.” You recognize the beat when you hear it. We got her permission to drop it, I’m like “this is amazing, I can quit now. I’m done.” There were so many different writers, so many interesting people we met through the process of getting it cleared. You know you're on the right track when s##t lines up. Timbaland was someone we talked to many years ago trying to sign a deal.
AllHipHop: Why are there no names on your EPs?
Qveen Herby: Because it's like fashion seasons: season 1, season 2. You know how dramatic it is? I don't want to make fun of any names but the album will have a name, for sure. I want to go to 10. I want to get my perfect batch of EPs. People always give me s##t for dropping so frequently, yo I'm independent. They had a graph in Forbes about the top independent artists, I'm in the top 1%. So don't f##king talk to me about dropping. These labels have people wait 2 or 3 years for an album… like no.
AllHipHop: Did you fulfill your contract with Epic or did you get out of your deal?
Qveen Herby: We had to ask. We had to call Mr. Reid and beg to be released. Of course, it came out that we were dropped. Whatever, don't care. He’s like “whenever you guys want to come back, welcome you with open arms.” I haven’t hit him up because it was a crazy experience. I love having control so much.
AllHipHop: What did you learn from that experience?
Qveen Herby: Everything. I have all the tea. My friend Shane Dawson does these crazy conspiracy theories on YouTube, I’m like “bro, we have to do a full out brawl on the music industry.” I know how it all works.
AllHipHop: Are you shedding light on it to people?
Qveen Herby: I’d like to. I’m waiting for the right moment. It’s a delicate balance of when do you have enough power to actually make a difference? A lot of my followers are artists too: music, painters, documentary people. I want to show them you can create a sustainable career that’s creative. There’s graphs on Forbes, signed artists don’t necessarily do better. One of my friends got a sync so he can eat for 6 months, but imagine if you owned all the masters to your music. Now there’s programs that’ll pay you every month for master royalties. Publishing is dinky, it’s micro-penis compared to owning your masters and people don’t know. They don’t want you to know.
AllHipHop: You mean services like DistroKid?
Qveen Herby: DistroKid. I love Stem, they’ll help you one on one.
AllHipHop: They’re very female empowerment right?
Qveen Herby: Very. My girl Milana is the head of Stem and she’s a badass. She has a picture of me in her office, so I can quit now. [laughs]
AllHipHop: What are some goals for yourself as an artist?
Qveen Herby: To be honest, I gave up on singing years ago. I always say I quit singing, the less you try the better you sound honestly. The same goes for my writing. It’s gotten really interesting to the point where we’re making bops and it's easy. I’m watching because I know every artist has a peak of their creativity. I'm trying to make as much music as I can right, I’m in my f##king zone. In my quarantine zone! I've only tasted what it means to have a big song a little. My biggest song was #15 on the Billboard charts, that was crazy.
AllHipHop: What song was that?
Qveen Herby: It was “Brokenhearted.” “Acapella” didnt chart as high, but it sold more in the long run which is interesting. That one’s much more of what we’re doing now. I'm preparing myself mentally for this. Before I didn't have a sense of purpose, my goal now is to be as prepared as possible to be a good leader. To contribute in a meaningful way to hip-hop because it's been a really crazy relationship between me and-hip hop this whole time.
AllHipHop: Anything else you want to let us know?
Qveen Herby: Tour will be whenever this s##t blows over. I was supposed to go in May. They said “don't even talk to us until July.” b##ch, my fans are pissed. They were ready. We have vinyls, all the merch ordered. At least we didn't book it, I feel really bad for people who have to cancel. One of my friends flew to Colombia to start tour overseas, FaceTiming us like “I’m coming home.” Tour will be poppin’. Maybe this is the universe saying “hold up, you might have to book bigger rooms b##ch.” I’m here for that!