Trials of TQ: The Buck Starts Here

ALLHIPHOP CELEBRATES INDEPENDENCEBack in 1999, I performed at the World Wide Sony Music Convention in Miami... I blew the roof off that bitch. Point Blank. That day I learned the most valuable and important thing in my career. Two guys pulled me to the side in the hallway after my performance. They were pretty high up on the chain of command at Sony International, and they invited me to the bar for a drink. I agreed cuz I remembered them from on stage... They were at the table with Tommy Mottola so I knew they were tuff sh*t. They were up groovin' tho while I was performing! I mean they were lovin' it! Two British white dudes in their 50's, up dancing to me singing about shooting and sellin' dope! I loved it! We went to the bar and ordered some drinks. They asked me had I ever been out of the country. I'm like, “Man I left Alabama when I was one! I been outta the country for years!” They laughed at me. I was tipsy and so were they. One of them said, "I mean out of the US..." I'm like yeah I go to TJ [Tijuana] all the time! They laughed again...I ordered another shot. The other guy decides to cut to the chase. "We've been listening to your album for a while now, and we see something that no one else in this building can," he said. I frowned. He said, "We classify you as World Music. The music that you do appeals to many more people than you know. We'd like to promote and market you to them. I guarantee you that with our plan, you will be more successful than you could ever be in this country." I didn't understand, but I kept an open mind. They explained the rest of their plan and I agreed to it. That shocked them... At the time I didn't know why. I gave them my cell and they gave me theirs. We ended the conversation with, "We'll talk soon."They must've got to it quick. Within a week we were putting together my first European promo tour. Talk about excited!! Man I'm from Compton. Some of my ni**as ain't never been to the Bay, let alone Europe! I told my crew about it, and we all set off to get our passports. When we all got to LAX to take that flight, we were like a bunch of kids. Pumped the f**k up! LOL! We went over on Virgin Atlantic. All the flight attendants looked like models. I got a manicure and a massage on that flight. Then I got drunk at the BAR and passed out on the COUCH! Did I mention all this happened on the plane?? This gonna be one helluva trip...When we landed at Heathrow Airport I didn't know what to think. From the time I got off the plane, I was signing autographs. Customs people, skycaps, you name it! They ALL knew me! It was a trip! Little did I know that I had the hottest record in the country. When we came through the doors at the airport, it was full of kids with “I love TQ” signs, flowers, teddy bears, and whatever else they could find to give me! I stayed there and signed autographs until the Sony reps made us leave. I said to my dawgs, "Looks like we're off to a good start boys.”My first show in London was a different story... See for this market, I was something brand new. The mainstream was not into rap at the time and R&B just didn't have enough substance or support to really crossover. So here I come with music melodic enough for the masses, but raw enough to transcend to the DJ's and the streets. It was perfect until I got on stage. My show back in those days was pretty violent. Chaos was my thing. We'd perform with bats or some other kind of weapon. We'd act out the whole "Bye Bye Baby" scene and I'd cuss like a sailor for the whole show. Worked like a charm at home. They loved it! Not here.I came on stage and everybody was pressed up to the front... When I started doing my thing everybody started backing up! Can you imagine? That sh*t was weird man! I didn't know what to do so I just kept singing... And cussin'! They started booin' my ass! I was trippin'! You know those Southwest commercials "Wanna get away?" Hell yeah I did!! LOL! Man I couldn't wait to finish! When “Westside” came on I think they felt a little better, but when I left the stage the dancefloor was empty and everyone was just looking at me. No clapping, just staring. I got my ass outta there like a bat outta hell. We got in the car and just looked at each other... What the f**k happened? That was a royal f**k up. Let’s go home cuz these people ain't f**kin' with us... Little did I know what I had done…I woke up early the next morning to the newspaper at my door. Someone had mysteriously folded it open to the entertainment section. I was shocked to see my picture big as day snarling at the camera with the mic in one hand and a bat in the other. It read! "America's Westside Invades London!" It was the absolute worst review I ever read on myself. They made me out to be this disrespectful thug who just cussed everybody out from stage. They said that I was "angry at the world" and that I gave a borderline X-rated performance. X-rated? Oh, I knew it was over for my ass. I got dressed and headed to the Sony building. This was the day that I was to meet the staff. I was nervous. I felt like that show f**ked the whole trip up...When I walked into Sony Music something scared the sh*t outta me. Everybody had on "Black Suits." LOL! I'm like aw s**t, here we go! The first person I went to see was one of the guys from the convention in Miami. He was the VP, and he was pumped. When I went in his office, he had the article from the newspaper on his desk... "Unbelievable thing you did last night," he said. "Let's go meet the staff." We hopped in the elevator and he told me that the phones had been blowing up all morning! Every major music show wanted me on! Every major magazine wanted an interview! The radio stations, DJ's, and everyone else wanted to get to me!Seems that writer from that newspaper has put me on! People loved the controversy behind his review and wanted to see for themselves. When we got to the conference room, everybody stood up and clapped! I went to each of them shook their hands and apologized for the night before. They basically told me not to change anything! The fans will come around... "watch the difference in response at your show next week," they said... Sure enough, I performed a week later after all the interviews and TV appearances. SOLD OUT! Two encores that night... It was on.Honestly, this was the defining point in my career. In September, I'll take my 35th trip to Europe to do what I love. Writing songs and performing. Talk about an insurance policy! I've had over 20 Top 20 records that I've written, produced, or performed – and most of them on artists that my country has never heard of. Through all the bullsh*t that I've gone through at home, I've always had the rest of the world to fall back on. It's kinda like that degree that I never got, ya dig? I can always take the long flight for food. That, my friends is what you call a blessing. I wanna say to all those fans that supported me around the world for all this time – Hey man, I love y'all for it and so does my family.Now after reading this column for the last couple months, I'm thinking most of you can recognize how I roll... I'm always hustlin'. Period. Being independent makes me a bunch of dough that I wouldn't make being signed to a major. If I make six bucks off a CD, then I can sell 1/6 of what I sold making a buck... Get it? Now what if those "bucks" weren't "bucks" at all? What if they were Euros at $1.43 apiece? Or British pounds at $2.01? I'm not trying to give you a math lesson. I'm trying to tell you that I'm about to put out my new album Paradise independently in the UK, Europe, Australia, and Japan. I'm trying to get all the way rich...Wish me luck!I'll keep you posted...