As A Hustler's Hope, San Quinn's latest, proves, inspiration is something that can come to us at all points in life. Twenty years into a Rap career, one that has established him as one of the Bay's greats, San Quinn's next career move wasn't to crank out another solo project. Instead, he decided to play teammate and mentor for new signee Tuf Luv, with whom he collaborated on A Hustler's Hope. As Quinn admits, Tuf Luv was a breath of fresh air when he first heard him, probably because he heard so much of himself. Both have a very blue collar approach: no frills, no lies, just truth. While they may be two men at different points in their lives, they complement each other well on Hope.
San Quinn speaks with the insight of a veteran but still possesses a youthful hunger to keep pushing for greater goals. He wants Grammy Awards to ensure his legacy is lasting. The Fillmore icon aiming to be a mogul, to build an empire that not only brings the focus to the Bay Area but keeps it there. Citing successes in cities like Houston and Atlanta, he sees the potential for that success to head West, and even offers a few pointers that could help the Bay Area gain visibility. With a revamped roster at his label, Done Deal 772, only time will tell if he's sowing the seeds to become the Bay's version of Master P.
HipHopDX caught up with San Quinn last week by phone. He spoke on the inspiration behind a few tracks on the new album, gave us his take on the Twitter beef between Too Short and Messy Marv, and explained a few reasons why the Bay isn't getting recognized as it should. He also told us how Ke$ha is essentially Hyphy in a nutshell.
HipHopDX: Why the decision to make A Hustler's Hope a collaborative album with Tuf Luv instead of pursuing another solo album?
San Quinn: Tuf Luv is a new artist signed to my label, Done Deal 772, and instead of making him come out by himself, I wanted to make sure that he came in getting a little bit of a look. There's so much music out now and so many people doing music that it's hard for anybody, and he's so talented. I mean, he one of the best rappers rapping, period. I wanted to make sure that he got the right look. My partner Pablo wanted me to bring back the Done Deal label because I didn't have no artists on there except for Lil Quinn and my partner Hollywood up out of Richmond, so a couple people convinced me to bring the label back.
DX: One of my favorite cuts from A Hustler's Hope is a song you threw up as kind of a teaser on YouTube a little while back, the song “Drunk In San Francisco.” It's a real catchy and playful track with a vibe you don't hear a lot in rap. How did that come about in the first place?
San Quinn: Dex Beats. Gotta give all the credit to him. He made the beat. You know, if you from the San Francisco Bay Area, who hasn't been [drunk in San Francisco]? You partying and you go out, that's where most of the clubs [and] the club life is. It was like a no-brainer. It was pretty easy to do once Dex created the beat and the hook. He really produced the record, you know what I mean?
We're just trying to bring a breath [of fresh air] into Hip Hop because you know, with Rap music nowadays, especially Bay Area music, the rapper is the kingpin. There's no humor to it, so I just wanted to go there because I know a lot of people have seen me drunk [and have said] “What the hell is going on with Quinn?” I just wanted to go ahead and make light of the situation.
Tuf is just a phenomenal writer. His family, the Dumases -- his last name – I believe his great-great uncle was responsible for writing The Three Musketeers, so dude is phenomenal with his pen. It just excites me every time I hear dude rap. Then we threw [B-Legit] on there because B-la the king of the club. If "B-la" ain't the king of nothing else, he's the king of being down, and he's never sloppy drunk or nothing like that but [when] he is in the club, [he's there] with not the little bottles but the big [ones], so it was an honor to reach out to B-la.
It touched the radio but it's bigger than the radio. We about to shoot a video real soon with a silly concept to it. It's gonna be fun and hopefully the world gravitates to it. You can never be too sure, but then you just gotta have faith to see if the record will catch. We gonna take it to MTV with the visual part of it. Hopefully they pick it up and it becomes a big hit for us.
DX: Another song I wanted to highlight is the track that comes right before “Drunk in San Francisco,” which is “Foolin' Around.” I even Googled the hook to try and track down the sample because I loved it so much. Great storytelling from both you and Tuf Luv on that track. Can you shed some light on how that track came about?
San Quinn: It was basically the life of me fucking around on my woman at the studio. You know, in the life [of a rapper] there's always a groupie or some extra bitch that wants to be around, and a man being a man, being an animal, you get high, you get drunk, [then] you want something that ain't yours, and you go right to feeling stupid.
With my girl, she always finds out every muthafuckin' thing, especially with these social networks and sites. A bitch wanna say “Well, I was with you last night.” They be typing on Facebook thinking they're writing to me and [they] be writing to her, or text my phone thinking they texting me [when they're] texting her, you know what I mean? [Laughs] It just ends up [with us] arguing and fuckin' and fighting over me fuckin' around.
It's the life of a rapper. The life of a rapper and the night life, and women that are attracted to you and women that you think that you're attracted to but it might just be a carnal thing. You just wanna fuck with a bitch for that night and leave that there, but they wanna take it further, ya feel what I'm saying? All of it is through experience. [The sample], that's Morris Day & The Time. The Time made the beat and that's Morris Day on the hook. The hook is from “Gigolos Get Lonely Too.”
DX: I think one thing that really ties the track together, and the whole album, is this real sense of humility lyrically from both of you. Maybe I've just been listening to too much braggadocio and I've been losing track of the human side of rap, but I felt that you guys really tapped into that and showed that you were human. I think both tracks are two different versions of you explaining that. The whole album does that essentially.
San Quinn: That's what we were aiming for. That's basically who I am. I'm not a big [Mercedes] Benz-driving, big chain-wearing egotistical rapper. When you see me, you get me. Tuf is kind of like the same rapper, and I kind of feel like that's where Hip Hop is right now too. [With] Drake or Wiz Khalifa – it's not super braggadocious. It's more or less them kickin' it. They not the richest person in the world, but they are themselves, so really it's [about] self.
It's a great album. If people are looking for what you said – a breath of fresh air from another direction or something true, it's gonna be good. We making a mini-movie about the album, a musical to go along with A Hustler's Hope. About seven or eight songs from the album are gonna lead into each other and it's gonna be about me wanting to give up Rap music. I don't want to give away the whole plot of the musical, but it's coming along right now. We've already been filming, and it's gonna be like Streets is Watching [by] Jay-Z, but it's gonna be a musical. You gonna love it when you see it! [It] will be out at like the end of January, early February.
DX: Speaking on the current climate of music, Would you still go the major label route if given another chance, or with so many up-and-coming artists having success going the independent route, do you feel like that's where you plan to stay?
San Quinn: I want to win Grammys. I feel like songs like “Foolin' Around” and “Drunk in San Francisco” and even on my previous albums, [tracks like] “Look What I've Done For Them” and “Ayo For Yayo” – certain songs that I've written deserve to win Grammys, so [I'll do] whatever it takes for me. If I can stay independent and win a couple of Grammy Awards, I'll stay independent. I know that's kind of far-fetched, but we live in a world where nothing is impossible. I definitely want to be a superstar. The overall goal is to be internationally known for what you do, you know what I mean?
I would've signed years ago if it was right. It's just that the opportunity, when it presented itself, just didn't present itself correctly. You don't want to be a slave and have a 360 deal, but if I could get on and still hold on to [things] like the skateboards that we've got coming out and me and Pablo hold on to the Done Deal / 772 [label] and I'm able to develop artists, I would sign, because you want a bigger microphone. Especially at 34, the age I'm at now, I'm trying to transfer over. I'm gonna continue rapping, but I'm gonna be more like doing my [Diddy] thing, where I'm trying to be like Barry Gordy and be behind artists, and I want them to have a big microphone. I want the world to hear what Lil Quinn says. I definitely want the world to hear what Tuf Luv says or what Hollywood has to say.
We need that bigger microphone out here because it's a machine. [The major record labels] spend $500,00 on your single. Not just the beat or nothing like that, just radio promotion to where you getting played all over the country. Everything's got to do with money, so it's hard to independently come up with that money being that we're not doing some of the things we used to do back in the days, to put the records out for artists hustlin' and shit, and being able to put it into the music without being caught up, you feel what I'm saying?
DX: That's definitely good to hear with you having such a long track record in the game, to still be hungry and have the eyes on the Grammy. That's got to be what keeps you going, having those goals that you're still trying to achieve.
San Quinn: Yeah. It'll be 20 years next year. I just started young. My girl just told me “You gotta keep going. Work your other job and still go to win that Grammy because you know what you want.” I still got my eyes set on that. It's hard for me to watch award shows and shit. Not only [because I'm ]not there, but [because] the Bay Area don't have no real representation there outside of a Too Short or an E-40, who I have nothing against. It's just that they're not the moguls that Jay-Z and 50 Cent and Puff Daddy and L.A. Reid and T.I. [are], know what I mean? They ain't putting nobody on G-5 and G-4 planes and giving people record deals and having other artists outside of them go platinum out of their camp. I feel like there's a void for that in the Bay Area and, the Good Lord keep me, I want to be able to be the one to say I filled that void first.
DX: I had recently spoken with Turf Talk and asked him about Hyphy and the Bay almost blowing back in '05. You were present during that whole scene as well, watching it all bubble, and after having such a close call with the mainstream but not seeing it fully materialize, do you think that bubbling really helped to hurt the Bay's mainstream visibility in the long run? In the years since, do you think it set the Bay up for another run at it or that it set it back?
San Quinn: See, Hyphy was a way of life. 2Pac was Hyphy. MC Hammer was what you would call Hyphy – high energy, and what I've seen the music do is go to like Techno music. Techno music is Hyphy because it was for the raves and the drug culture. Even the girl Ke$ha right now, where she talkin' about she wake up and brush her teeth with a bottle of Jack – that was the Hyphy movement in a nutshell. Now it's just done from a White girl from wherever she from over a Techno beat. They kind of took our shit, you know what I mean?
[Hyphy] was not all about being stupid and taking ecstasy pills or nothing like that. It was about good sounding music, and they just labeled it. When it's labeled, it gets old because it's a fad. If it just would've been music, it would've been cool. Look at the kids in L.A. They're dancing around like the thizzle dance, talking about the Dougie and the Cat Daddy and they got their dreadlocks and their tips dyed. That ain't never been Los Angeles. That has always been the Bay Area, so we kinda like got talked out of our game, and then with the radio stations not supporting it in the right way and backing up off of it, we didn't stick to our guns, whereas in Atlanta, they're gonna stick to their guns. If they talking Crunk, they're talking Crunk. If they talkin “do the snap dance,” they do the snap dance. They evolve and hold on to everything that they do, whereas the powers that be up over us didn't hold on to the shit.
To answer your question, we still have a shot. People like Turf Talk, people like San Quinn, people like The Jacka, even people like Mistah F.A.B. As long as we continue working to stay ready when the time come around, we just stay ready but let it be music.
DX: And with L.A. experiencing a resurgence at the moment, do you think it's only a matter of time before that focus comes fully back to the West Coast like it had in the past?
San Quinn: Oh yeah. It's just gonna be brand new. It's gonna be the humility Rap like you said, like the San Quinn / Tuf Luv album is. Even with Lil B, even though I don't agree with this at all – him saying “I'm gay.” I don't like it. I don't agree with it, but for him to go and play and say “I'm gay,” that's more humble than anything, because if he really is gay, he humbled himself. I don't think he is gay. I don't know what his sexual preference is, but for him saying that, and then even the girl Kreayshawn – “Gucci Gucci,” you know? “Basic bitches wear that shit so I don't even bother.” It's like the total opposite. Most people act like you say, braggadocious – “I'm wearing Gucci. I got Louis” – so it's coming back around, the humility Rap. Yeah, it'll be back, and I'ma be right on the front line, ready to accept my winnings.
DX: [Laughs] Yeah, and I think just touching on the Lil B point, I think part of why people have been really vilifying him is because they don't get the sense of humor behind it. But I also think, looking at “Drunk in San Francisco” ---
San Quinn: It's the same thing. Lil B's a great person, and I never knew him to be the gun-toting type of dude so he might just be playing. It's just that the Bay Area is not in a position to play like that because we don't have no money and they're already calling people from San Francisco gay. It's not like I'm homophobic or nothing like that. I'm a man that love women, and you know, to each his own. It's just, for the title that we already got, for him to play like that, it wasn't funny to me because Hip Hop is a more serious thing. But you're right. It's right along the lines of a “Drunk in San Francisco” or something like that. It's the same thing.
You know, quit being mad. The days of 50 Cent – not 50 far as 50 being a business mogul, but the days of Ice Cube, N.W.A., all the killing Rap and these tough guy raps and all that old shit. Real music will be around but people want to survive. Music is a fun thing and it's not as competitive. It's not about a competition and you being bulletproof [any more]. Now it's like, “Who are you?” and “Whenever I see you, are you in character or are you just a real person?” because there's too many websites where I can follow you and catch you getting caught out of character, so you might as well just be yourself, because the eyes are always watching, you know what I mean?
DX: On that point, what was your take on the whole Twitter beef between Messy Marv and Too Short earlier this year?
San Quinn: I respect Too Short to the utmost and that's pretty much it. He tried to do business and put out other people before, but it's not his business to be like a Jay-Z or be a T.I. or a Ludacris. It's just that I would never disrespect nobody like that. I feel like that type of shit is bullshit. You air your dirty lines. You outside the house for what reason? Who is Messy Marv helping, you know what I mean? For him to say “Who is Too Short helping and getting out the way for?” – who is he helping? He ain't helping nobody around him except for himself, and I don't have nothing against him. [Our previous rift] has been over. I don't have nothing against him and I ain't about no battle-rap. He can call me 100 bitches. I don't care what he say. It's like he ain't helping nobody, so who is he to say that Too Short ain't been helping somebody?
Too Short is a godfather where we come from and that's the bottom line. I have the utmost respect for Too Short and I don't respect no fake shit, you feel me? The pot can't call the kettle black. It's different if dude was out here helping the up-and-coming kids who look up to him from Sacramento or San Francisco or Oakland, if he was feeding rappers and he had some type of label going where he could say that, but I mean I helped Ya Boy. I helped Messy Marv. I helped Bailey. I put Big Rich in the game. I put Black N Brown Entertainment in the game. If anybody could have an argument, I could, and I wouldn't even argue about that. So it was bullshit. In a nutshell, that was bullshit.
DX: I had seen an interview with Tuf Luv where he had made the point that there needs to be a little bit more unity in the Rap game in the Bay Area. Would you agree with that statement? One thing that he had said was that he felt it was a big deal when you signed him because he was the first Oakland rapper that you had signed. Do you think there's still sort of a segregation there with places like Oakland and San Francisco, or even cities like Richmond and Vallejo, or would you disagree with his point?
San Quinn: I don't have no problem with nobody. I love the whole Bay Area, so when somebody gets on, it's the San Francisco Bay Area: Richmond, Oakland, Vallejo, Marin, East Palo Alto . . . There's really no border there. It's not about the unity. It's about the consumer. We need the people that don't rap to go buy our records. Not to disagree with Tuf. Tuf a little younger so he's seeing it from a different perspective, where I can see it like we really need the people to get up off they ass and go buy records. We need to get the two or three million people that's in the greater Bay Area, at least 10% of them people, to go out and start buying records. Then we can be like Paul Wall and we can be like Slim Thug and Bun B, these people in Texas that are selling 200,000 or 100,000 records in Texas alone. That's supposed to be happening in California for us.
Really, what it boils down to is we need the consumer, the people who go out and buy Kelloggs Frosted Flakes, to buy San Quinn's album, to buy J. Stalin's album. Instead of buying some Jay-Z or Lil Wayne – you could buy that, but buy us too because if you look at their numbers, they're probably selling 100 – 200,000 CDs in this region alone. There's a lot of good records that come out that we need to be selling 30-40,000 [copies of] right here in Northern California, let alone all of California.
DX: Would you put some of that blame on local radio at all or do you feel like you guys have had ample support? Do you really feel that you haven't had the right push or do you think that's putting the target on the wrong subject?
San Quinn: Well, [KMEL DJ] Big Von, he's always supported me. He's supported me for damn near eight years in a row, from 2001 all the way to like '08. I haven't put nothing else out and poked out after that, so I don't really know. I couldn't say it, but probably from another person's perspective, there needs to be all of our music played and a little bit of the Top 40 shit. Right now, they've already got “Beat the Pussy Up” in rotation, but you'll never hear “Beat the Pussy Up” and San Quinn and J. Stalin and E-40 all during the course of the day, getting 40 spins a week. That's what we do need from radio.
I'm not going to point fingers at none of the higher people. If I was in power, it would be like that, where four artists is getting 40 spins a week. Not just San Quinn. Not just LoveRance. Not just Goapele, where there's only one or two spots. When it was Jacka's time, it was Jacka – All over Me. When it was Erk tha Jerk, it was “Right Here.” When it was San Quinn, it was “Hell Yeah.” You didn't hear me and three other people.
It kind of is on them, but I don't know who's in power there and I don't wanna disrespect nobody, but I believe that's how the radio's working in Atlanta, and that's why so many artists [are] poking out the way that they do. That'll bring the power back to here. That'll bring the conscious stuff back to out here, and then that'll make the rest of the world see what we got going on.
DX: Any last words before I let you go, Quinn?
San Quinn: I want to give a big shout out to my son Lil Quinn, Zakim, my daughter Royalty and my wife Privilege. And please, consumers: buy the album, man. They can preview it at ahustlershope.com if you want to check it out before you get to it. Stay peaceful and represent.