Dean Van Nguyen never uses Venmo.
Q Da Fool could soundtrack a crime wave. He makes rap music at its most menacing. Wrought iron orchestration forged in white-hot fire by one of the few new rappers who could embrace it without getting burned. His flows are pure muscle and bone. It adds up to a gritty urban drama that would make David Simon squirm.
The Prince George’s County rapper is in a prolific groove right now. His three 2017 tapes—100 Round Goon, Rich Shootah 2, and IEP (I Empty Pistols)—plus a stack of YouTube loosies fully tender his thunderous artistry. The themes are well stress-tested: cash, glocks, and the hustle. Leaning on his offbeat flow, wicked turn of phrase, intimidating aura, and plenty of gruff gangsterism, Q lives in a universe where Chief Keef and 2pac peacefully coexist.
As he lays out on “Talk,” Q is the kind of villain who won’t do a drive-by because he likes to “walk.” Over the brutal beat of “Guns N Bells,” he asks the key questions a hired assassin needs to know (“Where that n***a stay/ Where that n***a trap/ Where that boy at”) before deeming an offer of $1 million for his services as derisory. Q doesn’t need a booming baritone to carry a threat. Barely into his 20s, his clean larynx, coupled with a vocal style that’s crooked and irregular, carries a cold-blooded dread.
Amid the posturing come moments of great pain. “Fresh Out” pieces together a sobering narrative. Just out of jail (a topic his catalogue returns to frequently), Q sounds like a man deeply scarred. He recalls the beginning of his criminal career (aged 14), swears off narcotics, and rues the fate of a friend disabled by a bullet. These are doomed life lessons from PG County.
If you’re looking for alternative taste picks, I’m quite partial to “Just Sold,” from Rich Shootah 2. Over a bruising beat, Q pays for cocaine through PayPal, threatens to blast foes in a way that’ll require Rogaine, and devastatingly dismisses the entire concept of battle rap with minimum effort (“This ain’t 8 Mile”). There’s no time for that when your most crucial accessories are a balaclava and bulletproof vest.