An Interview With Young Quez

Donald Morrison speaks to the Arkansas rapper about growing up in the small city of Pine Bluff, getting his start in rapping through diss records in high school, why he doesn't smoke weed and more.
By    September 21, 2023

Image via Chrisma Richardson

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Donald Morrison doesn’t skip the Entourage theme song in his house.

There’s a cold vein of cruelty and violence running through Young Quez’s music. His villainous persona is a feature not a bug, as the young artist originally started rapping as a way to humiliate high school foes via hyper-specific diss records. Quez says he’s still dealing with beef stemming from music he made and uploaded to YouTube nearly a decade ago. These days he avoids name-dropping, but hasn’t lost the ability to paint an authentic picture of a man seemingly at war with everyone.

Quez comes from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, a city of just over 40,000 about 45 minutes outside of Little Rock. Census data from 2021 shows that it saw a 12.5 percent population decline between 2010 and 2020, the largest percentage drop of any metro area in the entire country in that time frame. A state representative told the New York Times that Pine Bluff is suffering from a dearth of agricultural and manufacturing jobs, a crumbling education system and a startlingly high murder rate, with the likelihood of a homicide in Pine Bluff being seven times more than the national average. Local news recently reported that half the murder victims in Pine Bluff this year are under the age of 18.

Quez’ perspective is that of a man who’s been dragged through the mud, excavating a psyche wracked with PTSD. He has the raspy fury of Lil Boosie and assertiveness of a young Kevin Gates, building his latest album around themes of street authenticity, loyalty, and revenge. The beats are dark and somewhat unrelenting, a moody soundscape that matches Quez’ bleak outlook on the future of his community and those around him.

“My City” is a standout from Quez’ latest release, Still The Realist, finding him claiming his territory all the way from Olive to Blake Street. The album sees Quez burrowing deeper into the street rap he’s known for and experimenting with sung raps on the somber “Night with Dmack.” The 16-track album is a great collection of loosies that Quez says he picked out of a folder with more than 100 songs. I spoke with him in August ahead of the album’s release about making diss records in high school, not listening to other rappers music and how Pine Bluff shaped him into the man he is today.

What can you tell me about Pine Bluff?

Young Quez: I was born and raised there. It’s just like any other small town. It’s like a mini-Chicago, it’s a lot of bullsh*t.

Did you ever hang out in Little Rock when you were younger?

Young Quez: I didn’t really leave Pine Bluff until I got older. We were doing our thing over here. When we got older is when we realized Little Rock is where all the different types of girls be at. Everybody knows everybody in Pine Bluff, it’s a small town.

What was high school like for you?

Young Quez: It was cool. My school was a gladiator school. It was crazy. It used to be an open campus but we got that shit shut down.

Did you play sports or anything?

Young Quez: I didn’t but my brother did. I tried playing sports in junior high but my coach didn’t like me. They’d be telling the kids and all their momma’s to stay away from me and shit. One day, I went to try and play football to be like my big brother and the coach put me on the line. I was damn-near 100 pounds on the line, but he knew I was retarded, he knew I was crazy and he was trying to get me hurt. I ended up being the one that hurt all the big guys and they kicked me off the team after one year.

You mentioned your brother. What’s your family like?

Young Quez: On my momma’s side I have two sisters and one brother, but my brother is dead. On my daddy’s side I have two brothers and another sister. But I’m the only son left on my momma’s side. My brother died. He got killed.

I’m sorry to hear that. When did that happen?

Young Quez: Shit, that happened when I was 16.

Were you guys close?

Young Quez: We were really close. That’s my superhero, I want to be just like my brother. Anything I ever did was because of my brother, my brother and my dad. Everything I have ever done in life came from them.

That must have been hard to be so young and experience something like that.

Young Quez: That was my first time really experiencing death and shit. It’s what made me a f*cked up kid. That type of shit will damage even the best person.

Were you able to finish high school?

Young Quez: Yeah, my people wasn’t going for none of that. We were bad as f*ck but both my mom and dad were not going for none of that “not finishing school” shit. They weren’t about to have me not graduate, I was like the second person in my family to graduate high school.

Did you know you wanted to make music when you were in high school?

Young Quez: My brother and my big cousin used to rap in front of me when I was younger. I started doing it just because I saw them doing it. I was making music, using Fruity Loops and all that, when I was 14 years old. We were little ass kids getting into fights at school and then recording diss songs. That was really how I started rapping.

Do any of these songs still exist online?

Young Quez: I doubt it but then again everything you record could still be out there. It’s somewhere in the wind.

How has your music changed since releasing “Cut It Freestyle” over seven years ago?

Young Quez: My old music is what got me in trouble. That shit follows me. But I was just telling a friend, there wouldn’t be the new me without the old. I went through a lot of bullshit in my life.

Can you explain what you mean?

Young Quez: I’ve been fighting my whole life, beating people up, jumping people, all types of shit. But there’s a difference between beating people up and dissing somebody in public. You can beat somebody up and you might still see them around. But if you humiliate a person in public by dissing them in a song? They can get over getting their ass kicked eight years ago, but they can’t get over you dissing them in a song that’s damn-ner going viral in the town. I’m still havin’ smoke about shit I dropped eight years ago because the humiliation doesn’t go away, even if I deleted the video off of my page. I’m still dealing with issues in the streets over this.

So you’re learning to kind of move a little bit smarter and think before you drop certain songs now, I suppose.

Young Quez: No, that would be called being a coward. I just feel like that beef shit makes the feds jobs easier. It’s doing the work for them. When you’re into street shit you really ain’t supposed to talk about that shit in your music. So now I just make sure I paint pictures of what I’m saying without being so direct. It might be true or it might not be, you feel me? I’m not saying direct names, or calling anybody a b*tch. I ain’t doing it no more. I’m over it. And it isn’t out of fear, it’s out of respect for my folks too.

Are there any artists you’d say you’re influenced by?

Young Quez: Not really, just local people like my brother and them.

Who do you listen to these days?

Young Quez: I don’t really listen to anybody on a daily basis. People have said I sound like EST Gee but that’s just because his sound is popular right now, so the beats I’m getting from producers sound a little like his music.

I see what you’re saying. How do you view the rap game? Has it been easy to find success and actually make a living doing music?

Young Quez: With the music shit, it’s just like any other game, you aren’t necessarily going to see money right away. For example, dope boys used to pull up and give away their product for free at first in order to hook their customers. Then eventually they’ll call and you can start making money, but you gotta take a loss to get there. You have to build the kind of buzz to where people want to start paying you for it. It’s a passion really.

What’s your recording process like?

Young Quez: I go into the studio, I listen to some beats. I might write down the first few bars and then freestyle the rest. It depends. I like to punch in, freestyle, punch in, freestyle.

Do you smoke in the studio?

Young Quez: Hell nah, I got PTSD bad as a b*tch, I used to smoke when I was a kid but one time I tried to get high in high school and I flipped out. I got paranoia real bad already. This was back before they even had exotics. So I don’t f*ck with that shit.

What’s your go-to breakfast?

Young Quez: I be on some healthy shit most of the time. I be juicing in the morning. I try to only eat one meal a day, so whatever meal that is I try to make it count.

What’s your favorite car?

Young Quez: I like my trucks more than anything. I got a Yukon Denali and a Lincoln Continental. Those are probably my favorite right now.

Is there anything for fans to look forward to music-wise?

Young Quez: I got like 100 or so songs and might put out another project. I feel like people are fiending for the music right now.

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