Interview with Quanstar: Independent Hip-Hop Artist & Author

You can love or hate me, idolize or despise me greatly
you can yell my name at the top of your lungs or talk about ever so faintly
but you ain’t me
ain’t worn my shoes, walked my path
been through the times that made my cry
don’t understand what makes my laugh
lived my past.

— Quanstar, from I’m Through

This week I had a chance to interview Quanstar, an independent hip-hop artist whose new book, Water from Turnips, is a candid, raw, funny, and often touching account of his early life, and his struggle to make it as a truly independent hip-hop artist in a massive, corporate industry. Starting with his early life in Compton, and pulling no punches, readers follow him through being introduced to rap, getting in numerous tangles with women, and feeling out the industry. Today, Quanstar boasts ten albums, blogs about the hip hop industry for newer artists, and even does a cooking show with his son. In case you don’t know him already, here’s a taste off his most recent album:

You are very honest about yourself in the book, putting forward the good and the bad. What was that experience like for you?

Therapeutic. I’d say 70% of the things I put in Water From Turnips were never discussed with anyone before. So as I wrote and dug deep into why I acted a certain way, I began to understand the reasons.

You write about being young, during the heyday of Public Enemy and X-Clan, and having your eyes opened socially and politically by hip-hop music. Do you see hip hop as playing that same role for young people today?

Yes and No. I think that it’s important to understand the context and the time in which Public Enemy thrived. Back then, the great barrier in our society was still racial, and any problem that was considered a black problem was basically left alone. So things like police brutality, unemployment, dilapidated  schools, and under funded social programs were allowed to fester and grow. So hip hop became that solution to a lot of our issues.

Now, I think hip hop has a different role. While the world today isn’t, by any means, “post-racial,” thanks to hip hop we are a ways from the late 80’s and and early 90’s (mostly thanks to hip hop). The issues that face black folks today are the pretty much the same as the ones that face other races…economics. Poor people, no matter their color, are the new ‘niggas’. So hip hop’s role today mostly deals with economics. It inspires entrepreneurialism, materialism (which isn’t always a bad thing), and confidence. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of that shit is over the top, but a lot of rap always has been.

What led you to create Indie Hip Hop 101? What is the most common advice you give to hip hop artists like yourself today, if they are trying to get into the music business?

I created Indie Hip Hop 101 because I always found myself giving advice to other independent artists on the business and thought that it would be cool to share that on larger scale. The most common advice that I find giving to others like myself is to learn the business before looking into hiring a manager, and when you do find someone remember that they work for you.

Apart from the business side of things — the hustling, the gigs, the albums — how has the process of making the music itself affected or changed you over the years?

It taught me that people in Boise, ID and Charleston, WV deal with a lot of the same problems as folks in Compton and Atlanta.

What gifts has hip-hop culture given the world, and what does it still have to offer for the future?

Actually, it has allowed us to see the similarities that we all have with each other. It has also given generations a creative outlet by which they could express themselves without expensive lessons or formal training. It’s influenced an entire generation of thinkers and business people. I believe that hip hop is the building blocks of the future. The creative “something from nothing” nature has infused itself into the world culture. It’s a beautiful thing.

Do you have any final thoughts to share with this blog’s readers, who are interested in art and social change?

Believe and fight for something because you know it’s the right thing to do…not because you think it is.