Thursday, October 20, 2005

There can be a fine line between RnB and Hip-Hop...

…And that line was certainly crossed by Terrence “TQ” Quaites in 1998. Whilst these guys reminisce about Hip-Hop of yesteryear, I figured I’d rant and rave in favour of one of the most solid albums in my collection – still in almost daily rotation 7 years after copping. ‘They Never Saw Me Coming’ was criminally overlooked by Hip-Hop heads, and equally neglected by the RnB crowd. When 50 Cent spat “I wanna stick TQ but his shit ain’t sell”, he wasn’t lying. The problem seemed to be TQ’s position on the cusp of two genres, Hip-Hop and RnB. His debut single ‘Westside’ saw a fair amount of commercial success, but it was perhaps too ‘hard’ for contemporary RnB kids listening to Usher, Ginuwine and Dru Hill, and Hip-Hop heads weren’t fucking with it. TQ was singing, after all, and few people knew exactly what to make of this “RnB Thug”. The concept of a singer lending a hand to Hip-Hop wasn’t exactly new, with West Coast hook man Nate Dogg already having held down the 90s, but the difference between Nate and TQ is that Nate had earned his paper from his distinctive voice and countless guest appearances on rappers’ records. Even having made several solo albums, Nate is still synonymous with West Coast Hip-Hop. TQ, however, burst onto the scene with a decent – yet not particularly distinctive – singing voice, and a solo single of his very own. What sets TQ apart from other male RnB singers – and what makes him HIP HOP – is his ‘message’.

Anyone who heard ‘Westside’ blowing up the radio must’ve thought ‘damn…’. Not because the song was dope – which is undeniable – but because here is a cat singing on the radio the same sort of material that could be found on any given gangsta rap album. He’s repping Compton, nodding to his brothas taking long vacations in the county jail, drinkin’ 40s, blazin’ weed, and even throwing up his dubs in the video. And with the rest of the album following suit, it’s easy to imagine these same songs rapped rather than sung. In fact, every track on the album covers ground which has long since been considered the domain of Hip-Hop, including:

- gambling (‘If the World was Mine’)
- weed/drugs/drug dealing (‘Darling Mary’, ‘Remembermelinda’, ‘One More Lick’)
- cars/money/excess (‘Paradise’, ‘Gotta Make that Money’)
- murder/death (‘Bye Bye Baby’, ‘The Comeback’, ‘Better Days’)
- jail (‘When I Get Out’)
- sex/nastiness (‘Your Sister’)

A distinct lack of love songs – unless you count his heartfelt dedication to marijuana – and the absence of RnB club bangers solidifies TQ’s position as a Hip-Hop artist who just so happens to sing rather than rap. He even goes as far as straight up dissing his RnB contemporaries:

We don’t ride no ponies, just roll on Goldies, nigga please/
Get off that shit, this is a new era/
Straighten up your sideburns, stop wearin’ mascara/
I hope it’s for the sake of sellin’ records/
Either way you need to check yourself for not being a real nigga

(‘They Never Saw Me Coming’)

What’s more, there is no shortage of Hip-Hop guest spots, with appearances from Tray Dee, Too Short, E-40, Daz and Kurupt, as well as Mike Mosley handling the production on 5 tracks.

Nowadays, TQ is making even less noise commercially. His debut was followed up with the ‘The Second Coming’, which was fairly solid, but was easily forgotten, and was also much more RnB oriented, with love songs aplenty creeping into his music. ‘Listen’ was released last year following a short, productiveless spell on the Cash Money roster, and was also re-released just this week on 17th October, with a revamped track listing and a guest spot from Mike Jones. ‘They Never Saw Me Coming’, however, remains a masterpiece, and is a surprisingly cohesive piece of Hip-Hop that plays almost like a movie. Listen to these, and then cop that shit:

One More Lick (ft. Tray Dee)
The Comeback (ft. Daz & Kurupt)

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