hip hop dx (interview) Ques – Rap2k10

Featured on YoungLord’s (formerly of Bad Boy’s The Hitmen production team) 1999 solo debut album, Ques’ 16-year long résumé includes the personal milestones of appearing in commercials for Mountain Dew and Reebok and opening up for Hip Hop heavyweights like 50 Cent, Jay-Z, and The Notorious B.I.G. In recent years, the Bronx native has received accolades from DJ Envy and DJ Green Lantern for taking websites like iLike and imeem by storm, with critically acclaimed tracks such as “All My Soul” and “H.O.P.E.” Like its predecessors, Ques continues to attempt to push boundaries with his fourth album, RAP2K10.

Globally minded, the Haitian rapper’s discography boasts collaborations with popular international artists including Mexican Latin pop singer Pilar Montenegro and Jamaican Dancehall musician Elephant Man. RAP2K10 is no different, with its producers and artists’ geographical reach extending to Amsterdam, London, and Munich. In addition to receiving clearance to use vocals from Lady Gaga, M.I.A., and The-Dream, the project benefits from expert track arrangement by Built For This collaborator BlackOut, famously known for producing MIMS’ 2007 smash hit “This Is Why I’m Hot.” Ques says on “What I Do,” “Not an acrobat, but I can take an ill sample and flip it.” A man of his words, the project’s samples encompass the cinema’s The Mack (“Pimp Commandments”) as well as four decades and multiple genres of music including The Sylvers’ “Cry Of A Dreamer” (“Crowded World”), Brenda Russell’s “A Little Bit of Love” (“Uptown”), Roy Orbison’s “In The Real World” (“Dreamz”), and 30 Seconds To Mars’s “Kings And Queens” (“Stadium”).

Staying true to Ques’ tradition of national pride, RAP2K10 wraps up with the seductive love story “French Game” and a remake of Haitian artist Jacques Sauveur Jean’s (a.k.a. Jackito) 2002 hit “Haiti Chérie (Oh Oh).” In addition, Ques is providing aid to the country’s horrific crisis by donating a portion of the album’s proceeds to the American Red Cross’ Haitian Relief and Development fund and Wyclef Jean’s Yéle Haiti Foundation.

Ques’ “claim to fame” is his ability to encapsulate a myriad of emotions through vivacious, and often dark, conscious storytelling. However, he has recently leveraged this technique less and less. Although tracks like “Excuse Me Gangsta” loosely tap into this skill, 2008’s Greatest Sacrifice best captures his core competency. Moreover, Ques has since become somewhat of a walking contradiction. Despite being a long withstanding anti-conformity advocate, he has begun trading down his purist strategy for a commercially appealing, less differentiated approach. On “10,000 Tries,” Ques said, “If you can’t describe what you’re doing as a process, then you don’t know what you’re doing.” An artist losing sight of their greatest strength is not a process, but rather an abomination.

Parodied by RAP2K10’s I Robot themed album cover, Ques makes light of record labels’ comparisons of himself to Will Smith. However, the parody is fitting as the project’s lack of conceptual intimacy metaphorically equates to the cold soulless embrace of a steel-plated robot, further metamorphosed through his experimentation with Auto-Tune (“Not What You Think” and “This Club”). Despite interspersed creativity like back-and-forth rapping (“Far Away”) and a solid musical offering, the most groundbreaking thing about RAP2K10 is arguably its flash drive format.

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