Exclusive: Oakland native and Jamla Records signee GQ explains how his collegiate hoop dreams translate to his upcoming debut, "Rated Oakland."
Meet Quentin “GQ” Thomas. A native of Oakland, GQ spent his childhood mastering the craft of basketball, ultimately parlaying his abilities into an athletic scholarship at college powerhouse University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He played alongside current NBA contributors like Utah Jazz forward Marvin Williams and San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green on the Tar Heels from 2005 through 2009, winning a championship his freshman year. But he was always rapping simultaneously.
“Whether I was freestyling in the locker room or on the bus, to games playin’ around, [my teammates] were like, ‘Man, you really have a gift, you have a talent. You should take advantage of it,’” explained GQ in a recent phone interview with HipHopDX. Had he not been plagued by a nagging knee injury in college, there’s no telling what could have become of GQ’s basketball dreams. After graduating, he met producer 9th Wonder. The two hit it off quickly, and GQ found himself on the Jamla Records roster not long after.
“I remember talking to my dad, and he was like, ‘Basketball has gotten you further than most people thought. What other things do you want to do?’” GQ added. “I always like to think that things happen for a reason. So I just started going hard at music, and putting my all into music and a lot of things started happening.”
After signing on with Jamla in 2009, GQ began work on his first EP, Death Threats & Love Notes. Released on March 26, the EP marked his label debut, and so far GQ says he’s gotten a positive reception.
“People are really liking the EP, and people are really giving us positive feedback,” he noted. “It’s been really good for me, and more than anything just trying to make good music, constantly writing and just trying to get better as an artist.” The album features labelmates Rapsody and Ka$h, as well as production from 9th Wonder and Khrysis.
GQ Discusses Hip Hop And Basketball’s Relationship
Maybe the most impressive part of GQ’s ascent from televised athlete to professional emcee is the ease and quickness with which he’s done it. Perhaps it’s due to the fact on one level, it is a wise transition.
“One thing I have noticed even when I wasn’t involved with music was the parallels of both [Hip Hop and Basketball],” GQ explained. “And then just the culture itself: whether it be the fashion of the two, just a mannerism you have while you’re on the court, the same mannerism you have when recording, when you’re offstage. [Aside from] just the confidence levels, there are lot of parallels that go with both.
“That’s one of the first things 9th said about me. When I met him, he was like, ‘You have somewhat of an advantage with music because of what you’ve gone through with basketball. From having a work ethic, to being on time, to devoting yourself, to making sacrifices…being patient.’ There were a lot of things he used for examples. At first I didn’t always see them, but now I can really look back and really relate everything to basketball that I’ve gone through as far as the process of music thus far.”
Asked if there was anything he could take from basketball and apply to rapping, GQ is quick with his answer.
“Yeah, just having a repetition. Over and over. Just like shooting free throws. If you shoot 100 free throws everyday, you have to become a better free throw shooter at some point,” GQ pointed out. “Writing a certain number of rhymes everyday counts as repetition, but sometimes it’s also about multi-tasking; 9th is a professor at Harvard. He goes there every week, but every time he’s not there, he’s right there in the studio or doing something productive. Seeing that, that inspires somebody like myself.”
GQ Hints At Remaining Plans For 2013
As noted before, Death Threats & Love Notes was released in March. GQ is pleased with its reception so far, and for good reason. At the top of 2013, 9th Wonder introduced GQ to the world declaring, “He isn’t a basketball player that can rhyme; he is a rapper that can ball.” Ever since, he’s been on the move, both promoting the album and working with others.
“We’re actually in L.A. - well, not all of us. Myself, 9th, Ka$h, HaLo and [Rapsody]. We were in L.A. this weekend, and I’ll be headed back to Carolina today...this evening,” GQ added. Obviously, downtime is infrequent for him and the rest of the Jamla crew these days.
As for live performances, look to see if GQ will be coming to a city near you. “This summer, I know shows will be taking place,” he asserts. Otherwise, it’s all business as usual: “[I’ll be] Constantly just in the studio...and probably working on the album, which is titled, ‘Rated Oakland’ and that’ll be out probably before the year is over,” GQ suggests.
“And like I said, just want to improve as an artist from day-to-day.”