Underground Report: QN5 Puts Family First

posted October 05, 2007 12:00:00 AM CDT | 7 comments

Weve got a family here! This month, HipHopDX got to catch up with three members of the QN5 family. Tonedeff, Substantial and PackFM sat down to discuss everything with DX and they had a lot to talk about. In the end, stay tuned for videos and links to tracks by the QN5ers, as well.

The three emcees gave us some interesting stories. Why was PackFM chased by cops? Who compared Hip-Hop to a rape victim? Who saw a couple having sex at his show? Who was banned from their own radio show?

Read on to get answers to all that and more as we sit with QN5 for Octobers Underground Report.


DX: You represent an element that is forgotten at times with graffiti. Where did your love for graf start? What's been your wildest experience while bombing?

PFM: You knowgraffiti came natural for me. I'd be in my classes in elementary school and I would just write my name on all of my desks so that people would know I sat there. Then we started getting "tag names" and my first tag was "RAT." I don't remember why, but the day I got home, I wrote it on the door of a building on my block and from there it just kept growing.

As for the wildest bombing experience, any graf writer will tell you that the wildest stories come from getting chased by cops. I've been chased many times. One time I was doing a fill-in on a high traffic corner, but it was like 4am so it was kinda dead. I'm on my bike painting this wall, and I see a cop car pull up across the street. When I think back, I realize they probably didn't see what I was doing, but when I saw them I took off! So now they're following me and I'm on a 12 speed mountain bike. I'm dipping down blocks and shifting gears like crazy, I never even used the gears before that day. So after like four blocks the cops caught up to me and pull up next to me while I'm riding and they have the door open with the guns drawn yelling "Get off the bike now!" I stopped and they patted me down. I explained to them I was just catching some tags and I got freaked out when I saw them. They basically told me if they would have seen anything shiny when they stopped me they would have shot me, and let me go. They didn't take my paint or anything. When they left, I rode back to the corner and finished the fill. True story.

DX: Who are some graf artists you admire, aside from yourself, of course?

PFM: As far as tagging goes, I think Chino BYI is the goat, dude is all over the place and has a really dope pen style. The crazy thing is, when I met Chino, I gave him a copy of one of my CDs and he told me he recognized my logo/tag from seeing it around the way. That was cool to me. As far as pieces, T-Kid all day, he must have eaten paint as a child or something, because the shit he does is crazy.

DX: What was it like to drop out? I know you discuss it on record a bit, but after everything, did you ever sit and regret it? Why or why not?
PFM: To be perfectly real, the day I dropped out, I cried. I cried because I was working at McDonald's at the time and I thought that was where I was going to be for the rest of my life. It was scary because it was senior year for me and I didn't have any credits at all. I cut 90% of the classes I took. But I wasn't stupid, I was just confused. I talked to my best friend at the time that had also dropped out and he told me how he got his GED through a college program. I wasn't eligible for that, but it helped me realize that there were other options and my life wasn't over. I don't regret any of it, because going through the things I did, shaped me and the way I do things now. I didn't rely on the school system to educate me, I educated myself. I studied for the GED and SATs on my own, no classes and I got really good scores. And that's how I am now, I don't rely on anybody for shit, if something has to get done, I'll do it myself.

DX: I know you've turned down major label deals. What is your current stance on a major label?

PFM: I think right now anyone who gets signed to a major label is just a tax write-off. It doesn't mean that you don't have talent; it just means that if you aren't making disposable music, they ain't trying to put you out. Think about how many rappers got "signed" to big labels in the past three years and end up putting their album out on Koch. All major labels want is $3 rappers, $1 for the download and $2 for the ringtone. Why waste money on a CD? Tax write-off.

DX: "Fuck you. I rhyme better" is a fresh statement. Is there any MC, past or present, that you actually look up to?
PFM: I look up to Redman and Jay-Z a lot. An MC like Redman has been the same
for the past 20 Years. Grimey, New Jersey funk. I never heard a Redman song and felt like he was trying to adapt or "sound current," every song he's on is just Redman. As for Jay, that dude just screams cool to me. I know it ain't cool for a rapper to be a fan, but fuck it, I'm a fan.

DX: Fair enough. Who you goin' for in '08's presidential election?

PFM: I'm still undecided. More than likely Obama. Like most Americans, I'm not into politics as much as I should be.

DX: I know your next album will be something a little different. I heard you were working with Domingo on the entire project, which is great if your track with him, Slug and Ali is any indication. How did you and Domingo hook up for this LP collaboration?

PFM: I've done a lot of songs over Domingo production in the past, he produced the intro to my album and the original version of "I Can't Win." He has a lot of bangers, and that's the kind of beats I like most. After I finished my album, I had a lot of ideas for follow-up projects and an EP with Domingo was one of them. We did the song with Slug and Brother Ali after we had the idea for the EP, but it was done for Domingo's Most Underrated album. "Sire" is the first song we recorded for the album, and the feedback for that song is nuts so far. If yall aint heard it, you know where to go...


DX: You've performed at various music festivals. What's the best part of showing up at places like Lolapalooza? What's been the craziest experience at shows like this?
T: I love big crowds. From Rocksteady to Lolla, it's the same adrenaline rush when you're about to step on stage and hearing thousands of people roaring. It's a moment you live for. Oddly, enough, my craziest experience was at the QN5 Megashow 2005 at B.B. Kings. I was performing "Pervert" and I looked down to see a couple straight up fucking right up against the stage! Dude was running this broad from behind and she was leaning on the stage. They had them Cinemax slow-mo faces on and everything. I couldn't believe it. You know you've arrived when people start fucking at your shows.

DX: That Who Says Hip-Hop is Dead? video was magnificent with humor. What caused you all to put that together?
T: The video was originally used as the intro for the QN5 Megashow in L.A. this year. Everyone kept asking us to put it online, so I did...I didn't realize how popular it was gonna get. I guess the ridiculousness of internet chat boards translates to everyone.

DX: A lot of people share your view in that you have the best flow in the game. What led you to this versatile flowing style? What kind of influences created your unique blend?
Basically, it all stems from the fact that I absolutely can't stand doing the same thing twice. When you've been at it as long as I have, you constantly have to keep challenging yourself to keep shit interesting. Imagine if you only learned how to shoot jump shots from the key and got good at it, but never bothered to learn anything else...you'd be a one-note player. I subscribe to the idea that legends can do anything. Same goes with emceeing.

Every year, it's just another parade of bandwagons that I hear from, about (insert imaginative rap name here)...and nine times out of 10, I don't find these cats particularly impressive strictly because I find them one-dimensional. That's a huge flaw. A lot of rappers do one thing well and never branch out or even attempt to do anything else. Some cats spit some heat when it comes to talkin some street shit, but then you give em a serious topic and they fall to pieces - or vice versa. That to me, is a complete lack of experience in the craft of emceeing. True-blue emcees should be able to rock to anything, any style, any topic. It's an old Hip Hop adage, but sadly, it seems we have to remind every new generation of cats about it.

I've been influenced by everything I hear - from early LL to The Fresh Prince to Freestyle Fellowship to Public Enemy to N.W.A. to Rakim to Common to Jay-Z - you name it. I've absorbed it all, and filtered it through my own experience and abilities. It's funny cause I always get asked how it is I do what I do...and my response is simply "Practice, Practice, Practice.

DX: Disappointed has to be one of the funniest tracks in a cool minute. What's been the latest disappointing experience you've had with women?
T: First, let me just say that I love the ladies - so, please don't send me any hate-mail. Funny enough, the 12" cover we did for that song has caused me so many headaches arguing with ultra-feminist/self-righteous broads at shows. But the second I go into "Pervert," the hands go up and they sing along to every word. I don't know how they justify that one, but hey. You can hear the latest "Disappointed" style experience on a song I did recently called "Easy Now" on Domingo's The Most Underrated LP. Remember fellas, cold sores are herpes, don't let them broads tell you otherwise. [Laughs]

DX: Do you still do the comic strip, man?
T: I got something in the works after Chico & The Man drops that I'm excited about. But, yeah, I still bust out the markers from time to time, but this rap shit always gets in the way. [Laughs]

DX: You've been in the game since you were an early teen, right? So, what can you share with so many young kids today, that are trying to get in this game?
T: My advice to anyone, young or old, is to really look within yourself and what you're doing, and really determine who you are before you even write a word. Push yourself to be yourself...even in the face of those who don't approve of you. Also, study the history of music, because there's more to it than this weeks new Weezy and [Kanye] West verses...trust. Remember, trends are for sheep. Fuck everybody and be yourself at all costs.

DX: For those who ain't knowing...What's QN5's mission in the music world?

T: To change it through great music.


DX: Some fans dont know a lot about the underground. So, lets introduce them to you. Who are you? What would you like fans to know about you in general?
S: Peace world. The name is Substantial. [In deep voice] Im a Capricorn from the state of Maryland that enjoys long walks on the beach, bangin' beats, and teaching the seeds. Seriously though, I do what most dont and thats consistently strive to make great music.

DX: Substantial is a dope rap name. Howd you come up with that?

S: Actually my boy Beef from Brooklyn came up with it. He booked me for a show, didnt like my current stage name at the time, so he came up with Substantial and put it on the flyer without even asking me. He showed me the flyer and at first I was a little confustrated, but eventually came around and looked at the name as a compliment.

means: of solid character or quality, influential, of real worth, value, or effect. For someone to associate that word with me and the music I make is a major compliment. Not to mention my real name, Stan, is in the middle of it. That helped too.

DX: I see there is a resurrection of the house party. How did that come about?

S: Although as a Hip Hop artist, you spend a lot of time in the club, I really have never been a club person. And in my opinion, nothing really beats a good house party. So when I got the beat from Fero Navi, I figured that would be an original idea for a song. Why look for a party when you can bring it to you? Plus block parties and house parties played a major roll in the birth of this culture. People need to know that.

DX: You know you have to take us down memory lane. What was the illest house party youve been to?
My 16th birthday party. [Laughs] We had an open mic, a dope DJ, pretty girls, and you know it aint a party until the cops try to come shut you down. We even had NBA Live poppin in the back room. Shit was official. Its been a long time since Ive been to a really good one though.

DX: Bet theyd pay attention if names I was callin out. Was this a shot at the current state of beef in Hip-Hop? Whats your take on that?
S: Hell yeah. I feel that the lamest shit you can do is disrespect the next man solely to draw attention to yourself. No disrespect but thats a very feminine thing to do. That bitch think she cute. She aint all that.

DX: You can flip your flow pretty easily, which is crazy nice. How did your versatile style come about?
S: Thank you. Well, I hang with people like Tonedeff and listen to music with a wide variety of rhythms. It was bound to happen. Put it this way, its hard sometimes (not impossible) to find something new to say but you can almost always come up with a new way to say it if you apply yourself.

DX: With the current state of Hip Hop, there is a serious gap between the mainstream and the underground, but QN5 seems to be doing a good job at bridging that. How do you feel that you personally provide a bridge?
S: I think that I do my part by utilizing the strengths that both sides of the game have. For example, a lot of underground artists are fearless and truly unafraid to tackle certain issues and experiment, regardless of whether or not it translates into sales. In regards to the mainstream, I try to make sure that a certain sound quality is maintained as well. That something that a lot of independent projects are missing because people don't have the funding or they just aren't as polished.

DX: Substantial, how many rappers with substance actually exist today?
S: Five percent of the MC population.

DX: Your bio states that you are interested in films. What would you like to do in that field?
S: Well when I have time to get back into producing again, I'd like to score films maybe even produce a few. It would be more of a side thing though. My homie "Gnormen Insanate Baites" of UV Ink is an amazing writer and plans on writing and directing flicks so I'd like to assist him with that goal because he has some truly brilliant ideas and I have a few myself. I also wouldn't mind producing/directing videos. The first one, "Resurrection of the House Party" was a lot of fun to develop and we're about to start work on the next one which will be even better.

DX: It also states that you want to work in fashion. How would you describe your style?

S: Honestly, I'm all about custom gear. I hate the feeling of walking out the house with something that everyone has on. And I like the idea that my vision, often combined with someone else's gives what I'm wearing value, while a lot of people buy and wear things they can't really afford to give themselves value. That's sad to me.

DX: So, if you do get into the fashion game, what exactly would you do?

S: Well if and when it happens, you'll just have to wait and see. It'll definitely deal with custom wear though.

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