And just like that, Kendrick Lamar is two generations of Hip-Hop ago.
Fans may believe the Grammy-winning emcee is among the newest wave of rap music. He certainly isn’t an OG by any stretch and many think some of his best work is ahead of him. That’s fair.
He’s not new, though.
Think about it: Section.80, his full-length debut project, is almost seven years old now. That’s an eternity in hip-hop music. Someone who was 12 years old at that time and establishing their taste for music, is now, at 19, calling that one of the first favorite albums they heard.
Not Nas, not Jay-Z, not even Kanye West. It’s easy to lose context when discussing rappers and who’s the “new new wave.” In Columbus, one of those people is QNTN.
Born and raised on the South Side, the rapper and producer (born Rhys Washington) is fresh out of high school—inexperienced in his craft but ready to wreak havoc on the scene.
He’s also 19.
QNTN came up on a variety of music. Everyone from Three 6 Mafia of the early-to-mid 1990s to Tech N9ne, to jazz, a genre which he considers one of his biggest inspirations. It’s also where he attributes a lot of his interest in drums, which he incorporates into his instrumental output.
Early on and in school, it was maintaining a beat that QNTN used to simply help him think, way before he even thought putting out music would be a part of his life.
“Ever since I was little I couldn’t stop beating my hands on the table,” he described on a recent and sunny spring day. “Teachers was always trying to find ways for me to exert that energy in different ways so I ended up just getting my own drum set.”
A product of the Graham School and Fort Hayes, Washington was never one to fit into the norms of education. It wasn’t the course work, rather it was the controlling, repeating, and mundane nature of it that had him convinced that he could teach himself. It’s why he ended his college education and pursuit of a degree in music at Xavier University just one year in.
“I feel bad for dropping out of college, but I hate teachers, so I made hella songs where I was like, ‘Fuck education, fuck school,’ because that’s how I felt,” he said. “I don’t like restrictions. I don’t like people holding me down, butting heads with me and telling me I could do better.”
So far, it seems to be a good decision. He learned in his own way how to transfer what he heard in his head to different instruments and eventually his production.
“I’ve got so many weird, complex thoughts like from seventh grade when I came up with a little beat on my drum set to when I set down on my piano in ninth grade and came up with a melody and it never left my head,” he recalled. “Music is the only thing I feel like Rocky or Michael Jordan in. Everything else is just I can do it, but I’m not a god at it.”
Outside of his own music, Washington is a resident drummer at Shadowbox Live, a venue that stages musicals and sketch comedies on a regular basis. It’s his day job but also something he considers an educational tool that teaches him about his love of music.
“They taught me how to carry myself,” he said. “They teach me how to deal with responsibility.” It’s much more important to him and his craft than what one can get out of social media – something he rarely uses.
“I don’t care ‘bout no Snapchat or Instagram. People hate on me like, ‘Bro, you never post nothing on Snapchat or Twitter.’ Why? I’m goin’ die and what’s going to be left? The stupid shit I put on there.”
Remember earlier? About the rebellious nature of younger rap cats? It’s not something QNTN is a lone example of. Many nationally, from Lil Uzi Vert, to Rae Sremmurd to even Columbus’s own Trippie Redd, have displayed their disdain for old ways, rules and structure. They consider themselves the new rockstars.
QNTN wants to be part of that. His latest EP Hellhound is a mix of self-produced synth-based beats under dark raps that are sinister in nature. It’s all relatable though, and captures Washington’s undertone mantra of music over fame.
“I just want my sound to be heard. I don’t care if you know my name.”
Listen to QNTN’s latest EP Hellhound via Soundcloud.