Conversation with Q Da Fool

On June 8, I sat in a parked car in downtown Oakland and watched the clock strike 9 pm. The Washington Capitals had, minutes before, just won the Stanley Cup, ending a title drought for a city that reached back to 1992.

After the initial waves of disbelief, and then disappointment that I was on the wrong coast as this was happening (the actual excitement would come days later), I realized there was something missing about how the city’s jubilation was captured and archived: there was no music.

Apart from contributions from local royalty like E-40, if you were within 20 miles of Oakland, you didn’t just see titletown vestiges everywhere—I have not been to Target and not seen Draymond Green, in full warmups so much as once since I’ve been here—you heard them. There is never an occasion in which Mac Dre shouldn’t be blasted from lowrider subwoofers, but 3 titles in 4 years certainly signals as appropriate a time as any.

All the history of go-go, funk, and hip-hop in the District and we couldn’t swing, at the very least, an equivalent of Lil Wayne’s Green Bay Packers Super Bowl anthem?

What I’m saying is that Q Da Fool is the perfect person to solve this dilemma. Largo, Maryland’s own has been buzzing in the DMV for a couple years. Ahead of 100 Keys, produced exclusively by Atlanta legend Zaytoven slated to drop any day this summer, Q has started to grab national attention. While the rest of the world focused on the DC’s newest, headline-generating residents, the families and communities forced toward and into surrounding suburbs kept building; among their constructions exists one of the more promising rap scenes in the country today.

As a member of that growing culture, I wanted to know from Q himself how he fits within the greater landscape of DMV culture:

“I feel like I’m about to be the next big thing,” he told me over the phone on a Friday afternoon the same week the Caps paraded around DC with Lord Stanley. “I feel like I’m underrated. I feel like I’m underrated because I switch my styles up, I don’t rock the same on every song, I feel like I don’t got that real recognition that I need.”

Whatever the reason—that we are constantly compared to New York (“NoMa” will always be New York Avenue and “CoHi,” Columbia Heights); the fact that the news about politics can often overshadow news about the people who live through them; or maybe it’s just something in the water—feeling underrated no matter the context is a quintessential DC emotion.

On authenticity and his writing process:

“Everything be like off the vibe, I don’t write nothing—I try to write music, but every time I write music it sounds stupid,” he said plainly. “And I just go off the vibe, and it’s never really up. If I’m having a fucked up day or something, it’ll sound fucked up. Sometimes I can’t be in the studio—I don’t feel like rapping. But it’s how I’m feeling every day with my A1s.”

On competition:

“It’s crabs in a bucket out here,” he said. “In DMV when someone blow up, they never come back. They sign, they don’t ever come back and help the city. But that’s why it’s kind of like that out here.”

He then reflected on becoming a father, as well as the message behind the music video for his release, “The Plug.”

“That video was showing like you have to take care of your family and their spirit,” he said. “I just love my sons—it might seem like a corny way to say it, but it has a big impact on your life if you really want to be in your kid’s life and them be in your life. I put that in my music because it’s part of my life, and I speak on my real life when I rap.”

The matter-of-fact sincerity with which he spoke about his friends and family matched the candor of many of his songs. This made stories of sitting with his son resting on his stomach seem as sincere, and as grim and violent, as verses in which he talks about dumping bodies in the Patuxent River. Two allegedly different personas are constructed, tethered only by the fact that one seems to depend on the other, making scenes in The Plug seem simultaneously layered and unvarnished. Two truths hard to reconcile, and at times, harder to separate from the music.

And, of course, we had to talk about the elephant on the field:

“Imma keep it 100: I ain’t even paying attention to them niggas. They been playing so bad, you gotta put the brakes on they ass.”

Ah, yes, maybe the strongest connective tissue linking generations of DC natives around the globe is the understanding that when it comes to owner Dan Snyder’s moribund franchise, even for people who choose to “fight for old DC,” that fight usually ends with the Burgundy & Gold finishing no better than 3rd in the NFC East.

After debuting videos on Worldstar Hip-Hop, vying for an XXL Freshman Class nomination, and linking up with notable artists like Gucci Mane and Wale, I asked Q about what he now was most proud.

“The whole transition. Me and my team, my family, making a whole big transition, that’s what I’m proud of.”

From the rise of the alt-right and its cementation as a leading fixture of Beltway politics to the fact that someone decided Georgia Avenue staple Fish In The Hood needed some explanatory re-branding, things in the DMV are definitely “transitioning.” For native Washingtonians, especially the ones who have been priced out of their homes and neighborhoods, such transition could feel erasing. Here’s where Q Da Fool comes in.

If this period in the city’s cultural history is to be marked by change, it is only fitting that the people who were on Largo Road, right there, before the median property values in Largo spiked and median income remained stagnant, are in charge of that change. DC didn’t always have generational talents in Wall, Harper or Ovechkin, and we certainly are newcomers to celebrating our sports dominance.

But we’re no strangers to the sauce. The DMV was dripping when Langston was writing on 12th Street, or when Marian overshadowed Lincoln at his own damn monument. We had it when they killed Martin and our flames ate everything but what we told them not to. We had it before 2016, and we’ll have it in 2020, and we’ll have it in 2024.

And so the next time that one of our beleaguered (if maybe no longer cursed) teams reaches the proverbial mountaintop, I want all of DC, Maryland, and Virginia to be there too, front and center, with a bigger chip on our shoulder than the one we just won and an understanding that change, no matter how forceful, cannot uproot us.