As the saying goes, good things come to those who wait. But sometimes being patient in the rap game can lead to obscurity. Q, the first artist signed to Tag Records and Island Def Jam, landed one the most exciting new artist deals in recent history thanks to his tireless determination to be at the forefront of the music industry. With the backing of Procter & Gamble (the Fortune 500 consumer goods corporation behind Tag Body Spray) and Island Def Jam, the rapper born Kareem Savage will have a steady stream of marketing dollars for his yet-to-be titled debut album, which is expected out later this year.
“I’ll be featured in every Tag commercial and every magazine ad,” says Q. “I’m filming a MTV Diary right now. Being a new artist out of nowhere doing and MTV Diary? That doesn’t happen! They’re in the studio with me filming the making of my album.”
While the majority of the country may be meeting Q for the first time thanks to an incredible amount of instant exposure, New York City rap fans have been acquainted with the Brooklyn-born MC for quite some time. In the late ‘90s, Q dropped out of Kingsborough College to pursue a career in the music industry. He was offered a deal with Violator Records along with fellow Brooklyn rappers Red Café and Gravy. The trio called themselves Da Franchise, a name they came up with in high school.
During their stint at Violator, Da Franchise was featured on multiple mixtapes and both Violator compilations. Even though their work was well received, the group was never given the opportunity to release their own album. “We were signed for like three years but they wasn’t really trying to push forward,” says Q. “We were just stuck on the label and they didn’t know what to do with us. I was the first person to branch off and leave.”
Hoping to write his own destiny, Q moved to Miami in 1997 and recorded a demo with super producers Cool & Dre. He was introduced to a bevy of industry bigwigs and even offered a deal with one of the country’s most notorious heavyweights. “I met up with Mike Tyson and he was starting a label and he wanted me to be his first artist,” says Q, “but I was not trying to be back in the same situation as Violator so I went into the studio by myself and just kept recording more and more songs.”
During his four year stay in the Sunshine State, Q became a mainstay in the M.I.A. club scene known for his spontaneous live performances. He would team up with DJs like Khaled and Irie and kick live freestyles over whatever record was a hit at the time. After building a name for himself in Miami, Q decided to pack up and head to Atlanta in 2001, which was quickly becoming a hip-hop hotbed.
Once he settled in ATL, Q befriended DJ Shakim who was Bow Wow’s DJ and an associate of Jermaine Dupri’s. Shakim was impressed by Q’s lyrical prowess and the innovative freestyles he tacked onto the end of popular records. Before long, Shakim was playing Q’s homemade remixes in Atlanta’s hottest clubs. “Shakim kept telling me, ‘Yo, I’ve been hollering at JD and we’ve been having conversations about you,’” says Q. “Then one day I was in the club and I heard Shakim call me to the DJ booth. When I got there JD was in there. He was like, ‘What are you doing with yourself?’ I was like, ‘Trying to get it, here’s my number.’ He called me the next morning and I went into the studio with him the same night.”
In the summer of 2006, Q signed with So So Def/Virgin and appeared on a number of songs with A-list artists including, Fabolous’ “Make Me Better,” featuring Ne-Yo, “No One” by Alicia Keys, “Fine” by Mary J. Blige, and “Can’t Help But Wait” by Trey Songz. When Jermaine Dupri was named an executive at Island in early 2007, Q wasn’t sure how he would fit into JD’s new situation. “While he was getting established in the [Def Jam] building he kept telling me, ‘Be patient, I got you,’” says Q. “He told me that for a good year and a half straight. Then he called me one day and was like, ‘I might have a situation that would be good for you.’ We sat down and that’s when he told me about the Tag deal. He said it would be a good look for me and that I deserved it because I grind hard for what I want and that’s what the whole brand is about.”
Dubbing himself “The new breed of hip-hop,” Q is now ready to take over. With production on his debut album so far from No I.D. and Jermaine Dupri, Q promises his first LP will be a proper introduction to exactly who he is and what he stands for. “When I really put it together, I could be in the category of Rakim, Nas and Jay-Z,” he says. “Most rappers just be in the streets talking about selling drugs and stuff like that. I’m more into telling my story. Big was someone who was into telling his story, ‘Pac was a person who told his story, Jay is a person who tells his story.”
Thanks to the help of Jermaine Dupri, Q will not only get to rap about the world as he sees it, but he will also get to rap over the contagious club bangers executive producer JD is known and loved for. “JD told me, ‘Don’t stop grinding and being the person that you are,’” says Q. “’Just like you were determined to meet me and it took a minute to get it going and you was always in the studio, don’t stop now that you’ve got a deal. Just act like you ain’t got it. Stay hungry and be consistent.’ I told him, ‘Dawg, I’m gonna make you proud.’”