In all major sports leagues there’s an award for the comeback player of the year. If there was such an award in hip-hop San Quinn would be at the head of the list of nominees. After taking three years off, 2011 has seen the San Francisco native release not one, but two full length albums – Can’t Take the Ghetto Out a Nigga, which was released on July 19th, and A Hustler’s Hope, which hit stores on October 25th. Even though he’s back on his grind releasing new music, Quinn says the break he took was a good one as it gave him time to “analyze the game.” This week RapReviews caught up with San Quinn to find out what he learned during his time off, what he hopes to accomplish for the Bay Area, and why he says he “wasn’t overwhelmed” when he met 2Pac. San Quinn also revealed the video game he is supremely confident he can kick your ass in.
Adam Bernard: After taking three years off, what brought about the want to release new music now?
San Quinn: I understand what’s going on with music now a little bit better. With the recession hitting, and Obama coming into office, a couple things changed more than even before. People weren’t selling as much music, and also, it’s like YouTube and all that other shit now. It really came on strong with the creation of the 7D Cannon and some of the cameras making it where people can just shoot a video off their iPhone and post it, so everybody basically became equal as far as the promotion shit if you weren’t spending no real money. Before we would have more action getting on the radio, getting at MTV, and that was the look. Now a lot of radio stations are looking for how many hits you have, how many YouTube views you have, how much (web) traffic you have, and kinda judging people’s skills off of that.
AB: As someone who’s been around since the pre-internet days, was it hard to adapt to so much of the music world going digital?
SQ: It was fast. It kind of caught me off guard. Some people already knew about it where I was at, like JT the Bigga Figga and a couple other people. I’m still catching up. I kinda know what to do now. Now it’s about marketing and getting hits up and shit. So yes, it happened fast, it was overwhelming, I went through a little rap beef and shit and when you’re in shit like that you can keep putting records out but then people don’t want to hear one side of that shit, whether I’m wrong or right. I got past that and now I’m reestablishing myself as not only a rapper, but I’m ready to do business and step into the next level in the game where I start getting us real money out here and I start putting artists on, being behind the scenes but still being a part of it, doing my P. Diddy thing, getting us more established to where we makin money and where the Bay Area is on a major scale and I got my hands in the pot. I want to make money like L.A. Reid and them. They started off singing. Jimmy Iovine was even in a group, a rock band. He made the transition over the amount of years to where he’s probably a billionaire off of fuckin with music and it’s not off of him singing, but that’s what got him the connections.
AB: You are a legend in the Bay Area hip-hop scene. Over the years do you feel hip-hop scenes around the country have begun to find more success outside their areas, or have these hip-hop scenes become even more insular, creating more and more local celebrities, but fewer national ones?
SQ: It builds up local heroes. It would be nice if 50 Cent came and gave me some money cuz I really am a G out here. He could put me in the G-Unit and it would increase what he did right now because of my status out here, like Eminem did (for) him. Even though 50 had his deal and his buzz was up, Eminem reached back and made 50 Cent’s microphone even bigger. I want to get enough money to where I don’t have to just be worried about the Bay Area. Once I get $200 or $300 million and I’ve made 9-20 people around me millionaires, then I’m doing a hell of a job. Then I can reach out and fuck with other people. Right now I fuck with this side of America, where I know niggas ain’t on, and once we eatin in the Bay Area, and once we eatin on this side of America, I can think about crossing over, or even going to Mexico or South America.
AB: The new album is A Hustler’s Hope, with Tuf Luv. Other than to make a dollar, what is a hustler’s hope?
SQ: With this rap music shit, the stuff that I’m talking about is very possible, not only for me, but for others to achieve. People grow up watching football and end up really playing football because they’ve seen somebody else doing it. A hustler’s hope is seeing another hustler being successful from it and copying, or mimicking, them in a good way. Knowing that you can do it, knowing that it is possible, is a hustler’s hope.
AB: You had that from a young age, because when you were very young you opened for 2Pac and Digital Underground. Did either Pac, or Shock G, say anything to you on that night, or give you any advice?
SQ: 2Pac was my competition. He was alive and he was rapping while I was rapping, so I wasn’t overwhelmed by meeting him. He didn’t become interesting to people until he died, or until he went to jail and started getting into movies and shit. I would have been more overwhelmed to meet him once he got out of jail and he got shot and All Eyez On Me, but when I met him he was just a regular nigga like me trying to get it. I felt like Digital Underground should sign me. They got 2Pac, they need to sign me, too. It wasn’t like I was mad at him, it was just that sense of being competitive. Pac was my competition, he didn’t become a true ally in my mind until he came home and he was hollerin Westside and he was on his unity thing. His state of mind when he came back is what we haven’t had since then and that’s why motherfuckers on the West coast are not winning entirely. We get these individual victories, but we’re not winning as a society because Pac would have been our Jay-Z right now. As far as money he’d probably be a billionaire. I know if Jay-Z got the money he got, and 50 got the money he got, Tupac Shakur definitely woulda been a billionaire if he was alive right now. We lost something powerful when we lost dude, because that’s what I’m talking about getting back at, and that’s my hustler’s hope. If God keep me then I can be a part of a billion dollar movement over here where people in our jurisdiction are making money off of uniting with each other, but it’s not “fuck the East coast,” “fuck the South,” or fuck anybody, we support everybody else’s shit.
AB: There was a time in the 90s when if something came out with a No Limit or Cash Money imprint on it you knew it was selling 200k in its first week just because of the South.
SQ: Exactly! Cash Money actually reestablished themselves. They fell off and came back. They revamped themselves. I remember when No Limit and them was like that. We need that again.
AB: I checked out your Twitter feed and you seem to be quite the fan of the video game Call of Duty.
SQ: Uh huh! Yeah, I like that. I be bustin niggas heads on there. That’s the only place I can kill somebody.
AB: How good are you at CoD?
SQ: I can say I’m one of the top five in America. If somebody wants to challenge me, they can bring it.
AB: Care to share your Xbox handle so fans can play with, or against, you?
SQ: I’m not gonna tell you. You’ll figure out who I am when you keep getting defeated. You’re gonna be like “is this Quinn?”
AB: Are you a gamer? Do you have a long list of games you play?
SQ: Nah, I just play Call of Duty and I rap.
AB: Finally, your name is San Quinn, which sounds like it was taken from the name of San Quentin State Prison in Marin County, CA. You’ve had that name forever. Do you feel it still fits you, or have you found new meanings for it in order to make it fit you?
SQ: The problem with the name is people always think that’s what it means when in turn it’s San Francisco Quincy, and the abbreviation for me is San Quinn. I’m planning on making this album called San Quincy and hopefully I’ll win a Grammy for it and then people will understand who I am.