San Quinn has been wrecking the hard rap underground of California since the mid-1990’s. Occasionally that local following has garnered some more widespread exposure nationally, such as his 1998 “Explosive Mode” duet with Messy Marv, an album popular enough to be reissued in 2004. Now admittedly my review might have made it seem that had as much or more to do with Marv than Quinn, but with no less than 10 albums under his belt he’s no slouch as a recording artist either. Quinn recently signed to the new imprint SMC Recordings. The label has quickly made a name for itself by signing the likes of B-Legit, Bizzy Bone and Pastor Troy, and Quinn’s new album has national distribution well beyond the usual California borders. Big tings a ‘gwan for San Quinn in 2006, which means the release of “Pressure Makes Diamonds” might be the pinnacle of his long career.
“I come from the bottom of the gutterest hood, wickedest niggaz
No need searchin for good, it ain’t in us
Took years to get noticed, respect took decades
Niggaz slide beneath me to get a spot in the shade
Knowin I’m not afraid, and the love in my blood overcame
the player hatin plague that we sustain
My execs took checks and cashed them
Didn’t fit me, one pair of kicks and no new fashion
I come greater to upgrade my Chuck Taylors to Adidas”
Quinn’s accent may be gritty and Bay Area regional – Fillmore in particular – but the story is universal. You struggle, you hustle, you overcome the odds and make your way to bigger and better things. It’s the story San Quinn tells on the heartfelt “Look What I’ve Done for Them” above, and it’s also found within the following track “Put My Mind to It.” Quinn rides over a pounding beat and subtle piano backdrop while proclaiming he puts a “hard nose grind to it/occasion I rise to it/no grazin when I’m shootin.” That’s another universal story in hip-hop these days – ruling the streets through violent means. Hip-Hop tends to like blurring the lines between the fiction in these raps and the fact of how these MC’s live their real lives, but there’s no question the self-described “rapper among rapper, king among kings” comes from a rough turf known to have produced fellow Bay stars like Andre Nickatine (Dre Dog) and JT the Bigga Figga. Shit is real in the field.
“Wanna get rowdy? Let’s get rowdy
I’m the real truth, why a nigga wanna doubt me?
Can’t do without me, bring the real to the table
We all wanna eat, bring a meal/mill’ to the table
Done Deal still the label, still gettin fatal
Kick a motherfucker ass, then what they gonna say though?”
Nothin’ Quinn. Nothin’ at all. This is a man who is more than happy to bring “chairs, bottles, knives and razors” to beat up “bitches, squares, snakes and gangsters” in the song quoted above, appropriately titled “Kick Yo’ Ass.” He’s exactly the kind of crunk artist who sounds approprate yelling out the words, “Tell Lil Jon throw me a beat” right before vowing to “kick some ass in the middle of the street.” If you like your hip-hop with more testosterone pumping through its veins than Barry Bonds and Chris Masters put together, San Quinn is definitely the man for you, especially given he dubs himself “Quinn Van Damme” on the track and brags that he “kicks mo’ ass than the UFC.”
Truthfully it’s almost overkill. At some point it’s a little much that he’s always about “rap like crack I cook up, straps that’ll raise the roof up.” Thankfully Quinn remembers to be clever and not just hard, and he has enough personality to his flow and vocal tone to carry the album where a lesser rapper on the same topics would get monotonous. He also mellows out from time to time and gives the album some much needed balance, admitting he would rather not have drama on the soulful “Do That for Me.” Instead Quinn’s encouraging his fellow soldiers to get money, throw their hands in the sky, and holla at a player in that order. He also sounds relaxed and refreshed on “So Young,” with Mike Marshall doing some crooning on the vocals. This song is so smooth it would be a lock for crossover success with a few radio spins and a music video.
Quinn doesn’t forget to show love to the rest of the West as Ya’ Boy flows on “Frisco Stand Up” and “The Hunter,” the Hoodstarz get wreck on “I Got Goons” and E-A-Ski joins Quinn and Allen Anthony for the rambuncious “Hell Yeah!” If you’re a fan of the California sound in general and the Bay Area in particular, “Pressure Makes Diamonds” is just the album for you. It’s much harder to say if Quinn has released the album that will finally make him a household name though, since even with a new label and national distribution, Quincy’s still so hard he might intimidate those who want to relate. Quinn’s probably not worrying about the rest though. As long as the West is getting hyphy to it, he’ll keep coming back harder than the rocks he is pressuring into diamonds.