Interview: Que

Is “OG Bobby Johnson” this year’s “Verace”? We met up with the Atlanta rapper behind Lebron James’ favorite new song to find out.

Photographer Sarah Riazati
January 16, 2014

Is "OG Bobby Johnson" this year's "Versace"?

In the span of a few months, Que's "OG Bobby Johnson" has grown from an Atlanta local favorite to a nationwide club staple. Drake bestowed his Midas-touch cosign on it, opening his laptop DJ set at Beyoncé's album release party with the track, and Lebron declared it his new game-day theme song. It's already poised to become the "Versace" of 2014—supremely catchy, ubiquitous, meme-friendly—thrusting Que, whose raspy voice belies his 23 years, into the spotlight and into a new deal with Atlantic. Toting a PS4 in case of free time that has yet to materialize, he stopped by FADER to talk about the surrealness of a Lebron cosign, balancing lyricism with turn-up and what to expect from Who Is Que?, his proper debut tape, expected out in March.

The producer of “OG Bobby Johnson” is Bobby Johnson. How the hell did that happen? It’s crazy. He’s from Germany; I’ve never met him, but we FaceTime sometimes. I remember the first time I asked for his number he sent me a fucking 15-digit number. I was like, 'Man I said your phone number, what the fuck is this?' But the idea for the song was first, then he hit me on Twitter and we just clicked like that. He was like 'Bro, this is fucking crazy, thank you,' and I was like, 'No, thank you!'

Huge names from Jay Z to Drake have been publicly obsessed with the song. Is it surreal? The one that had me fucked up the most was Lebron. I used to play basketball [point guard for Norcross High School] up until my first year in college. So when I saw him pick his phone up and make it a point to take a selfie in his car and actually, you know, UNGHHH [fist-pumps] in his car… that shit was crazy. It was my off day, I was at home playing Call of Duty—I got a big ass bean bag, I’m playing Call of Duty on the bean bag—and somebody mentions me on Instagram with “King James.” I’m like,'What the fuck is this?' Then I seen it and I was like, 'This can’t be real.' And then it clicked, and I was like, 'Oh shit, it’s real!' I called my mom, I called everybody.

Is it intimidating to have one song that’s so huge, and have the pressure to follow it up? Not really. The way I did “Bobby Johnson” was just having fun, I do all my songs like that. So it’s no pressure, I just keep doing what I’ve been doing, I can come up with another one. Just have fun with everything.

You’ve been working with Sonny Digital for years, and the two of you seem to have insane chemistry as collaborators. How did you link with him? That’s like my brother, we grew up together. If you take music out the picture we’re like family. Blood couldn’t make us any closer. But I used to always ask him for beats back in the day—like four years ago, when I first started rapping or at least started taking it seriously—and he was like, 'Hell nah.' So I’m like, I’m gonna show and prove to you. Then one day he came to me like, 'Let’s work.'. He saw the progress. He was one of the few people that actually believed in me, that took the time out to work with me and motivate me and give me advice. He always told me, 'Bro, you’re gonna be dope, you’re gonna be a star.' And I was just like, 'We’ll see.'

Who Is Que? is on the way. Who’s gonna be on it? Me! I mean, I may have a few features, at the most maybe three. But a lot of my work that I have out is either me having features on my track, or me being featured on somebody else’s track, so I want this body of work to be about me. 'Who is Que?' is a question that’s frequently asked, so I want to answer that with the music. As far as producers: Sonny Digital of course, Metro Boomin, TM88 from 808 Mafia, John Boy, B Weezy, DJ Plugg, Dun Deal… I’m working with Mustard next week in LA, so if I come up with something dope with him that’ll be on there.

Has the success of "OG Bobby Johnson" started creeping into your personal life yet? I was in the airport, it was maybe like 6AM; my hair was matted, I had on house shoes. I jumped out the car and this lady stopped me like 'Oh shit, I know who you are, stop, stop!' I was like, 'You caught me slipping.' She’s like 'Take a picture with me,' and I’m like 'Man, you don’t see how I look? You gonna do me like that? But fuck it, whatever, c’mon.' Or I’ll be at the gas station or something and I’ll hear “Bobby Johnson” blasting out loud. I don’t say nothing though, but it’s funny. We was in Miami and one of the promoters tried to hand me a flier with me on it. I’m like 'Bro, that’s my party, I don’t want a flier.' He’s like, 'Oh shit!' He’s just handing fliers out, he really don’t want to be doing it, I could tell. But it was pretty cool.

What's 2014 looking like for you? Anyone you’d want to work with in the future? I really want to work with Eminem, Kendrick, Future. Those are like my top artists. But really I want to work with anybody that’s dope. Two brains are better than one. My favorite rapper’s Eminem. I just got his album, don’t ask me what songs are on it cause I haven’t got a chance to listen to it yet. But Eminem’s dope. I don’t bite him but you know how he’s more lyrical—I try to mix the lyrical with the turn up, or whatever you want to say. I hate saying that word personally, it’s overly used. But I want to mix the lyrics with the quote-on-quote turn up, putting content on hard beats, and come up with some new shit. By the end of 2014 I just want to be progressing in every way, as far as shows, as far as work ethic, just putting in the ground work. I want to be a step closer to putting out an album. I feel like an album is a privilege. An album should be something that’s requested by the people, not just 'Oh, I’m gonna put out an album.' Okay, then what? You’ll know when it’s your time to put out an album.

Interview: Que