“The game doesn’t need me, and I had to realize that,” Rich Homie Quan concedes. “I need the game."
We’re sitting in his house on the western outskirts of Atlanta. Plaques of his various hits like “Flex” and “Walk Thru” line the walls leading into a slick home theater. His kids have ample running-around space. He offers me one of a seemingly unlimited supply of pineapple Fanta and a heaping plate of crab legs.
Here Quan is at ease, but over the last year or two fans have started to question whether or not he has upheld that promise to never stop "going in,” as reiterated throughout his five-year streak of mixtapes: I Go In On Every Song, Still Goin In, Still Goin In: Reloaded, I Promise I Will Never Stop Going In, If You Ever Think I Will Stop Goin In Ask RR (Royal Rich), and ABTA: Still Goin In.
The mixtape series ended somewhat quietly near the end of 2015. This was accompanied by a $2 million lawsuit in which Quan claimed underpayment from TIG Entertainment, the label for which all these releases served as platform. “I was eating,” he says of his former label partnership. “I just wasn’t grubbing.” Though he says he appreciates the risk that was taken on him in the first place, he felt his efforts were not properly reciprocated. They settled out of court last summer. “That situation, it scarred me because, like, you gotta think you giving your all for all these songs, but you not being compensated for your all? So now you contemplating like, ‘Give my all again? Why?’ That’ll mess with your mind.”
During the months of litigation, Quan started to talk to other labels. “I’m meeting everybody. Epic. Atlantic. You name ‘em, I met ‘em. But when I went in those buildings everything felt like it was on a paper and they were reading off a teleprompter. It felt read. It didn’t feel natural. We’d all get in this one room and they’re saying ‘Ah, ah, Rich Homie we love you.’ No you don’t. You just know what I’m capable of. You’re just seeing Rich Homie and you seeing these numbers.” Eventually, Quan settled on Motown/Capitol, where he saw the urban department as unsaturated, such that he could really take over that lane and get the attention he needed. “They let me be an artist,” he says, which he has learned to separate from the business-minded side of himself that he says he has since sharpened.
“It was never no bad blood with Thug, it was just on pause. Whenever he wants to press play I want to press play.”
The label situation followed what appeared to the public as a falling out between Quan and Young Thug, with whom he created what many believe to be some of their best work, the 2014 mixtape entitled Rich Gang: Tha Tour Pt. 1. “I think we was in the studio for like 45 days straight working on that,” Quan recalls. As for their relationship now, Quan says, "It was never no bad blood, it was just on pause. Whenever he wants to press play, I want to press play. I wish him the best and he wish the same for me." On the day of our interview, Young Thug had posted a video to his Instagram account in which Quan’s voice appears to be playing in the background, captioned with the title of Thug’s upcoming singing album, E.B.B.T.G. What this could mean for the pair collaboratively remains to be seen.
In person, Quan is exceedingly gracious and humble, going out of his way to make sure I, a stranger, am comfortable. “I’m only Rich Homie when I got a microphone in my hand,” he stresses. “If you see me outside, I’m just Quan. I just do regular things.” He tidies up the house while showering his kids with affection, teaching them how to pronounce the names of luxury watch brands he intends for them to own one day: “Say Audemars” he sounds out. “Say Hublot. Say Rolex.”
He’s a family man, and makes music in his own house. He says his creative mission is to dig deeper into the pain that anyone can hear in his voice. That pain, the hallmark of his music, is as recognizable as ever in his April mixtape release with Motown, Back to the Basics. The title is a departure from the characteristic Goin In series, and, as he suggests throughout our conversation, perhaps it’s the beginning of a new chapter for Quan.
Do you feel as though you’ve gone through a transformation?
I cut my hair. When I cut my hair, that’s just when it all came. I got all those bad vibes off me. That was one of the reasons I cut my hair. I’m going back to the basics. I wanted to put myself back in that mindframe. When I was living with my momma. I wanted that hungry feeling again. So once I got rid of those bad vibes, once I cut my hair man, I’m a whole new person all around. I’m a better Rich Homie than I was.
Are you going through a comeback?
It’s not really a comeback. Like, I’m back. It’s more of a re-centering of myself. Just re-adjusting. Because I never went nowhere. But statistically I did. If you don’t go to work in a year, you’re fired. If I don’t drop no music in a year, I’m not fired, but I gotta make you believe again. I gotta grind like a new artist again.
And that’s what people associate with your music. The grind, the hunger. So if you’re not hungry it’s like…
What am I rapping for?
I imagine it’s harder to feel hungry when you’re eating.
And that’s the thing. It’s like, bro, when I was rapping at first, I was just rapping, it was a hobby. I was just using words not even caring what I say to get attention. Once people started listening, it’s like now I’m making money. I’m not rapping about the same things no more. Hunger done changed. We got a full course meal. We got eight of them like, how much do I want to eat? Like where I come from, the money I made bruh, I could retire. But me, like, who’s not gonna make money off something they love doing?
Yeah, it gives purpose to your life.
I just had to fall back in love with what I do. I fell out of love with what I was doing because of the people I had around me. It was saturating everything I was doing. So once I separated myself, re-connected my circle, I felt that love again. And once I felt that love I could hear it in my music again. And it ain’t what we rap about it’s how we say it. You can hear the pain by what I say. It doesn’t even matter what word I say. You gon hear if he got pain in his voice or not. And that’s what I had to find, I had to re-find that pain again. When I re-found that, it was over with. All the way.
The greatest music is when you can hear the pain.
Yeah, and you gotta think, man: every rapper, bro, it’s the same story. It’s either you’re gonna talk about how you struggled or how you made it. It’s one of the two. But it’s the way you say it that makes it believable. To me, it’s the delivery. The choice of words you use. Just make it sound believable. It’s everything in that voice man, it’s that God-given talent, you gon’ hear it. You can’t fake pain. You can’t fake broke. Niggas can fake rich all day, but you can’t fake broke.
“Niggas can fake rich all day, but you can’t fake broke.”
So when you make music now, is the pain you’re sourcing something that you feel in the present or something that’s still in you from the past?
It’s that type of pain that will never go away. It’s the type of pain that’s been there. It’s the type of pain that’s gon stay there. It’s the type of pain that motivates me. It’s that type of pain that I don’t want to go back to. But, it’s there. It’s in your brain. You got it locked away but you know it’s there. And to know it’s there is what disciplines me. I don’t want the pain to go anywhere. Because the pain that’s there, I still think about it. And like now man, I carry my pain on my shoulders, like, in a good way. This is what I did. This is what I come from. And I still want that pain to be there so I know where I’m going. I need the pain. You still need all the bad things, without that, I wouldn’t be who I am today. And I’ma always need that, so I never have to go back to that. It’s gon always let me know.
You just dropped a tape called Back to The Basics, breaking a long streak of tapes with titles that promised to never stop going in. Does that mean you stopped going in?
No I didn’t. You know like Friday, like certain movies you don’t do over? You know like certain sagas should just stop at certain levels. I would say me growing up had something to do with that. It’ll never be another Goin In. Not saying nothing can be better. But I’ll never feel how I was feeling then. From the drugs I was taking, from the girls, from the junkies I was seeing just getting game from. I’m not around that type of lifestyle no more. I can only hear my music getting better. But, it came with me going into a new situation. It came into Motown having something to do with that. I just want to leave the “Still going in” in independent. That’s all independent. I want to separate that from what I do in the building. These are separate accomplishments. It’s just like different goals I set for myself. Who’s to say there won’t be another Still Goin’ In though? Who’s to say there won’t be another Goin’ in? I could definitely see one of my albums being Goin In. Or something with “Going In” with it. Still Going In could be the name of my second album.
Gotta be the right time.
It’s all about timing. But right now? It ain’t time for going in. It’s about showing these people you back. It’s time to show these people where I’m going. When I’m going in that’s like Future Dirty Sprite. When you drop that, I know I got your attention. I wanna do it when it’ll have an impact, on everybody.
Yeah, Future waited for the perfect—
Storm. And that’s how you do it. So right now the storm is brewing. I know Mother Nature’s mad. I’ll know when it’s time it’s gonna be a big tornado.
You’ve mentioned wondering about what you might do if you stopped rapping. Could you see yourself considering other artistic outlets?
I find myself with a camera a lot, like taking pictures. I love writing scripts for my videos. That excites me. Anything where I’m writing, I can paint pictures with words. Like poetry, man. That’s where my music stems from. But I like taking pictures, I like to get in depth with the camera.
Well let me ask you this, it’s a good exercise for what you think about artistically. Have you ever been to a haunted house?
OK, so you’re immersed, all your surroundings are meant to affect you in a real way. Every part of a haunted house is designed so that you get scared. Can you imagine the opposite? Consider a completely empty room. You are allowed to use anything visual, mechanical, biological. You can change the walls, how it smells, the floors. What would that look like for you, if the point was the opposite of the haunted house? You want people to come out comfortable. You want people to come out happy.
OK, well when you first walk through the doors, I would have a girl maid. She got the maid clothes on. She’s cute, but she’s still professional. She asks what do you prefer to drink? All the walls are white. I got Mannie Fresh DJing. Keep in mind, everything is all white. White headphones, white linen. I got windows, windows on the backside of the house. We got Wiz Khalifa and Lil Wayne — it’s not a VIP section, almost like the kitchen area. You see clouds of smoke. Snoop Dogg’s in a chair, he’s not standing up. We got little yorkies just walking around. Shaved. You don’t know they’re yorkies, they’re small, shaved all the way.
I would hope just that scenery, weed, an A1 chef. I forgot his name but this great chef works at the airport, I would definitely have him there. And a stylist. I would also have a stylist there if you don’t feel comfortable put on whatever you want. Create your own outfit. Create your own shoe. No money, no signs of money.
The object is to get the game. You see what you can learn from him, you see what you can learn from him. The game is to get the jewels from the people around you. Hopefully by the end, you should go out a new man. You’d be a whole lot smarter than you were. If I could get 30 minutes, I could get 5 minutes from Mannie, 5 minutes from Wayne, Snoop, Wiz. I’d even get some time from the waitress and the stylist, too, because it’s a reason they’re in this house. That’ll be the point. To learn new things that have nothing to do with money. Just become a better person. But my question would be to each one of them. What encouraged you? Who impacted you when you was young and said man, “This is what I wanna do”? What made you fall in love with music, Lil Wayne? What made you fall in love with 808s, Mannie Fresh? Snoop and Wiz, why does weed enhance your mind? What does weed do for you that it doesn’t do for other people? And I’d just want to become a smart person, those are the people I’d want to be in a room with. And Jay Z would be somewhere in there. Moguls. A stylist. My clothes are a reflection of me. I just wanna see what everyone would wear if they could afford it. What would you really wear if there was no cost on nothing? Because your outfit is the definition of you. I can look at someone’s outfit and know so much about them.
“What made you fall in love with music, Lil Wayne? What made you fall in love with 808s, Mannie Fresh? Snoop and Wiz, why does weed enhance your mind?”
The most important thing to you in that experience is that the person comes out having learned something.
Yes. To be smarter. When I was younger, I was like, “I wanna be like Lil Wayne when I grow up.” So when you get to Lil Wayne status, then what? It can never be another Lil Wayne.
Well, his legacy lives on in people like you and Young Thug. I just saw today that it looks like you and Thug might have a song coming out. He put up a clip on Instagram with a caption of the title of his new singing album, “E.B.B.T.G” What’s the story behind that?
The song old, though, so I don’t know if he was just playing it. I’m new to seeing the video today too. Because I saw people tagging me and people started calling me to go look at it. The song’s old.
Rich Gang Tha Tour Part 1. Because there was supposed to be a Part 2, but it was around that era. Around the time I dropped “Flex.”
But you remember the song?
I don’t remember the song, but that’s definitely me at the beginning. But I couldn’t tell you what the name of the song was. But the song’s been mixed and everything. But I saw that he put at the bottom of his thing “Eazy Breezy Beautiful Thugger Girls” so I don’t know if it’s gonna be on there because I haven’t been called to clear it yet.
And the album’s supposed to come out soon.
Yeah, and I wouldn’t have no problem clearing it. But it’s probably just his way of saying, “Yo what’s up Quan.”
You two must have so much unreleased.
Ah man, we got so much stuff man. Even me and Future got over ten songs.
That will never see the light of day?
I won’t say they’ll never see the light, but that’s about timing, too.
So do you think it’s the right time for this old song with you and Thug to come out?
I wouldn’t say that. I don’t know, he could have just been playing it. If it’s on the album, hey.
If it’s a good song and people like it, it doesn’t matter when it was created.
Exactly, it’s timeless. Good music’s timeless. would definitely say he did that at a good time. I’m in a good mood, so it’s a good time.
Imagine you’re talking to a Quan fan who hasn’t heard from you from a while, who hasn’t given up, but has always loved the music. What would you say to that fan, if you could speak to them directly?
The first thing I would say is thank you. Thank you for being a fan. Thank you for being patient. Thank you for not giving up on me. Because if you’re a true fan you’ll know I will never give up on you. But I got in this game not knowing a lot of what I know now. And it caused me to take a break. But that break was only for me to come back smarter and know what business I was in. Because at first when I was rapping I was lost. A lot of songs you got then was my all, and I felt as though I got the short end of the stick. So if y’all put yourselves in my shoes, you could probably see why I wanted to give up. But I didn’t. I thought about y’all, I see y’all comments. And I know y’all wondering where I’ve been. But I just want to let y’all know man, I’ll never leave y’all like that again. I’ma always continue to build this legacy. Build this Goin In legacy. And I promise not to ever let y’all down again.