Racial Tension & Ominous Oppression, But Where Does That Leave The Music Scene?
It’s been about a month since I asked promising rapper, Quakem, his thoughts on the death of Ahmaud Arbery. He’s a young black man living in a distorted USA, so it seemed crucial to drum up a conversation about it.
“That’s a good question. I was shocked to hear about that. My grandma told me, but I was on my way to work when she told me the whole thing. I don’t watch a lot of TV and things (like that). I write so much so I don’t get to do it. She told me about it and I looked it up [online]. I said, “Dang, they’re still doing that [lynching].” I seen a video on Instagram. I don’t know, it just scared me that people are still doing that type of stuff. People think that it wont happen nowadays but it still happens. It makes you overprotective, but you shouldn’t have to [feel that way]. I don’t know. That shocked me, though.”
Having that overwhelming talk about blackness, racism, and modern day lynching, is imperative especially with the young boys and black men living and trying to make it in this era, and definitely since the deaths of George Floyd and Eric Garner, where the heartbreaking hashtag #ICANTBREATH serves as an eerie hallmark card and a reminder for the never-ending traumas that black people face as an everyday normal.
Interesting enough, it’s Black Music Month, a defined celebration of black culture reigning in excellence for musical influencers, and artist that set the world ablaze artistically by paving the way with their songs. Timing couldn’t be more perfect for the 23-year-old to release new sounds, and Quakem is elatedly hopeful that followers and listeners will take his music seriously once they hear it.
Quakem is a native of Monroe, NC. He describes the small town as a crunk and a thriving area for rappers. Although he loves Monroe, Quakem recently purchased a new home and relocated to Wingate, NC so that he can broaden his possibilities by exemplifying that rapping is what he does, but it’s not who he is. Quakem is man first and a father second, that’s creating legacy and generational wealth for his family one vision at a time.
The versifier attended A&T University where he ran track and played football on a scholarship. He was an all-star sports player. Quakem tore his ACL twice, and during the second injury, A&T revoked his scholarship. Before then, Quakem spent a lot of time rapping and making music, but he didn’t think of it as a career until he tore his ACL.
“If I couldn’t do music, I’d save money and get my own business. That’s what my grandpa would do now if he got his own business. He asked me, ‘If you don’t make it in rap, what are you going to do?’ I told him that I’d handle business and keep going.”
Quakem said that his grandparents inspired him to do better… “My grandparents played a big part in my life. My dad went to prison and my grandparents stepped up. My mom had three of us, but I lived with my grandparents majority of my time coming up. I was told that it was a choice. I have two sisters that lived with my momma. They moved to Concord, but I didn’t want to go because I still played ball in Monroe."
The rapper released Open Wounds April 6, 2019 with a Ooh-Ooh (feat. RTS-Sosa & RTS-Tooda) as the buzz single, which has a familiar melody reminiscent to the early days of Fetty Wap. The versafiers have better lyrical control touting that they can ride the beat instead of singing. Quakem dropped his latest mixtape Open Wounds 2 on May 15th, with the same flavor as his previous album, but the songs are more pronounced. He released Bird Bath from Open Wounds 2, a reverberating song about unsolicited beef, relationships and making a come up. It’s a catchy song that’s more implicit in mainstream music. Quakem was inspired to write the song after cooling with his bros one night. “We were venting to each other, actually, because we were all going through the same situation about females” he says. “We added instrumentals and it was smoking." Quakem continued by saying that he was influenced more by his surroundings, the county where he lives. “I really just want everybody to hear my improvement from the first into the second mixtape. There’s a lot of growth between the albums. I’ve learned more and I found my voice a little better than when I started. ‘During the first album I was going through a breakup and in my feelings a little bit. On the second album, it’s a more party mix with a party vibe that makes you bob your head. You aren’t in your feelings.’
It’s important for Quakem to get feedback for his work so he’ll know if he’s improved. “I like when older people can vibe with me and that’s what I’ve gotten lately.”
He said that if he could collaborate his music with someone, he’d do it with a rapper that’s already famous so that he could get viable response. In addition to the hip hop scene, Quakem would like to see a new wave of rappers. “People sound the same. They are copycats in a way. I’d like to see a new wave come out."
Quakem experienced tough lessons like self-sustainabilty when jumping into the rap profession. “I learned to not depend on anyone and just get it how I get it. That made me focus harder and do research when looking for studios in addition to crafting my sound.” Along with that, Quakem said he’d like to be known as a pain artist, someone that listeners can relate to when they are going through something. “I want to touch their soul,” he says.