Anika Dixon knew Quintin Cliett before the music videos and the editor’s desk.
She met “QUE The Rapper” when he was studying communications at Lincoln University.
“My roommate went to high school with him,” Dixon said. “He was a nice guy. We would talk about ’90s rappers all the time.”
Que’s latest hit, #RAPISNOTTHESAME, pays tribute to his main inspiration, Nas. Releasing his song on the 20th anniversary of Nas’ debut album “Illmatic,” Que capitalized on the historical significance of April 19, which has also become National Record Store Day.
“I would listen to ‘Illmatic’ on the bus ride to my girlfriend’s house back in the day,” Que said. “My song has that ’90s feel that the game has been missing so much.”
It’s been 15 years since Dixon and Que listened to beats in the dorm rooms, but she still follows her friend’s budding career.
“I like that his music is clean and that he talks about Philly,” Dixon said. “He shows how rap is not necessarily about all the money and the jewels and cars.”
Staying true to his roots, Que incorporates elements of his background in all of his tracks. In March, he released “Cottman Gems,” a collaboration with his childhood friends. Your Local Note, a podcast promoting artists and bands on the cusp of fame from the tri-state area, said “’Cottman Gems’ is a very good song as we’ve been expecting from Que because he’s been so busy with good things to hear.”
Que’s most popular track, “Philly,” has earned more than 11,000 views on his Youtube page. Philadelphia Magazine says it “should be played at local sports arenas for decades to come.” Filmed at a gigantic party in Manayunk during the annual Philadelphia International Championship Bike Race, “Philly” showcases the colonial sites and traditionally rowdy nature of the City of Brotherly Love. Que has tried to circulate the song among the Philadelphia Union and the 76ers, but his anthem remains an underground sensation.
His next song might have a better shot at breaking through to the mainstream due to its “Boardwalk Empire” references.
“He’s not trying to prove anything with his music,” Firehouse Recording founder Paul Kendikian said. “He’s self-assured and relaxed and brings a unique style to rap.”
“Gambling, Guns and Whiskey,” Que’s ode to HBO’s Prohibition-era drama, is the first project that he and Kendikian have worked on together.
“My first impression of him was how composed he is,” Kendikian said.
Opening Firehouse Recording in West Chester in 1998, Kendikian has been writing and performing since his youth. Always interested in the recording arts, he wanted to build a cost-effective studio for amateur and professional musicians, or a mixture like Que.
“He has been integrating a lot of video with the music he’s doing,” Kendikian said. “Which is more and more important in today’s media society. His uniqueness allows a brighter upside than just copying your average artist.”
Juggling broadcast news, rap performances, and the occasional disc jockey gig, Que has seemingly balanced his professional life.
And even though he’s pushing for his music to go viral, Dixon doesn’t get the impression that he wants the “big-time celebrity” fame.
“Of course he wants to succeed and be the best,” Dixon said. “But he does it primarily for the love of doing it, kind of like a starving artist. Once you have priorities set, you can easily make time for your passions.”
As for Que’s future, Dixon hopes her friend never compromises that uniqueness Kendikian echoed, no matter the benefits.
“The music of today is completely different from what he’s doing,” Dixon said. “He would have to completely change up his style to be popular and I don’t think that’s something he’d be interested in doing. I wouldn’t want him to do that either.”