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“She was probably the prettiest female celebrity I’ve ever seen in person,” laughed a candid Larry LaQuin Norwood, known to his friends as Quin and to his fans as 2RQ, in a recent interview with whatzup. “I was doing this show, a big rave in Chicago, where Vanilla Ice was the headliner. This was my first time seeing people dancing everywhere with glow sticks, so I was really bugging. I was so amused that I ended up in the middle of the dance floor with this girl grinding on me. She turns around, and I realize that it’s …” Baiting his listeners – especially those lacking in the Y chromosome department – with his verbose storytelling style is just one of 2RQ’s many hip-hop-related talents. He produces most of his own beats. He remixes his own “mash-up” records. He performs. He writes. Mostly, though, he tells stories not unlike the one above. Born and raised in Fort Wayne, 2RQ’s subject matter almost always comes directly from his own experiences, many of which have very much to do with, naturally, his hometown – and almost all of which clearly come from a mind raised by hip-hop culture.
And by hip-hop culture, we’re talking about boom-bap culture – the roots of hip-hop. “Hip-hop hit me as a youth, back then my brother was listening to Kurtis Blow,” explained 2RQ about his first memories with his chosen genre. “[My brother] was also listening to Slick Rick and Dana Dane and all that stuff back then. Then, for Christmas of ‘87 or ‘88, my parents bought me my first hip-hop tape, which was a compilation featuring MC Lyte, Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock. I was hooked.”
From there 2RQ – who just released his long-labored sophomore album, The Uncanny LP (more on that later) – took up the most rudimentary and difficult (read: very few people can do it well) aspect of the art: freestyling.
“At age 12 I started freestyling with my brother and friends for fun. In middle school I met my soon to be best friend, Ryan Dilworth. We had to enter a talent show together for choir class; I knew how to rap and he did a little, so I had a month to teach him and get him to put his thoughts on paper.
“We nailed it. We nailed it so much so that all our classmates told us that they thought we should start doing it regularly.”
Dilworth and 2RQ decided to take their classmates’ advice, adding another friend to the mix and eventually establishing themselves as a trio under the name 2RQ.
“In those days we were influenced by Nas, Tupac, Biggie, Wu-Tang, Ras Kass, Ice Cube and so on,” explained 2RQ about what was the second of his three major stages of development, freestyle training being the first. “As our influences grew, so did Ryan and I as lyricists, which led the third member to eventually drop out.”
Candid storyteller of considerable depth – both loose and serious in subject manner – that he is, 2RQ went on to explain how he and Dilworth kept growing until, tragically, Dilworth suddenly died in 1997 following an aneurism while talking with 2RQ on the phone. “That was the darkest time ever in my life,” explained 2RQ. “My family and friends helped to keep me on track. After that, I felt in my heart that it was my destiny to do hip-hop. Ryan wouldn’t want me to stop, so I kept the name 2RQ, which now stands for ‘To Ryan from Quin.’”
A now-storied collective of creative, hip-hop-minded 20-somethings known as Basementheadz took on 2RQ when he was 15, offering him a steady group of artists working in mediums as far ranging as emceeing, radio, modeling and producing. “It was the greatest time. It was more than music, it was a movement. The ones of us who rapped were some of the best I’ve heard to date,” explained 2RQ. “It was a learning experience for me. I was doing shows and learning how to produce my own tracks by studying DJ Eclipse.”
Production, the third stage of 2RQ’s artistic development, has proven to be the element of the rapper’s profile that has set him apart from his peers. A clean, charismatic emcee blessed with a rare, instantly likeable voice, 2RQ builds old-meets-new beats with limited resources that are, like his vocals, highly enjoyable and entertaining.
“I started making beats in 2000. I took that whole year off from writing so I could work on the craft of producing for a year. It’s my second passion after emceeing; there are so many angles you can take, there are no limitations to beat-making.”
Still in his early 20s, 2RQ next signed with indie label Lemari Music Group, who went on to release his debut album, The Oneuvakind LP. Featuring top-shelf vocals and rhymes that would make early- to mid-90s emcees like Prodigy, AZ, Nas and Mic Geronimo – not to mention Slick Rick himself – proud, The Oneuvakind announced 2RQ as a powerhouse solo artist around the Fort Wayne scene, thus pushing him to work harder than ever on his next project.
“The Uncanny is my baby,” laughed 2RQ. “I started recording it in the summer 0f 2006 at Sweetwater. I recorded 40 songs that summer, only three of which made the final cut.”
Local hip-hop indie label Thunder Dome Productions soon enough started talking with 2RQ, eventually deciding to work with him on not just recording his album but also on releasing it as professionally as possible.
“I officially switched over to recording with Thunder Dome in the summer of 2007,” explained 2RQ. “Dustin at Thunder Dome wasn’t as big of a fan of my music as everyone else, but he could see the big picture. He’d seen me perform live and saw how my live show crossed over to different races, genres and styles. Still, though, he didn’t quite get my music back then. Eventually, one day while we were recording, he stopped me and said ‘I get you now.’”
Used to recording his vocals in one or two takes, Thunder Dome pushed 2RQ to work harder, always recording at least 12 takes of each verse. “After every day of recording I would come out of the studio a little hoarse, but the music sounded great. Dustin knows what he’s doing. He’s a thinker. He said to me ‘You’re gonna do things no one has done. I have a whole direction I want to take you.”
Finishing the long-labored album and getting it on the streets was the final step in the Uncanny saga. “I’ve heard the word ‘classic’ from a few heads,” laughed 2RQ when asked about the weeks since his album’s release. “The release party went really smooth, and I’ve heard that people are really impressed with it. Now that the album is out I plan on doing more shows outside of Indiana, as well as sending it to labels and mags. Vert, a skateboard clothing line I’m sponsored by, is planning their summer tour, which I’ll be a part of.”
Already booked at venues around the area through June, 2RQ and his Uncanny songs will split time sharing stages with legends (Digable Planets’ Doodlebug), Midwest favorites (Dante and the Hometown Hooligans) and one of indie music’s current buzz bands (This Moment in Black History), all of which should fit nicely.
As for the pretty glow stick-spinning celebrity 2RQ found himself dancing with at a Chicago rave back in 2001, well, let’s just say that – without making it too easy to figure out – she spent some time snuggling up to the NBA’s all-time best rebounding power forward. Too obscure? 2RQ’s “honey-dipped” dancing partner also dated Cypress Hill emcee B-Real and some guy from some band called Jane’s Addition. As for details on the dance, well, we’ll leave that to your imagination.