Rich Homie Quan: Rich as in Spirit, Part One

The story of Rich Homie Quan, in two parts.
Rich Homie Quan

I was in the band before middle school; I played the trumpet. Growing up like any other black kid in my neighborhood, there was gang banging, shootouts, drugs, prostitution. My mom was a single mother—I was eight or nine, and realized my dad got money and my mama don’t, but I got to the age where I didn’t want to depend on my dad. I want to be around my daddy, but I don’t want to ask my daddy. So, that’s when you just start looking to the streets for that shoulder to lean on. And that’s what it was: just trying to just make the best out of the worst situation.

Going into eighth grade is when I started getting into more trouble—I started realizing what I liked as opposed to what my parents wanted me to do. That’s when I got my first computer and started getting into beats. At that time, we had to download a lot of songs on Limewire. I would get a lot of viruses on the computer, and I would get in trouble. But even then, I was just always asking myself, Why am I downloading this?, because at that time, I was into baseball. I played baseball from ages 4 to 18, so music was more of a hobby for me growing up. Music was in the backseat, and I was playing baseball in the front seat. I was in sports heavy—it’s like it was my discipline. I tried to use that in my everyday life.

In my creative writing class in ninth grade, I had a teacher named Miss Butch at Ronald E. McNair High School in Atlanta, and she had to be my coolest teacher. She’d be like, “I just want you to write. Close your eyes and just think about what you’re writing about.” And every time I would close my eyes, they would turn to poems. I would start out by writing a story, and then the story started rhyming, and that’s just what I was feeling. And at that time, I still didn’t think I was a rapper. I’m shy. I knew I was into music, because it moved me, but I didn’t see myself being a rapper. I was still a baseball player, but I was so in tune with writing. It was giving me a new high, and my words were powerful.

My teacher gave me confidence with my writing in the way she gravitated to certain things I would say. I was just looking at her like, I’m not even saying nothing, or I’m not even trying. I’m only doing what you’re telling me to do. After ninth grade, I got into wanting to write more, and started from there. I downloaded FruityLoops on my mom’s computer; I started off making beats before I even wrote my first rap. There are all of these signs God has shown me with my music, and I just kept running away from them. I still wanted to play baseball. And to this day, I still have love for the game; I still go to the batting cages.

When I first started writing poems, most of them were about a girl—if there was a girl in class and I was trying to get her attention, I would try to write something about her indirectly. It went from girls to just rapping about the clothes I had on. In 11th grade, I started rapping about bottles and clubs and cars. Twelfth grade, I wasn’t even really focused on the music, because I was trying to go to college. I didn’t want to go to college, but my mom and my dad wanted me to go to college. I had lost love for baseball; I wanted to dabble in music, but I was shy. I’m so shy.

I ended up getting into some trouble coming out of high school. I was in jail for 15 months. At first, I was shy when I first got in, because this was my first time going to jail. I was thinking, I’m gonna stay in the shadows, because I’d seen so many jail movies, and I didn’t really know how it was going to go. So when I first go, I’m shy for the first three, four months—no writing at all, on the phone every day, just ready to go home. “Mama, what we going to do?”

One day, this dude named Tomahawk got locked up. He came in rapping, and he was hard. It was so dope, but when I went to my room, I just told myself, Boy, you know you rap too, right? He ain’t doing nothing you can’t do. It took him to motivate me to want to write something. Next day, I came out like, “Hey, bro, I want to rap with you. Let’s rap together. I don’t want to go out there and just rap myself. You rap, then I’m going to rap.”

The whole dorm was like, “Damn, Quan, we didn’t even know you can rap!” They boosted my confidence. That started getting my spirit rich. That started shaping my spirit up, and that’s when I came up with my name. Actually, I didn’t come up with it—I was just calling myself Rich Homie then, and one of my jail roommates would be like, “Quan, you know in jail you got nothing but time.” He’d be like, “Bro, what you going to say when you do your first interview, and they ask you what Rich Homie stands for?” I was like, “Man, I don’t know what I’m going to say.” The first thing that came out of his mouth was,”Bro, when you say rich, you got to be, like, rich as in spirit.” And when he said that—and this, like, 10 years ago—it stuck. I’ve been saying it ever since then. When he said “rich as in spirit,” I just liked the way it sounded. I remember his name was Chicken, and I still talk to him to this day.

It took me a minute to get my own understanding of what rich as in spirit was. And then homie as in brother—that’s my whole thing. If I’d never went to jail, I’d have never had the rich as in spirit ideal—I probably never would have gained the confidence to even want to be a rapper. Even before I got locked up, I had started to get into music, but I had never done a big show. It took me going to jail to get my confidence up. It took for me getting a meaning to want to become a rapper. Then, after I got out of jail, I felt as if I was ready. I wasn’t shy anymore.

When I got out of jail, it was very slow, because my mom was still broke and we’d moved into another house. Now, my mom had a little guy friend. He was cool, but I don’t have a bedroom, so I was sleeping in the garage. There was also a car in there—it was a two-car garage—and it was the summertime, with no AC. But at the same time, that didn’t discourage me. I got the same computer my dad had bought for me cleaned off, and I got Pro Tools on it. My mom had bought me a microphone as a graduation gift. So I got my whole setup, but I don’t have a bed—I just have a mattress in the garage.

It was all my motivation until I met this guy named Tezzy, and he was the first person who believed in me. No one had ever invested anything, let alone their time, just to hear my vision. He was the first person I felt comfortable with. I never talked to my mom like that, and I never talked to my dad like that, because they’re older. They don’t want to hear what I’m talking about—they don’t even understand. When I was listening to rap, they were like, “Why you listening to that mix? You need something old school.”

So my mom’s seeing I’m leaving every night: “Where you going?” Keep in mind, I didn’t have a bedroom. I stayed at the studio—I’d rather sleep there than in the garage—or with Tezzy, who I stayed with every day for six months. I still could work there, so my confidence was extra high. I done found my swag, my voice. I sounded decent. The neighborhood was like, “You fire.” So now I’m getting a little famous. I’m telling myself, OK, they fucking with me. Tezzy already had another rapper he was working with, and in my mind it was a competition. I didn’t feel they should get better than me, and I was pretty sure I was better than them. Over that six-month period, I got so fire.

There’s really nothing like when somebody gives you that vote of confidence for the first time. And that’s what it was—sometimes you need to just find out what you really want to do or who you really are. He boosted my confidence. He made me feel like I was Lil Wayne in the studio. He was like, “Bro, you my prized possession.” That’s how he made me feel, almost like how a parent can make a child feel. He made me feel like an artist.

Tezzy ended up being killed six months after I met him. I wanted to stop rapping. I didn’t even want to do music. You know when somebody dies, your buddies want to come over and talk to you and give words of encouragement? I had a buddy pull up to Tezzy’s house like, “Bro, people want to hear your story. You got to tell them what just transpired.”

This was in December. I stopped rapping until maybe March, and I dropped my little mixtape in July. There was this big store in Atlanta called Fly Kix, and I just put CDs around everywhere. At the Fly Kix, I saw the CEO of T.I.G. Records, who I was first signed to. After I left my CD in there, I got a call back. He wanted to set up a meeting; they wanted to sign me. I was still living with my mama, and hadn’t even been out of jail a whole two years. I was 22.

So I’m playing my music, and the CEO is asking me, “What are your thoughts? What do you like in life?” He could see I had it. I know, because I told him, “I just want to rap. I don’t know nothing about the politics, the business part. All I know is they say you got money, and I got some talent, man. You ready to put the house on me, bro? I’m ready to go to bat for you.” He gave me a contract that night, and I bullshitted him for maybe six months. He would text me, “Bro, you sign it yet?” I’m like, “Nah, man, I got my lawyer looking at it,” but I never had a lawyer. I didn’t know anything about lawyers, but I knew I couldn’t just sign this paper without anybody looking at it, so I had my big brother help. When he said, “Doesn’t look bad to me,” I signed the paper. That was it; I moved out of my mama’s house, and I ain’t gone back since. That’s when I dropped “Some Type of Way.” My life changed within a year after Tezzy died.

You just want somebody to say if it’s good—or, if it’s lame, let me know it sucks. Tezzy made me better. If anyone could tell me, “that ain’t right,” it was him. That’s what I liked: his honest opinion. He didn’t know music; he knew me. He knew when something didn’t sound right, even though he had no knowledge of the music at all. I have people in my life like that now who I can rely on to say “this doesn’t sound like you”—my dad, everybody in my everyday circle, everyone who works with me. After Tezzy died, I started making money, so of course I started getting unnecessary people in my circle who didn’t have my best interest. I had to get rid of them. I need people around who are going to tell me when I’m wrong, and not somebody who’ll kiss my ass for a dollar.

My people around me every day are my family. My dad is my manager, my big brother is my booking manager, and my best friend is my assistant. My uncle is my security. It’s all my family, but it wasn’t always like that. I had to recenter myself and look at the people around me and make sure that everyone wants to see the brand win. Even me—I’m a reflection of them. If I say some crazy shit here, it’s going to make us all look bad, not just me. I can’t keep just thinking for Quan. I have to think for my whole team, and I have to think I’m a representation of Atlanta, also. I’m a representation of a hip hop artist, so what I do could affect a lot of other hip hop artists. Now, yes, I have money, but my spirit is so full of itself, you can’t tell me nothing that’s going to deteriorate my mind. The person within me is so full of himself. So when I say spirit, it’s more like my soul.

As told to Amy Rose Spiegel

Born DeQuantes Lamar on October 4, 1989, Atlanta rapper Rich Homie Quan is the eldest of three siblings that were raised in a single family home. Originally having dreams of becoming a professional baseball player, Quan could not ignore his passion for music.

Possessing an undeniable talent for storytelling, his focus quickly changed to rapping. Dedicating countless hours in the studio, he began churning out street hit after hit, which eventually resulted in the 2008 smash “Stay Down” featuring the Stack Money Boys.

Having already collaborated with artists like Young Thug, Birdman, and Rick Ross, Rich Homie Quan’s debut studio album Rich as in Spirit was released on March 16, 2018.