Rich Homie Quan: Rich as in Spirit, Part Two

In this second installment, Rich Homie Quan discusses his writing process (and his love of James Patterson).
Rich Homie Quan

I think getting in trouble got my mind right, because those 15 months I was locked up, I had no money. I had nothing. I think that’s when my spirit got more full again, more rich again, because everything was taken from me—I had nothing but my spirit, nothing but my faith, nothing but my soul, and nothing but myself. When you hear richness in spirit, the first thing you think about is a dollar. I’m taking that element out your mind. It has nothing to do with the money. It’s just that presence you bring. It’s a confidence that can’t be defined, because it’s like spirit, soul, and confidence all in one. I got so full of myself—I learned all my flaws. I worked on them, and had to face that man in the mirror. Once I was able to face myself and accept my flaws, I knew, can’t nobody tell me nothing about me that I can’t say about myself.

Also at that time, I found a lot of stuff I didn’t know that existed, like my passion for reading, which definitely helps me in my career today. I knew how to read when I was younger, but I was just reading words; I would read the whole page and have to ask myself, What the fuck did I just read? I don’t remember nothing but words. I know what all these words mean, but when I put them together, I don’t feel anything. I didn’t understand the power of reading with an understanding. Then, what I did was I would start to read a paragraph and ask myself, What did you get out of that paragraph? What can you tell me about that paragraph? It went from a paragraph to a page, from a page to a chapter, chapter to a book, and that’s what I mean—the understanding of reading. I had to get in tune, that’s all. Once I learned that, I started putting that in my music. I would read a lot of books, and would just read how the writers word their words. I would read how they would describe things in so many words, and I started using that to my ability.

I try to take something from every author. One of my favorite writers is James Patterson. Growing up, words would be so small in books that I would hate to read them. I started James Patterson, and he might write three pages per chapter. I was like, Fuck yeah, only three pages a chapter, and the words are big. I was in jail, and I was reading the Alex Cross series, and he made me feel like I felt like I was James, or like I was Alex Cross. A rapper’s worst nightmare is to be the police, but I felt like I was Alex Cross in every book he wrote. I would wake up every day so excited to read this book. I didn’t want to stop reading. Some days, I wouldn’t even come out of my room—and it’s almost an honor to come out your room when you’re in jail because you’re confined in there all day, but I would stay in there and just read.

Another favorite is Stephen King. He’s so hard, but he just gets too into description. I love him. With Stephen King, he would describe the corner of a wall for three chapters. With James Patterson, he used big wording to finish his chapter fast, so I told myself, OK, it’s not going to take me a long time to describe what I’m talking about, because the song is only 3 minutes and 20 seconds. So I tried to start using that in my music, and I still do, just for even new thoughts, or giving me new pictures to paint. It might not be me, but it’s a story I can relate to, and I know someone around me who went through similar stuff.

I fell in love with reading, but I’m an author myself. I like to watch people reading, and people like to watch me write—even though I don’t “write,” it’s still a writing process. I don’t jot down notes in my phone, I don’t have a little scrapbook I write in. I don’t write nothing down; I just save it in my mind. I observe. It’s part of my process.

When I get in the studio, I just try to just talk about the day I had, or what I’ve been through or what some of the people around me have been through who don’t have the voice to say it themselves. Somebody’s going to relate to something about the day I had. I want to say something on the microphone that someone can relate to. Sometimes I’m just a voice for other people. I think the lines pick me. I’ll be in the car listening to my music and think, What state of mind was I in when I came up with these words? How did I even come out with this tone?

I don’t like getting in the studio late, all bent out of shape. I like to record at noon, 2 p.m., and probably finish at 10 p.m., because I want to use my voice when it’s fresh, when my thoughts are fresh—when I can just go in and release myself. I keep a lot of stuff bottled up, but my music is the way I un-bottle. It could be a small problem, something you wouldn’t even consider a problem, but it’s something that I have to get off my chest. For instance, someone in my family may need an extra hand—it’s not a problem, but if they keep constantly asking, it becomes a problem. So now I got to make a song, but I’m being indirect.

That’s the way I express myself. I go in the studio, and I just try to make a song for my family to understand where I’m coming from—the reason why I said no. Or if I’ve had girl problems all week, I’ll go ahead and make a nice love song to express myself, so she can understand where I’m coming from. Whatever type of week I’ve had, that’s how the music is going to sound. If I’m in a good mood, you can hear it by the beat selection. If I’ve been beefing, nine times out of ten, you’re going to have a lot of gangster music. It’s like a big diary that started October 4, 1989 and has no ending.

I look at my music like it’s a book. I have my characters in my book, and they all have problems. They have to rise to action. I talk about my problems, but I look at myself in third person. I’m only Rich Homie Quan if I have a microphone in my hand, or I’m in front of a mic. Other than that, I’m this third person watching Rich Homie Quan do his thing. Rich Homie Quan is the life of the party—he’s going to say whatever he wants to say, no filter. Quan is totally different, the family man with a warm heart. Like I said, I’m very shy.

Rich Homie Quan was in there as a fully formed person. He does stuff you want to do but you don’t do, because you’re thinking about what everyone else is going to think. Rich Homie Quan doesn’t care, and that’s the point I’ve gotten to. If you’re going to care about what everyone thinks, why are you doing it? You should have a voice. You should just do what you do. People are going to judge you regardless. If you care about your comments, if you care about how many likes you get, you’re in it for the wrong reason. I’m just in it to tell my story, and hope it affects you. Rich Homie don’t care who it pisses off, but Quan does. Quan doesn’t want to piss you off, but Rich Homie Quan just wants to talk that shit. He’s a rapper; that’s what he does. Quan is a big fan of Rich Homie. He likes his music, but not really Rich Homie as a person.

Having children has affected my music, but it’s affected it like a gift and a curse. Before my kids, I would just say anything and not care, but now all I think about is that my kids are going to be able to type in my name and pull up whatever I did. When they hear it, I want them to just hear, “Man, my dad really was nice. My dad was smart. My dad was cool.” Once I had kids, I started watching what I say. I want to make sure I lead by example. When I first came out five years ago, you didn’t have this Rich Homie Quan; I hadn’t been through any trials and tribulations to define who I really am. Then I was just saying shit, but now I’m on a pedestal. Now I know better, so I’m going to do better. I want my kids to be proud of something. Let me choose my words correctly, man! I say if it’s not hard, it’s not worth sacrificing, and it’s not worth having, so I want something that’s going to give me a challenge.

I’ve had points where I’ve accomplished everything I put on my bucket list—it’s like, I wrote 10 things on my bucket list, and I accomplished all 10. Now I’m stuck, like, Damn, now what? Maybe I should’ve wrote 15. When I was little, I think my biggest dream was to be rich. I wanted a big house with a picket fence and a gate around it. I checked my goals off slowly, but when I did it, I was like What do I do now? I think I’ve done my thing in music to my best ability. I gotta find me a new hobby, now because music was my hobby at first. Now it’s my job. When I start looking at it like my job, I don’t have that same passion as when it was a hobby.

I still try to set short-term goals for myself, so when I do them, I still get excited. You get so pumped when you start getting money, so the same things don’t excite you how they used to excite you. It got to a point where I had lost that drive. My short-term goal right now is just to focus on music. I want to do all of it. Another short-term goal: get me a Grammy. But in order to get a Grammy, I have to take the right steps and do what it takes to get a Grammy. I have to grind, I have to work. So in order to do that, I got to make sure I’m going to do the small, little things before I can get to the big thing. I think on my bucket list is to do a book, though, but I don’t want it to be an autobiography. I’ve told my story a million times. People don’t want to hear it anymore. I can get in character.

I’m looking to set an example for the youth, for my peers, or even people older than me. I just want to be the one to set an example and know that my music can have an impact on you. I want you to be comfortable in your own skin, and not be afraid to express yourself despite how they’re going to look at you. I think that’s where richness in spirit comes from—it has nothing to do with the value of the dollar. It starts on the inside. I was rich in spirit when I was young and broke. It wasn’t something that came naturally; it maybe came with growing pains. I was very family oriented, and we didn’t have much growing up but each other, but you couldn’t tell me that growing up, because it didn’t feel like that.

You can’t shake your past. It’s not meant to be shaken. That’s the biggest motivation, because you don’t want to go back through that. I have kids—I don’t want them to live like that, and as long as I got that in the back of my brain, can’t do nothing but go forward. I refuse to go back to living like that and putting my kids in that predicament. I still stay in Atlanta. I’m there every day. I won’t say that’s all I know, because I’ve been to different places now. I’ve experienced different cultures, I’ve seen it all, but that’s my place. I feel like going back home while you’re successful and talking to your old friends and driving down your old streets and going to your old house is success—the driving down memory lane. That’s what Atlanta does to me. When I go home, I’m just like This is heaven.

My life changed fast all at once, but at the same time, I wouldn’t call it overnight success, because I had put in so much other work prior to that. I look at it as a 10-year process. I had to take steps to find out who I was, and when I got out of jail, it was time for me to present myself to the world. The point of being young is to find out who you are. You have to try so many different things to find out what you like. I tell people all the time, everything feels like a dream. You don’t think it can happen until it happens. I never saw myself getting a million off music until it happened. Like with my dad—he knew I could rap, but when I started blowing up is when I got comfortable enough to tell him. I just always felt as if I wasn’t ready, and I wouldn’t say it was shyness. I just wasn’t prepared—or thought I wasn’t prepared—but I obviously was. It just come from being my worst critic. I still see ways I can make myself better. I still see ways of improvement.

There’s a lot I would have told myself do differently. I could have taken different steps to get to where I’m at, but at the same time, I had to go through those trials and tribulations to make me who I am, to be this strong and to be able to talk about this stuff. You never know you’re strong enough until you go through it. Or, you never know it could affect you until it affects you. I never knew I would be a man inside of a cage. I didn’t think I could get locked up, until I got locked up—it just happened to people around me. That’s what it is. Everything is a dream.

I wanted to be a baseball player so much, but when I look at all the signs God threw at me: playing trumpet in the third grade, spending my whole life in music. All of that played a part in the music today. I learned a lot playing baseball that I use in my music, like respect. Like everyone has a voice. Even if I was the best player on the team, that doesn’t mean my second baseman or my catcher can’t help me. Even if I am a rapper, that doesn’t mean my manager and my booking managers don’t play a part of this brand. I want to see people be successful. I want to be successful. and I have to stay motivated. I want to motivate you, too. When you hear my song, I want you to get up, and whatever you want to do, I want you to feel it.

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.