Hip-Hop Retirement?

John Blaze

John Blaze

I love music and I like to think of myself as a pretty good music critic. I have a reputation of putting people on to new music and I’ve been shown respect for my knowledge of music, especially hip-hop. My homeboy Jareau Montgomery has called me the Hip-hop encyclopedia. I don’t really live up to that title, but I do know a little bit.

Hip-hop is a major factor is what encouraged me to leave home. Hip-hop opened my eyes to the fact that the world offered much more than my city could provide.  My city didn’t have a sound. My journeys eventually lead me to Atlanta, GA. It was 1996, I was a young 18, and moved to a new city without ever visiting. The only thing I knew about Atlanta is what I learned though Hip-hop. Atlanta had a sound. I felt that I knew Atlanta by growing up on OutKast, Goodie Mob, Kilo Ali, Xscape, Jermaine Dupri, Arrested Development, LA face Records and of course TLC.

It was no coincidence that the first person I befriended was a musician, a rapper. My boy Elijah Scott, a.k.a “Drop”, was the first person I connected with in Atlanta. It was due in part, by a similar taste and respect for hip-hop. Drop introduced me to the rest of his friends, who become my friends and I later just become part of the crew. Drop was in a group, Drip, Down & Skip, which was family of another group, Jena Si Que. Jena Si Que was signed to Left Eye Productions and Columbia Records, and they were poised to be the new sound of Atlanta. Their sound was very unique, influenced by the South, East and West. Trust me, these guys were, and are Nice! And during this time, I was also put on to another crew, which at the time consisted on Skid, Royal, Lady Ganja and Qumad the Body God.

Drop introduced me to Que, in late 96’. And the vibes were good from the start. Now I’ve known a few good freestylers in my day, but Que quickly got my respect as being the best freestyler I’ve ever heard, if not one of the best freestylers in the game period! I would put money on Que against any rapper, signed or not, including legends in the game. I personally seen him murder numerous rappers in freestyle battles, and I’ve witnessed him perform themed songs on stage totally off the top. You cannot love hip-hop without loving and respecting Que, Que is hop-hip.

I was hanging out with Drop a few weeks ago and Que called. Drop mentioned I was over and Que insisted Drop burn me a copy of his latest material. On my way out, Drop handed me the disc and told me Que was thinking about giving it up, Drop asked me to listen to the disc, and if I honestly heard one song, one verse, one hook that spoke to me, if I found anything on this disc that I liked, just something that proved that hip-hop still needed Que, call Que and tell him to keep pushin’, tell him don’t hang it up. Or if I didn’t find anything… tell him the truth, and toast to his retirement. I held the disc in my hand, and it felt like this disc weighted 100lbs.

On my way home, I couldn’t even put the disc in. I didn’t listen to anything, just the sound of the road. As an artist myself, I couldn’t imagine the idea of retiring, but I am a painter and this is Hip-Hop. It was hard to listen to this disc; I didn’t know what to say if I liked it, I certainly didn’t know what to say if I didn’t. And not speaking on it all wasn’t an option either. Que has always support me and my art, I owe Que my honest opinion.

One Nation

One Nation

Before I would bring myself to listen to it, I just thought about Que, I just thought about Hip-hop. 1996 was is a long time ago; looking back I realize that my friends and I are getting old. And Que is, to be honest, old, and a big guy at that. Hip-hop has changed from the essence of when it started, shit it changed from 1996. In the 90’s, skills still trumped all. Then a label would still get behind an artist like Diamond D, Chuck Rock, Freddie Fox and The Notorious B.I.G. Today... I don’t know. Hip-hop is becoming a young man’s game, your look and swag are becoming more important that your skills. This is only an issue in Hip-Hop. Any other genre, you’ll see artist 70 years old, still on stage doing their thing. I don’t know if we’ll ever see that in Hip-Hop. Truly I don’t know if I even want to see it. I can’t really picture Nas 70 years old, still telling stories about the street. But I don’t know, Hip-hop may be truly the last original music genre, and when it comes to history Hip-hop is a baby. This is all still new.

After putting it off, I finally listened to John Que’s, now going as John Blaze, latest music. And I’m happy to say, that’s it dope! I’ve always known Que was a master of freestyle, but in the past I thought he was just okay at writing a song. Now I think his writing skills now equals his freestyle. I’ve listened to a lot of Que’s music though the years and I hear his growth. I hear the different concepts, and subject matter in his songs. After all these years, I still see a super talented emcee, still getting better. Que still hasn’t peaked. I respect Que for still chasing his dreams. Que, if you don’t know, you give me the strength and courage to keep doing my thing and to chase my dreams, so you can’t stop. I need you. Real Hip-Hop still needs you.

After all these years, I still see a super talented emcee, still getting better. Que still hasn’t peaked.
— EuGene Byrd

At the end of the day, Hip-hop is an Art. If you an passion for an art, a culture, then one could never be too old, or have the wrong look. True Hip-hop lives within your heart and your true value to the craft, can’t be measured by albums sold, or money made. If one chooses to stop, one needs to make that decision all on their own. Don’t listen to the so-called hip-hop fans that never wrote a dope verse or never invested any time or money into the culture. Of course, we all want to make money at what we love, but there is a lot of money to be made within Hip-hop besides rocking the mic. From song-writing, managing, to promotion and more. Or you just continue to do it for the love. There is no right answer, there are no rules. There is only will or won’t. Either way, I’ll be there at the next gig or there drinking to witness one of the best emcees unplug his mic.