Federal Way rapper Quincy “Q Dot” Henry describes the soul-crushing times that informed his new CD, “The Darkness,” as it opens.
“I wrote this entire album during the darkest part of my life – ever,” he muses over a melancholy piano track. “Broke, battling with demons, coming off of bad relationships; and you're talking about somebody who's seen the success. Now I'm coming from the standpoint of somebody who's at the lowest point.”
Henry has bounced back and will celebrate the release of his new album with a performance on Feb. 1 at Louie G's Pizza in Fife. But recently, over latte at Tacoma's Anthem coffeehouse, he pinpointed the start of his downward spiral to a previous disc, “Declaration of Dopeness,” flopping in 2012.
Henry had briefly flirted with Interscope Records a decade earlier as a student at Central Washington University, but a promised record deal was the casualty of his A&R rep being fired. He felt “Dopeness” was his most polished, ambitious project yet and maybe his ticket back to the brink of stardom.
“It didn't get received the way that I had hoped,” Henry said. “The video (for single “Indivisible”) didn't get picked up anywhere, and I didn't know what to do after that. I was working down here doing events, and that's when things started to snowball.”
He subsequently lost two promotion gigs, with Tacoma's Art on the Ave festival and the Tacoma-Pierce Sports Commission.
“Then a bad relationship with a girlfriend ended kind of ugly, and I’d failed a couple of classes at school,” he recalled. “I’m just broke at that point, in every way. I wasn’t making any music. I was kind of trying to figure out how I could still push ‘Declaration.’ I’m trying to go on the road. I couldn’t book a show. I couldn’t do anything.
“Nothing was working, and it was almost to the point I truly felt there was an outside force that was holding me back. I don’t know what it was. I’ve got cousins and uncles who are pastors, and I’m callin’ ‘em and e-mailin’: ‘Please pray because I don’t know what’s goin’ on, because absolutely anything I put up gets shot down without fail.’”
Enter: Karrie Carroll, a.k.a. Atlanta-based hip-hop and pop producer Kuddie Fresh. Carroll has produced tracks for the likes of Busta Rhymes, Musiq Soulchild and J. Pinder, but Henry remembered him as a member of their old Federal Way hip-hop crew, Knockout Kings. Olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno would breakdance, Henry recalled, marveling at the stream of talent flowing out of his hometown in recent years.
In the midst of a hot streak, Carroll contacted Henry asking if he wanted to collaborate. “I’ve always looked up to Kuddie, even though we’ve had kind of a good relationship as friends,” Henry said.
The beats the producer sent Henry's way were stark and stripped down, in sharp contrast with the lush layering of his own compositions. They were just what he needed to break out of his creative funk.
“They would strike something in me to be honest,” Henry said. “Not that I hadn’t been before, but it was almost forcing it out of me.
“The ‘Kill it’ song was probably the only thing that was remotely dancey,” he said, alluding to one of the earliest “Darkness” tracks. “Everything else was like I needed to tell a story, so that’s kind of what happened. I went into it thinking that this whole thing needs to feel like I’m completely alone, ‘cause that’s how I was feeling. Even overdubs or hypes; to overproduce it would cheapen the authenticity of it to me.”
Henry plans on an especially busy 2014, as he pushes the new album and hopes to take advantage of an opportunity from last year.
In May, he was invited to New York to record a performance for B.E.T.'s “Music Matters” program, through which the cable showcases promising, young acts. The program has been a springboard for the likes of Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole.
At one time, the program would showcase performers that were virtually unknown. These days, said Henry, producers tend to wait until artists gain traction in their own markets. “They want you to do the work, then they put the icing on the cake,” he said.
Fans can listen to Henry's music online at http://www.iamqdot.com/. The CD release party will kick off at 8 p.m. on Feb. 1 at Louie G's, which is located at 5219 Pacific Highway E., in Fife. The show is open to all ages. More details are available by calling (253) 926-9700 or visiting http://www.louiegspizza.com/.