For “Studios Sessions,” we delve into the stories behind the long hours in the studio and all that goes into making an album by talking with artists, producers, engineers, photographers, and more who are intimately connected to the recording process with some of the biggest artists in the world. These are the stories that rarely leave the booth.
Summer is winding down and REVOLT hung out with Don Q at a Manhattan Beach studio to listen to his unreleased collaborations with Meek Mill and Lil Uzi Vert. Indeed, a studio environment with the rapper is definitely unique.
“I need drugs, good vibes, good beats, and good people around. I don’t like having people that are just ‘Yes men,’” Don Q told us in his exclusive interview. “I want people that are going to tell me, ‘Nah, that shit could’ve been better.’ They keep me on my toes.”
In this installment of Studio Sessions, the rapper explains the type of studios he prefers, if we’re getting any Don Q music by the end of this year, and what he and A Boogie taught each other.
I just heard some new music with you and Meek. You both were on ‘Lights Out’ from Meek’s DC4. Rappers say they have to step their bars up with Meek. What are your sessions like with him?
I feel like niggas got to do that with me, too. With Meek and I, it’s no pen, no pad. He just goes in and does his thing.
You played a new collaboration you two did. How’d that come about?
That shit is old as fuck. But, I just finished my verse recently. I have songs that I’ve never dropped...
Who do you have the best chemistry with in the studio?
I would say A [Boogie] because we know how to talk to each other. I can’t talk to another artist [like I can with A Boogie.] I’ll probably tell a nigga, ‘You could’ve said that better.’ But, I’m more comfortable telling A that and he’s more comfortable telling me that. Just yesterday, we did some shit and he was suggesting different flows like, ‘Use this flow.’ We’re comfortable with each other like that.
What have you learned from A Boogie and vice versa?
I can learn flows from him and he can learn wordplay from me.
Let’s take it back. When was your first time in the studio?
I first got into the studio when I was 15-16. I fell in love with the environment and now it is what it is.
What have you gotten better at recording-wise?
I really got better at making music. At first, I was just writing a bunch of lines and punchlines. I always wanted to make music. I didn’t want to just be another nigga who knew how to rap. I wasn’t working on it all the time. I’d start at a certain time, then stop and come back to it a year or two later. I just took it seriously a few years ago.
What’s the longest you've been in the studio?
About 20 hours of recording, sleeping, smoking, waking up to record again — playing [NBA] 2K.
Since you sleep at the studio sometimes, do you ever factor that into your decision on which studio to book?
Sometimes I do be thinking like that. I want to come to a studio where I can get really comfortable to where if I get too tired, I can be like, ‘I’ll be back in an hour. I’m going to go lay in here.’ I hate when I get tired and I have to go home to sleep. That shit blows my shit. I just want to sleep here, so I can just wake up and keep going.
So, why record in a studio when you can just record at home or in your hotel room like a lot of rappers do now?
It’s just the vibe and the environment. I have a studio in my house, too. It’s just a different vibe when you come in here. I think I did the Tory Lanez diss in the crib.
What were your sessions like during that Tory Lanez battle earlier this year?
It was kind of fun. After I did the first one and he did his diss, I was like, ‘Alright. That’s it?’ I didn’t really feel no pressure after that because I feel like I won already. It took me about 30 minutes to an hour to record those [diss tracks].
From 2016 to 2018, you released a project every year. But, 2019 has been pretty quiet. What’s going on?
I’m just trying to find a direction. That’s all. I know I owe a project because ‘19 about to be over and I don’t have a project. I definitely owe about two. It ain’t just me. It’s the label and shit like that.
What’s coming up for the rest of the year?
I’m going to drop some singles. Some of the shit you just heard, I’ll be dropping. I’m going to be shooting videos to them.
One of those songs is a collaboration with Lil Uzi Vert. How did that come about?
Uzi’s been around. He fucks with niggas heavy. He was in New York rocking with us for the past two or three months.
Have you had any memorable sessions with stars when you were amazed that you were with them?
Probably when I was just starting out and I was in the studio with Fabolous and Meek. Those were big moments for me. I don’t really get starstruck.
Who are the rappers you want to collaborate with?
J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, niggas like that. I said Uzi before, but now I got one with him.
Let me put this out there. I want you to collaborate with Benny the Butcher.
Somebody told me that, too. Somebody was trying to set it up. That’s how I knew he must’ve been nice because they were like, ‘When you do this song [with him], don’t play around.’
What motivates you to write?
I could be anywhere and just think of something. I don’t write in the studio. I’ll write if I’m outside and just thinking of shit.
What’s the quickest it’s taken you to record a song?
Probably 20-30 minutes. A lot of Don Season 2 was recorded like that. A lot of that was me knocking it out. The shit with [Lil] Durk and I (‘Long Night’), we just knocked that shit out. You get a flow in your head first and then you just put the words together.
How different is it recording music before you were signed as opposed to after?
It’s really different. Before, I could just record something and put that shit out right now. Now, you have to plan shit out. You could just put shit out if you have that much music. But, certain shit you can’t. You have to figure out how you’re going to drop it and where you’re going to drop it at, and how you’re going to promote it.
What do you need in the studio to make your best music?
I need drugs, good vibes, good beats, and good people around. I don’t like having people that are just ‘Yes men.’ I want people that are going to tell me, ‘Nah, that shit could’ve been better.’ They keep me on my toes. My friends do that to me all the time. That’s what they’re there for. What the fuck are you coming here for if you’re going to let me record some bullshit (laughs)?
You’re really honest in your lyrics. What was the last real-life experience that inspired a verse or a song?
There’s a lot of shit that is going on that I talk about here and there in the music. But, I try not to say too much. But, it’s a lot of stuff. It’s either shit I see or hear my friends go through that I incorporate in my music.
When your time rapping is over and there are no more studio sessions, what do you want your legacy to be?
The GOAT. But, people don’t be appreciating raps anymore. You get stuck at a point where you think, ‘Do I want to keep rapping like that?’ You have people who love that, so you can’t just be like, ‘Fuck that shit.’ You just have to balance it out.