I’d like to think that the heavily populated neighborhoods and extended hoodie seasons is what makes New York’s Hip-Hop so gritty. And unlikely for Buffalo- grittier. These classic stories of pain, struggle and violence creates a controversial constant. And for up and coming artists – a blueprint. From intellectual ruffians to head sprung rhymers- Rap dominates the Hip-Hop scope for Western New York. With that said, it’s always refreshing to hear something different and I think Quality fills that void.
“Everything we do as artists is blueprint.”
Quality or Quazel Trower, a Canarsie, NY native and Buffalo State student, released his first album, and third project “Know Yourself-Worth Vol. 3.” last weekend to much anticipation. In just one year the college senior has dominated the local college scene with his audience participated performances, and regional hit titled “Shaken.” The gentle atmospheric sound and lighthearted wordplay in the song highlights Quality’s style of unapologetically fusing R&B and Rap. Along with his playful charisma, and Brooklyn aesthetic, the smooth rhymer has garnered respect from his local rapper counterparts. I had the opportunity to sit down with the man himself last month at Spot Coffee and talk about his life, process and thoughts on the album.
“My mother sent me some money and I had a decision- am I gonna buy clothes and try to get fly or am I gonna buy this Macbook.”
Always interested in music, Quality was producing beats before college, but didn’t start writing until sophomore year. Inspired by the sounds of his celebrity idol, Drake- Quality began taking music serious. After purchasing a laptop and working with friends to download Logic Pro X – a music processor, his music-making became a full span learning experience.
“I got the mini-controller, I started with piano and pads. My mother gave me the money to buy that. Every day after class…I played them and listened. I kept going. I kept going.”
After developing anxiety and depression, Quality kept writing. His first two songs ever written titled “Sunset,” and “Cruise” were both surrounded around experiences in his life from women to downfalls. Still uninterested in being a rapper- Quality began creating his first tape with only beats despite writing songs. Inspired by Drake’s “Know Yourself,” Quality named his first project “Know Yourself, Volume 1.”
“He’s (Drake) my idol to the point where I want to take some of his methods- create it and make it my own and be the spearhead for Brooklyn one day…But if I can, hopefully I can help Buffalo as well; because this is where I started. I’m really big on not forgetting where I come from and not forgetting who helped me.”
Soon after releasing “Know Yourself,” Quality started working with fellow producer and student, Heze. It didn’t take long before Quality began recording his lyrics and actually rapping in the booth. First recording “Cruise,” and then a song called “Warcry,” Heze’s dorm- with a makeshift studio became the creative space for the start to Quality’s second project “Self Worth Vol. 2.”
“I studied marketing and I love marketing with a passion…It comes second to none with me sometimes.”
With a minor in digital music production, Quality began connecting with other artists on campus. One of his closest friends to date, MJ- Quality met while in a class talking about his aspirations as a rapper. A producer and singer, MJ started collaborating on music.
“Literally, we in the dining. I got crew next me- I’m eating pizza. I’m teaching him like “Yo. you gotta quantify your stuff. Basically moving your things to scale so they could be more cleaner”…Next thing you know he made “Shaken.”
With a break from recording to hone in on his craft of writing and production, Quality traveled through Paris, Italy and Spain, but it wasn’t until he traveled to Toronto for Spring Break where he first wrote the lyrics for “Shaken.” Produced by MJ, the song was inspired by a fond woman from his school, and he talks about his never-ending infatuation for her. With the release of “Self-Worth Vol. 2.,” last April and his presence growing on campus he took it slow and steady for “Know Yourself- Worth Vol. 3.”
“I’m naming it an album. It’s not no EP, its not no mix tape. It ain’t a project. It’s an album because of the way how its structured. I took my time…”I got songs about women. I got songs about how I’ve affected women and I got songs about how women affected me, how like people affected me growing up…things I’ve been through. Hip-Hop just gave me that voice to express myself.”
Quality’s intention with “KYW3” is to speak his truth. From being bullied when he was younger to the relationships he dealt with in his youth, Quality stays focused on sharing a part of his grief to connect with listeners. And while displaying that transparency he doesn’t shy away from showing the swaggier, more aggressive side of himself, Comparing his personality as that of a Gorilla- gives him the creativity to tap into the different parts of his unique music style.
“I like to call myself a gorilla…Gorillas chillin’, with their family coolin’ but do you ever mess with one? Never! You know what they can do.”
I was pleasured to review “Know Yourself- Worth Vol. 3” a month before the album was released. With that said, Quality’s ability to keep every track entertaining and showcase his versatility is something that makes him unique. With minimal lyrics and a sensational variety of sonics- the best parts of his album is when you can feel he’s enjoying it. Driving the force of the album through stories of grinding, relationships and thoughts on success, Quality’s cadence and honesty stands at the heart of “KYW3.”
- Believe In Me “That’s when I saw, I was really raw. “
“Believe in Me” is a great intro and a great way to showcase Quality’s range and agility for energy. Midway through the song- he amps up the beat and rhyming flow. A pleasant surprise and a stirring guitar loop at the end.
2. Discovery (Feeling So Wavy) “I believe in ya shot, Fuck all the opps.”
At first hand, this song sounded like a half-witted anthem about smoking or being in the most basic form “lit,” but a closer look displays the clear fact that he’s walking in intent and very focused in his talent. Plus, I love a good beat breakdown.”
3. How You Feel/ Soul Food “You can’t take your Self-worth away from you”/ “Where the fuck am I?”
“How You Feel,” is a superb track full of bouncy synths and a great showcase of Quality utilizing playful banter to complete a fun vibe and lyric pattern. Too many quotables to document, but definitely a favorite. Soul Food is a settled down, yet still as serious confidence to square up to any artist or any hater. And he includes a little scatting which I can really appreciate.
4. Shaken “Qua How?”
“Shaken” is a prime example of Quality’s songwriting skill. Throughout the song, he’s able to find pockets to groove in. Plus, the song is a perfect jam to play at a party or function.
5. Lesson Learned “Had her reflecting on her past”
The most respected track on the album for sure “Lesson Learned.” While I can’t make out the chorus- I really love how it enters and breaks up the song almost as in chapters of a book. He was very open in sharing how he lost a woman he was interested in, to a friend. Plus I LOVE the production.
6. Dancing Flame “Your pain has put you through this loophole”
One thing about Quality is that he considers his relationships as treasures/lessons while most male rappers might note the same thing as a shallow triumph. Exposing a poetic side of his understanding of women Quality wanders the internal struggles of his partner in “Dancing Flame.”
7. My Self-Worth “If I’m being honest I don’t really take my shirt off.”
The simple piano hook and heavy 808s give this track a fun, uplifting vibe. Joined with pleasant vocals from local artist “Sherise,” the song is very reminiscent to a Chance The Rapper track.
8. Hot 97 “You a fraud, say who you are”
In every artist’s arsenal there should be a song that just bumps. This is that song! And to be honest I live for the gaming sample in the production.
9. Heist “Who you know that’s ever been to Italy and never seen a trap.”
“Heist” embodies the classic braggadoccio of Hip-Hop. From the blazing horns in the production to the intense rhyming scheme- the track gives you a healthy dose of littyness.
10. Escape Reality “I was just tryna balance out the lows”
The sheer storytelling of “Escape Reality,” gives Quality’s willingness to share his downfalls a glory. Much of music should be to document the life of one but the experience of many. In this track he doesn’t shy away from the disapproval of his mother at a time of his life.
11. Doubted yet Scouted “Straight out the fetus”
Throughout the album, Quality re-asserts himself as someone who has a relentless determination. “Doubted yet Scouted,” relays all of those feelings. He doesn’t back down to competition and is willing to build with cohorts like him to ultimately grow. Along with his honesty, playful style and knack for songwriting it’s no doubt he’ll go far.