The road for R&B crooner Jacquees has been an interesting one. The 21-year-old Atlanta native started singing because he was a fan of The Jackson's: An American Dream and The Temptations movies. He then taught himself how to sing at the age of nine and eventually would go on to win talent contests throughout Atlanta. "Singing is like walking. It's easy. If I ever have a problem with singing, that's a problem," he told XXL over the phone. "I ain't never have a problem with singing. It's really my gift. I really sing with no effort."

Quee got his big break after he released his 19 EP independently in 2014. The 11-song project reached No. 3 on the iTunes' R&B and Soul music charts and debuted at No. 15 on the Billboard charts for Top R&B Albums. The EP featured guest appearances from Chris Brown, Rich Homie Quan, Lloyd and Trinidad James. 19 would take Jacquees from a bubbling artists to a hot commodity in hip-hop.

19 caught the attention of Cash Money boss and hip-hop OG Birdman. The two men would be sitting across from one another to talk business and soon after, Jacquees was the newest signee to the record label that Baby and Slim built. Jacquees would eventually go on to be featured on standout tracks on Rich Gang's Tha Tour Pt. 1 and Young Thug's Barter 6. He made his official Cash Money debut on Monday (Jan. 25) by dropping his new mixtape, Mood, while simultaneously becoming a trending topic on Twitter.

We got Jacquees on the phone to walk us through his career step-by-step and find out what is his ultimate goal.—Emmanuel C.M.

XXL:Take us back to the beginning. How did you find out you could sing?

Jacquees: I knew I wanted to become a singer since I was nine years old. I used to watch the Temptations, the Jackson and the Five Heartbeats all the time. I just tried to sing one day, my cousin used to always play the movie and one day we was in the living room and I just busted out and tried to hit it. Him and my Auntie were like “Que that sounds good.” I went in the mirror and looked at myself. I went home and sung it again and my momma told me it sound good. Then I entered the talent show at Canby Lane Elementary School in Atlanta Ga. and I won. That was the first year they ever had a talent show. This when like America Idol was real popular so our talent show was called Canby Lane Idol. So if you won, you blow up in the school. And that’s basically what happened.

What did you grow up listening to?

I like Ginuwine being played, R. Kelly, Jodeci, Boys II Men, a lot of R&B but hip-hop too. We played a lot of the Hot Boys records when I was real young. But a lot of Usher; my momma listen to a lot of the classic music too. So like Luther Vandross, Marvin Gaye, we heard all that.

So you started singing at a young age. When did songwriting come into play?

When I was like 12 I was already starting to write songs. Plus when I was 13 me and my homie did write a song. I came in singing but I was already trying to write songs along with it. We used to be in neighborhoods and just come up with songs. We used to try and write them down, sing it, we were already on it early.

How did you get better at singing?

Nobody knows this but I got better at singing by myself. I never had a vocal coach. I took a class with Jan Smith one time when I was like 15 and it was like $200 an hour and I quit. I love Jan Smith but I never had a vocal coach. I always just taught myself and tried to emulate other artists that I was looking up to at the time. I would try to hit it just like them. And I would just practice every day and I would get better by myself and just try to hit different notes all the time. Just training my voice by myself and I feel like I prepared my voice a lot. I’ve gotten better by myself. Not saying I wouldn’t take a vocal coach one day but I get better myself.

What was your first project?

My first project was officially called Round of Applause. That was my first mixtape but I had a project called I Am Jacquees. But Round of Applause gets the recognition of being my first project. That was the project I put all my energy into. I had a real team behind me. We dropped Round of Applause in 2010. I Am Jacquees came out in 2009. I was 15. When Round of Applause came out I was 16. I Am Jacquees was my first rodeo; it was just full of remixes, before I started calling it Quemix. Round of Applause was all original music. That was my first time dropping an original project. I was recording Round of Applause in Atlanta for the entire project. I was in my homie's house for a lot of those records. TK from TK N Cash, we recorded a lot of those records from TK's apartment.

When did you see the big jump in your career?

It was after I dropped my EP 19, because I dropped it independently. After 19 that’s when I felt like I was getting a lot of burn because it hit Billboard independently with no promotion. I had built a fanbase from the past mixtapes. It was No. 15 on Billboard Top R&B Albums.

When that happened, what went through your mind?

I was shocked like damn I’m on the Billboard? I can get on Billboard like this? It took my mind on a whole different level. It made me want to go so much harder. Cause I was like dang people really noticing me. The day we dropped it, we went to Clark Atlanta for a little listening session and it was packed. That was my first time packing out a college. That’s when I knew it was real. This was 2014.

When did Birdman and Cash Money come into play?

Cash Money came into play after the 19 EP.

Describe the first time meeting Bridman.

It was legendary. I was sitting down waiting for him in the back and I had my manager Corey with me. He dapped up Corey first. Then he dapped me up and was like, “What’s poppin’ youngin.” Then he sat down and he stared at me, just looking at me. Then he said, "You going to be a superstar. You got the music." and he just kept eyeing me, just checking my swag then I had a deal.

That’s crazy intense.

It was a great feeling because Stunna was one of my idols growing up. So to be in front of him and for him to accept me was dope. That was a dream come true, because I always said the only person I would sign to is Birdman. He was like one of the only people I said I would sign to.

What are your conversations with Birdman like? What advice has he given you?

It’s always game, he always tell me to stay focus. It’s always game about how to take over the game and become a real monster in the game. I get a game conversation every day. He always tell me work hard and just do me and don’t worry about nothing else. Stunna thinks I’m the best. They believe I’m the best; I believe I’m the best.

All the stuff you've been putting out is really strong. Where do you see yourself going?

I just want to be one of the biggest R&B artists period. I want to be the biggest R&B artist in the game. That’s what I’m aiming for. I just want to work hard and just please my fans and I feel like if I do that I could get to the top.

Where do you see R&B right now?

I feel like it's in a good state. I notice people playing more. Like I ride down the street and see people playing it a lot more. I hear it on the block.

What do you feel you add to R&B right now?

I feel like I got that classic sound, that feel good sound that everybody miss. The R&B that you cut on that make you want to pick up your old lady. I feel like I got that type of R&B that makes you smile. You want to go on a one-on-one date, you not trying to have a bunch of women around. But I got music that makes you feel playa too. That make you feel like a G.

See 40 Hip-Hop Albums Turning 20 in 2016