On My Own
With a lawsuit and publicity troubles behind him, Rich Homie Quan just wants to make more hits.
Words: Sowmya Krishnamurthy
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

"Good sex and paychecks!” Rich Homie Quan says while clinking a glass of Hennessy among his friends. It’s late afternoon and the rapper is posted up at his favorite hangout, Pizza Bar. Located in a retail strip on Camp Creek Parkway in Atlanta, nestled between a tattoo shop and bakery, it’s the type of place a rapper would hang out. The pizza slices are huge, chicken wings come with an amazing dipping sauce and a 1990s soundtrack blares overhead. The waitresses are pretty and they love to flirt. Someone whispers that the curvy bartender is Drake’s former paramour “Courtney from Hooters on Peachtree.” Quan comes here every day. Like the theme song from Cheers, it’s where he goes and everybody knows his name.

“This is my Starbucks,” he laughs, outside. The sticky August humidity has made way for a brief drizzle. Tall and slender, the 27-year-old is perched on a wooden chair. He’s wearing blue jeans and a beige collared shirt that matches his Yeezy 950 Duck Boots. His new dreads graze his collarbone. “You know how a lot of people go to Starbucks and start their day?” he tells. “This is my spot. I’m hoping they get a ‘Rich Homie Quan’ parking spot. I come with no security.”

It’s strange to see a rapper of his stature—in considerable jewelry—moving around without security. He feels safe in his hometown but he’s aware that anyone can be touched. In 2014, his father and manager, Corey Lamar, was shot and injured at their family barbershop in Atlanta. “Where I’m at in life, problems come,” says Quan. “Obstacles come. You just have to be ready for whatever’s presented in front of you.”

What’s in front of Rich Homie Quan is a strange juncture. He’s riding the wave of his biggest record, “Flex (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh),” which dropped in February 2015. The song is certified double platinum and has over 97 million views on YouTube and inspired its own viral dance. It’s a formidable accomplishment, worthy of keeping Quan in the echelon of Atlanta rap. But that’s not what the headlines read. His public persona has been plagued and his success has been overshadowed by controversy: A multimillion-dollar lawsuit with record label Think It’s A Game Records (TIG), a falling out with Rich Gang collaborator Young Thug and embarrassingly, flubbing The Notorious B.I.G.’s verse on “Get Money” on VH1’s Hip Hop Honors. “I’m not perfect,” Quan says. “Respect me if I make mistakes.”

It’s time for Rich Homie Quan to flip his narrative.

Born in East Atlanta, Dequantes Devontay Lamar came up with a baseball bat—not a mic—in his hand. The oldest of three, his parents split early (“Probably when my mama told my daddy she was pregnant”). He calls his mother his “best friend” and says he always had a good relationship with his father. His high school baseball coach (and now co-manager), Monta Gibson, remembers seeing talent from the start. “When I first met Quan, he was real shy and timid,” says Monta. “I started helping him. I made him a promise in 2004 [that] whatever he decided to do, I’d never leave his side.”

The streets proved seductive; as a teenager, Quan traded in baseball for robberies. “I was moving with the wrong crowd,” he explains. “Not necessarily using my brain. Down South, burglary is so big. TVs, electronics.” He breaks down a typical lick: “60-inch [television] would get you $600, 50-inch would get you $500, 40-inch would get you $400, etcetera. It was easy money, man.” Of course, there’s no such thing as easy money. At 21, Quan was arrested and sentenced to 15 months at DeKalb County Jail in 2011. He had zero clue as to what to expect from his bid. “My first time being away from home, your whole manhood is taken from you,” he says. “Your whole freedom is taken from you. It was scary but it was real-life.” Quan found solace reading the Alex Cross series by James Patterson, and loved stories by Sandra Brown and writing raps. He had toyed with rap in high school and he was now determined to see it through. “I planned to rap,” he says. “I had [created] so many songs in jail.”

After returning home, Quan enlisted Monta as his manager and they grinded on the indie circuit, leading to 2012’s I Go in on Every Song. “That CD got us paid shows,” Monta remembers. The project made its way into the hands of local entrepreneur Girvan “Fly” Henry who signed the ascendant to TIG. Quan, green to the industry, says he was so eager to sign on the dotted line that he never asked a lawyer to review his contract. “I didn’t look at my paperwork,” he says, taking a hit from his joint. He loves his weed. He wakes and bakes and smokes an ounce a day, intermittently puffing Newports. He sighs. “I lied and said I had someone look over it.”

See Exclusive Photos From Rich Homie Quan's XXL Magazine Interview

Meanwhile, things progressed quickly. Corey joined as co-manager (but too late to see the paperwork his son had signed). In March 2013, Quan released the mixtape Still Goin In (Reloaded), which spawned, “Type of Way.” It was a hustler’s anthem with heart. “My niggas been hustlin’ trying to make him something/Ain’t no telling what he’ll do for the paper,” he melodically raps in the opening. “Soufflé, I’m straight, I steak my plate/Sade, I’m a smooth operator.” Boisterous with an underlying honesty, “Type of Way” propelled Quan as the next-to-blow in Atlanta. The song went gold and was remixed by Young Jeezy and Meek Mill. He followed up with the equally successful “Walk Thru” (featuring Problem) the following year, cementing his spot in XXL’s 2014 Freshman class. 2015’s “Flex (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh)” upped the ante. Quan got his first platinum record and created a national dance.

J. Cole went platinum with no features, but Rich Homie Quan went double platinum independently. The rapper has kept his team lean from inception. Corey, Monta and about six people handle everything from marketing and publicity to booking shows. Amid interest from companies like Roc Nation and Atlantic Records, Quan and co. were self-funded and vehemently wanted to remain independent. “We made a lot of money the first year, which gave us the money,” says Monta. “We was heavy about being independent and doing something people couldn’t do.” In 2014, Birdman enlisted Quan and Young Thug into his Rich Gang cadre for the mixtape Rich Gang: Tha Tour Pt. 1 and a tour. Despite media speculation, Quan was never signed to—nor has any issues with—Cash Money Records. That was “strictly a partnership,” he says. “No bad blood came out of that at all. Period.”

Pizza, Hennessy and marijuana are a dangerous trifecta and Rich Homie Quan is knocked out with the itis. The rapper is slumped in the passenger seat of his car, which is parked in his driveway, napping 40 minutes after his trip to Pizza Bar. Quan lives in an idyllic, quiet cul-de-sac in Fairburn, some 30 minutes away from Atlanta. His six-bedroom home has the trappings of a typical Georgia manse: Brick exterior, expansive windows, a Juliet balcony. Inside, there’s a visible divide between Quan the bachelor—who has a Scarface movie poster, a room devoted to his collection of some 400 sneakers and a mural of Atlanta Hawks legend, Dominique Wilkins—and Quan, the family man. His baby mama and 2-year-old son, Royal are here (His 8-year-old and infant child live elsewhere) as well as four dogs: Princess, Ginger, Adriana and Rollie. Royal’s toys are strewn everywhere and the energetic toddler loves driving his mini-sized BMW into the walls.

“I don’t feel like a dad but my kids know I’m a dad,” says Quan. It’s understandable that Quan wants to retain some semblance of being a carefree millennial. Shit has hit the fan lately. In March 2015, Young Thug harangued him, calling him “bitch Homie Quan,” and destroyed a future for Rich Gang. Quan, who’s known Thug since middle school, dismisses the imbroglio, saying on ESPN’s Highly Questionable, “He’ll always be my brother for life. No hard feelings.”

Quan took another publicity hit after songs leaked that summer in which he rapped about rape. “I would never condone rape,” he apologized to Billboard in May, citing that the track was recorded years ago. In June another song surfaced with similar lyrics, to which he said, “I was young and just rapping. At the time, I had no guidance in my life. I blame it on that.” Things didn’t get better. In September, he was lambasted for negligence for smoking what appeared to be marijuana around his son, Royal, on Snapchat. And this July, he bore the brunt of the Internet when he goofed up the lyrics to Biggie’s “Get Money” on VH1. It was such a clusterfuck that CNN reported: Rich Homie Quan: Who he is and why you should feel sorry for him. Ouch. As for his mea culpa, Quan says, “I took it, I had a good spirit about it. I never let that get to me at all.”

If this weren’t enough, Rich Homie Quan has been smack in the middle of a lawsuit for that bum TIG deal from years back. His team cites millions in nonpayment as well as prohibitive clauses, like TIG getting right of first refusal, which they weren’t informed about. “We felt like we weren’t being compensated correctly,” says Quan’s pops, Corey. They settled the $2 million lawsuit in July 2016 and things appear copacetic. “Never a bad situation with TIG,” Quan says. “I’m glad we were able to come to a resolution that was good for all parties. TIG got my back,” he states, hinting that the label may still be involved in some way (Reps at TIG refused comment for this story).

With legal troubles behind him, better days seem ahead. Quan’s planning to release a mixtape called Back to the Basics this fall as well as an album later this year. “It’s time for content,” he says. “Music has been washed out with swag. They don’t wanna talk about nothing.” He’s enjoying his free agent status and is courting conversations with major labels. “On the independent level, we’ve done everything I think we can do,” Corey admits. “It’s time for him to broaden his horizons to the next level of his career.” Last week, they took a meeting with Universal Music Group honcho, Lucian Grainge, in Los Angeles. Quan’s visibly giddy but mum on if he’s signing there or elsewhere. “I’ll announce my next label deal before I drop my next mixtape.”

Corey, the quintessential dad, is realistic in what a major label can offer for his son’s new chapter. “There’s no perfect situation as far as a label deal is concerned,” he explains. “Basically, we’re trying to get a decent situation. More marketing. International development. Broaden crossover. Better endorsements.” Protective long-term friend Monta underscores that they’ve been hot on their own, so a label better crank up the heat. “Anyone can come in and put ketchup on a done hot dog,” Monta says. “Everybody can’t cook the hot dog perfect. If we making three, four million dollars on our own, what can you add to that?”

Rich Homie Quan eyes big things; international fame and opportunity beyond hip-hop. “It’s about growing,” Quan tells. “I think rapping is a platform for me to do other things.” After all the shit he’s been through, he’s ready for a clean slate. “I’ve done a lot of wrong
in my life, Lord as my witness, but I’ve been put in a position where Atlanta is depending on me,” he says. “I ride with that on my shoulders. You gotta grow.”

Check out more from XXL’s Fall 2016 issue including our Gucci Mane cover story interview, Young Thug's cover story interview and Young M.A in Show & Prove