During homecoming weekend last semester, on top of a coffee table at an off-campus house, a rapper by the name of Quez introduced himself to the Occidental community by spitting lyrics to a crowd of college students with the same energy as when he stands on a stage rapping to thousands of concert-goers.
Quez, a 20-year-old Southern California rapper, has frequented house parties around the college this school year. Keaton Shiffman (sophmore), a personal friend of Quez, invited him to campus last semester — and since then, Quez’s name has become well-known among Occidental students. Outside of Oxy, the rapper is making more connections with other artists.
Three years ago, Quez lost his chance of competing athletically at the college level after dislocating his knee, tearing his ACL and breaking his tibia during his senior year of high school. As a result of this setback, he took a chance on music — something that he had only tried to do once before.
“I used to get made fun of for making music. I mean, who makes fun of people for following their dreams?” Quez said.
But despite the initial setback, he persisted.
“Everything happens for a reason, you got to have a positive outlook on life or else it’ll eat you alive. Because there is always going to be those setbacks,” he said.
Quez started out simple — rapping into his MacBook to record songs. Eventually he began rapping in public, debuting his talent at the Velvet Jones in Santa Barbara. He performed with a raspy voice due to a sickness at the time, and a level of nervousness he couldn’t have previously imagined. It was an eye-opening point in his life.
“It was insane, it was like a movie, it didn’t even feel real,” he said. “That’s a better high than anything I can get in life.”
Although Quez enjoys the sounds of other professional artists, he minimizes his exposure to their music in order to better cultivate his own unique sound.
“I just feel like, as an artist, to really be able to grow, it’s okay to have your idols, but you can’t just constantly be listening to people,” Quez said. “Listen to yourself whenever you can, because the more you listen to yourself, the more you know yourself. Because in reality, all rap is your subconscious talking.”
Quez now raps alongside LftdVu and LftdMike in a group called Lftd. Quez is a recent addition to that group, established in 2011, and feels that both men compliment him artistically. Lftd follows a tight schedule to ensure that they continue to produce new songs weekly.
“I am just a rapper, so I got to do everything I can to try and outwit that person, outwit the next dude,” he said. “Or not just the next dude, but find the next trend before the first dude does. It’s all about trendsetting in this game.”
Quez’s experiences from his time in Eugene, Oregon, where he says he gained significant popularity, have also heavily influenced how he approaches his music. According to him, he aimed to be humble about his success, but instead gloated and lost his work ethic in the party lifestyle.
“There is so much shit that can make you happy, it’s just you have to put the time and effort in to find it,” Quez said. “And not a lot of people want to do that because they want to watch other people take the time and effort to find it, via social media. Basically, what is wrong with America today is we think we are following our dreams, but we’re just liking other people’s.”
In the end, he moved back to Southern California to restart. He makes a distinction between fame and recognition, the former of which he shuns, and the latter he strives for.
“Recognition is more important than fame,” Quez said. “Fame is temporary, recognition is forever.”
Currently Quez divides his time between working at the studio, working on cars and hanging out with friends such as Shiffman here at Occidental.
For Shiffman, who has seen Quez perform both on stage and in houses around Eagle Rock, it speaks to Quez’s character that he does not change up his performance to match a venue.
“His performance itself doesn’t vary. When he is on stage, or when he has got a mike in his hand, he is 100 percent Quez all the time. He’s going to rap whether he’s in front, you know, opening for a big name artist, or if he is performing for a house party.”
Alton Luke (sophomore), a student who has produced his own mixtape, appreciates Quez’s sincerity in his message and his image. He believes that Quez — also a friend — has a refreshing and vibrant product that makes him unique from other rappers trying to operate in the music industry.
“He’s very confident in himself, and he is very confident in his artistic vision, which is why he is so comfortable with experimenting, which is why he is so comfortable with coming to OMA and getting on a table, and so comfortable collaborating with so many different artists,” Luke said.