Terrance Quaites, or “TQ”, burst onto the scene with an edgy look suited more for a rapper than a vocalist. However, his first hit “Westside” from his “They Never Saw Me Coming” album showed off his vocals and range on the R&B front. He found success as a singer and as a songwriter.
He’s penned records for the likes of, Dru Hill, NSYNC, Jagged Edge, Lil Wayne, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and many others. As an artist, he has released nearly a dozen albums while enjoying worldwide acclaim. In fact, his international success has superseded his fame in the States, During his time on Cash Money Records, he would work hand and hand with legendary producers Mannie Fresh and Jazze Pha while sharing the stage with The Hot Boys, Juvenile, Lil Wayne, BG, and Turk. He provided hooks and vocals for The Big Tymers (Birdman and Mannie Fresh) as well.
The voice of Compton has spread his wings, adding several business endeavors to his resume, including Dream Hub, a marketing and advertising agency, Franchise Sports Media, a sports media outlet as well as the National College Resources Foundation, which helps minority students get into Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Zenger News catches up with Compton’s TQ to discuss his many business ventures, the importance of ownership and his time on Cash Money Records and lessons he learned from Birdman.
Percy Crawford interviewed TQ for Zenger News.
Zenger News: TQ, You are 30 years into your career. That sounds crazy even saying that.
TQ: Yeah man, for real. I take it one day at a time. It’s definitely been a journey. But you’re always learning, man, so it’s a testament to still have fans for so long. For this to still be a viable income for me is a blessing. I’m just happy that I’m still able to have some longevity with this.
Zenger: Everyone I ask this question to have a different answer. What do you feel the keys have been to your longevity?
TQ: For me personally, it’s been a personal relationship with fans. My situation is a bit different. Most people start off with an independent (record label) and they eventually get picked up by a major. My situation was the total opposite. When I first came out … first couple of times I came out, I came out with the big million-dollar budgets from major companies. That’s what allowed me to cast my net out there and build my network of super fans basically. And those people, I made sure I cultivated the relationships with them, to take them with me on my own independent journey. So, it’s been the same people from then to now. I think you just have to notice who your fans are, notice what it is that they like and make sure that you service them and stay in touch. I guess it’s pretty unique, but the relationship I have with some people, man. … I remember when they graduated from high school, when they got married, when they got divorced, when the first baby was born. We just have a relationship where it’s self-sufficient. We kind of have our own world between each other. I always say, you find 10,000-20,000 people and you figure out a way to get $100 from them every year, that’s a nice base.
Zenger: One thing I notice when I check out your social media or the comments on your YouTube posts is you have a huge international following. How important was it to develop that?
TQ: Right! Once again, when I first signed to a major … well, the first major that really got behind me was Sony. They were an overseas company from the beginning. And a couple of guys that ran the European company basically pulled me to the side at a convention … when I did my first album, I was coming from an independent. I was up in the Bay working with a bunch of independent artists. And that’s the way I was learning to go with it. These dudes kind of pulled me to the side and said, “Hey, we got an idea for you. We don’t have many American artists that are down with it, but hip-hop and R&B is kind of taking over in Europe. And you would be perfect to kind of usher it in over there.” And sure enough, Sony just took me and kind of made me the bridge. For whatever reason, my music just always did better outside of the U.S. My biggest songs, greatest amount of success, biggest tours and everything, have always been Europe and Asia.
Zenger: I think early on you were that hip-hop look but R&B voice. You were with Jaheim and Case in being the guy that looks like a hip-hop artist but can sing his ass off.
TQ: It was a struggle at the beginning of my career. I grew up in Compton. The stories that I wrote about in my music was just the stuff that I saw. It was no different than what the rappers saw, but I just couldn’t rap. I always sang. Kind of the same outlook, I just put them to melody. I think what happened overseas with that, our slang and our accent, is a bit different for them. So, at least at the time, it was hard for them to pick up in rap songs. You put an awkward melody to it and slow it down a little bit, they could sing it. It meant something different when you could put that melody to it. And that’s just how it went.
Zenger: I remember you signing with Cash Money Records because that was a big deal down here in Louisiana — to start signing West Coast talent. Was that an adjustment to you or did you fit right in?
TQ: Nah man, I fit right in. One part of it was most of my family is from down there. But New Orleans got behind my record before I went to Cash Money. The records that I put out like “Westside,” and “Bye Bye Baby.” New Orleans was playing them records a lot, crazy. So, I was coming to New Orleans a lot and doing shows, radio interviews and just stuff in the city. So, anytime I was down there, I would just hang out. I had met Juve, BG and Baby nem when they came to L.A. So, anytime I would go to New Orleans I would keep in touch, and just hang out with them. That was like two or three years before I even started. I was just building a following down there, I guess. Anytime I would go down there, I would just hop in one of Baby’s cars and just ride around the city. This was before I even signed to them. So, you’re kind of in a position where you’re not worried about nothing; everybody is welcoming on the blocks because they know my songs. So at the time when I signed, it was like I was just moving into a second home. I was spending so much time down there, I felt like people were ready for me.
Zenger: Baby, Birdman, or Stunna, whichever one you call him, because he has many names. We hear a lot about the negative, but I feel there is so much positive with him. What are some of the things you learned from him in terms of the way he went about his business?
TQ: He’s big on ownership. That kind of taught me, to be honest, I use a lot of things that he taught me in my negotiations against him. I’m sitting here, and you allowing me to soak up a lot of game. Now, it’s time for us to renegotiate. You think I ain’t going to use the game (laughing)? I think Baby’s thing was you can’t sell it if you don’t own it. He wasn’t about letting people ahead of him get him wrapped up in slave-type deals. Now he might try to put the next person in one, but he wasn’t about getting into them himself (laughing). This shit takes a whole lot of work. Coming from the R&B side, and then being so big internationally, there was a time where, when I was at the height, overseas was on some superstar shit. Getting with Cash Money just kind of reinstated the grind.
Because before I actually got signed, I was up in the Bay with, Mike Mosley, [E]40, [Too] $hort, and all of them, and that’s just a straight grind. Bay independent music is a straight grind constantly. You gettin’ it, but you straight grindin.’ And getting with Cash Money brought a lot of that back to the table. Because I was the one songwriter, writing the hooks and singing the hooks or whatever, it was so much studio time, I was getting out of it whatever I was putting in. The time that I spent in the studio with, [Mannie] Fresh or Jazze [Pha] making songs, I was getting paid a shit ton for it. That just reinstates your drive. Especially after you’ve been on private jets and flying all off to this island and that island. You come back to the block, it’s like, you know what, this is what you needed to re-tune and get back into it. That part of it was great. All of the songwriting was great. And I still maintain, them dudes … they never owed me no money. I can say what I want to say about my experience while I was there or how they did this or did that, but everybody else’s problem with them ain’t my problem. They ain’t never owed me shit. Even today, my Cash Money checks be on time. They full — they ain’t light — so it is what it is.
Zenger: You sound like my, Loc, Glasses Malone, which by the way, that “The Kingdom” song with Glasses is crazy. But he says the same thing: Birdman never shorted him or owed him.
TQ: Thank you! Yeah, real talk. Mack  said the same shit (laughing). We went through some shit and went and did it, but it ain’t like we ever lost nothing.
Zenger: Always wanted to ask a singer/songwriter this question: How do you distinguish between what you give away and what you keep? Have you been writing a song for someone and just decided to keep it?
TQ: You know what, that’s a good question because it changes. The next song that I’m about to drop, I’m actually dropping it on Valentine’s Day. Me and my guy, we wrote this for somebody else. We wrote this for an R&B artist. Once we finished it, we were like, “Man … shit!” It just happens like that sometimes. I’m always one to give it off to the next person that’s in a position to get it further than I can. That’s where I’m at with it most of the time. But sometimes you just write that thing, man and it’s … creativity is spiritual to me. So, sometimes you just have that connection with a piece you made, and it’s just yours.
Zenger: I have always wondered that because you have to write a song at some point during your career and feel like you can only hear your vocals on it.
TQ: Absolutely! And you know what, sometimes you get in the mode and it’s like, damn. Especially for somebody like me, it’s like, “What other singer am I gonna write this for?” I’m one to just let it flow. However it’s coming out is how it’s coming out, and sometimes, by the time I get to the end of it, it’s like, “Man, this is only a, TQ song.” And when it is, it is.
Zenger: You were on The Gangster Chronicles Podcast, and the things that you mentioned that you have going on inspired me to reach out to you. They did a great job at letting you go into detail with the various ventures you have going on outside of music. I definitely wanted to give you the opportunity to speak on those things on this platform as well.
TQ: For sure. I’ve always focused on ownership. I was a songwriter before anything else. Writing songs is what really got me into the music industry. I didn’t get in it really to be an artist. I got in it because somebody explained to me that the people who was singing the songs wasn’t necessarily the people that wrote the songs. And when I understood the pay structure and all of that, that kind of just blew my mind. So, I always just looked at writing as something that would always allow me to invest in other things. It’s a residual income. You can write something 20 years ago that comes back for three, four, five years and then come back eight, nine, 10 years again. You never know. You done wrote a hundred songs, there is no telling when someone comes and buys one. So, what I’ve always done is tried to take a portion of what I made on the music side and just put it into other things — other things that I’m interested in.
So, I’ve always been into marketing and advertising because my manager when I first got into the music industry had an ad agency. So, she would always teach me how she was using our budgets to advertise. I ended up starting an ad agency with a friend of mine. It’s called The Dream Hub. We got a couple of camera crews, couple of good photographers, great graphic designers. We do online advertising, online marketing, put together brand packaging for people, build websites, photo shoots, shoot videos, you name it. It’s just a creative conglomerate. We just pooled our resources together and just do our thing.
As an extension of that, I started up a sports company out here in Vegas. It’s called Franchise Sports Media. We’re official media for the Raiders, the Golden Knights, UNLV — all the Vegas sports. We do all of the pregame, postgame, bunch of articles. And we shoot our own highlight reels out here in Vegas. We shoot ’em like music videos. A lot of times the news comes to us to get the highlight videos because ours is just more interesting than the regular ones. Just trying to put our swing on things — a different twist on it to make it more interesting on how sports is reported out here. It’s a new market for pro sports. The hockey team came three years ago; the Raiders showed up last year; probably going to be getting baseball and basketball within the next five or six years, too. Just getting on that early in the beginning. Vegas has been kind of my second home after L.A. for the longest. Just trying to expand a little bit really.
On the side, I’ve always been into trying to help kids get into school. Me and my manager started up National College Resources back in 2000. We put on Black College Expos. We go into like nine or 10 cities around the nation now. We go into local colleges, HBCUs and we get them to waive their admission fees. And they will come to our expos; they bring in one of their interest officers, administrators and a financial aid scholarship person. And the kids come in, they pay $5 at the door, and it’s just a one-stop shop to get into college. You come with your transcripts; you come with your grades and go down the road shopping. All of the colleges are there, whatever city we’re in, in that area. And some colleges come in from across the country.
We get so many kids into school that didn’t know that they had the opportunity to go. It’s a life-changing program. It’s awesome, man. I want to use every platform possible to send people to www.thecollegeexpo.org, that’s National College Resources. My manager’s name, Dr. Theresa Price, and she’s like Moses for getting kids in school. Any Black, Latino, minority child in America that wants to go to school, you have a shot. Go on social media, Black College Expo. Start asking questions, man, and just holla at us. Somebody is always working our social media, always working our website. Literally DM, “I need to go to school,” and watch what happens.
(Edited by Stan Chrapowicki and Alex Patrick)
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