Fans of hip hop often find themselves having to decipher the Ebonics, ghetto grammar and street slang that’s contained in rappers’ lyrics. However, it’s more unusual to have to reach for a dictionary in order to understand the meaning behind an emcee’s moniker…
Fans of hip hop often find themselves having to decipher the Ebonics, ghetto grammar and street slang that’s contained in rappers’ lyrics. However, it’s more unusual to have to reach for a dictionary in order to understand the meaning behind an emcee’s moniker.
‘Pique’ is a word of many meanings, from ‘having pride in oneself’ to ‘arousing curiosity’. It is also the tag chosen by a promising South London rapper. 20-year-old Pique (a.k.a. PQ & Lost Image), is already living up to his name, by making an immediate impact on the scene with his love of aliases and the 5-star review his recent debut EP ‘Shadows in the Darkness’ received in Hip Hop Connection magazine. He also possesses an unwavering confidence in his own abilities.
As an affiliate of the Stone Circle rap-crew, Pique joined the Social Misfits Entertainment roster when its head, Sir Prestige, uncovered PQ’s talent at a Borderline rap showcase. “My bredrin Manifest was doing a stage show with Stone Circle,” Pique recalls as we sit for a quick bite to eat in one Clapham’s many fast food restaurants. “Just before they went on stage, they were doing a freestyle session in an alleyway. Cos I was in the middle of them, the mic came to me. I didn’t pass it, I just kicked a verse and they liked it. Then, when Manifest and Stone Circle went onto the Social Misfits label I went with them, but as a solo artist.”
PQ has been rapping since the early 1990’s when he used to spit freestyle raps about whatever he saw while riding on the bus or walking to school. For him, it was the clearest way that he found to express his views. He states “I only chat the truth. So if something in society is in a certain way, that’s gonna come out in my rhymes. I’ve got things in my brain that I’m dealing with then they’re gonna come out. If it’s real, then I’ll deal with it. If it ain’t real, I don’t really touch it.”
Pique’s unique rapping style is full of intricate rhyming-patterns; and so having spent some of his teens in the US studying and battling local emcees, does he feel that that experience has influenced his style?
“From the fact of seeing more of the world – different things from different angles, I would say yeah, “ he answers, “cos it gave me a wider horizon to look at. But in another sense, no, ‘cos I came back after three years in America and still kept my accent and there are bare people that go out there and they don’t really keep their accent.” He adds, “Then there are people who haven’t even been out there and ain’t kept their English accent. When I was battling cats out there, I was battling in my accent, with my rhymes. I didn’t try and pretend nothing. I just went as I was and people appreciated it.”
His time spent on the other side of the Atlantic has obviously given PQ belief and pride in his rhyming ability; and having immersed himself in the hip hop scene over there without losing his British identity, Pique fails to understand why other UK emcees go out of their way to cultivate a fake American accent. “There are wack emcees over there and wack emcees here. So if somebody thinks they’re gonna break the market by coming with a fake accent, they’ve gotta realise – if they’re wack, they’re wack and their fake accent is just gonna make things even worse. People are gonna listen to them and think ‘there’s someone over there in America that really has that accent that is wack and I’m not gonna listen to them. So, why would I listen to you?!!!’”.
So PQ rhyme-philosophy is simple: “I hate to say it, but, I keep it real!” he declares. “I’m just on it – saying it as I see it. I’m not lying, I’m not putting on a false accent; and on top of that, my flow is there. I didn’t steal no-one’s style or trying to rap like someone else. My rhymes are on point – it’s something you need to listen to. I’ve got some of the best lyrics you’ll ever come across and it’s all original.”
Earlier this year, Pique released on promo his seven-track debut effort for Social Misfits Entertainment: ‘Shadows in the Darkness’. “The plan for my EP was just to get my name out there. It was so that when I drop the LP or a 12”, people won’t be like ’Who’s he? I’ve never heard of him!’,” PQ explains. “I was just itching to drop science. I had them rhymes at the ready and just said to Sir Prestige ‘gimme some beats’. I took the best beats from the ones that I heard, rapped over them, put the EP out and said ‘boy, people must take notice of something from this!’”
Despite a complimentary review of his EP in Hip Hop Connection, PQ is still very critical of his debut release. “In the beginning, I thought the EP was kinda average,” he admits. “But after a while, I could appreciate every tune. If you get the EP and listen to it, you can see that if someone owned the record they’d eventually like every tune for what it is. They’re not the best beats to go to them rhymes but they go to them in the way they need to – they still get the message across.”
Though some of the feedback on his EP has been mixed, PQ is un-phased by the variety of opinions that have been expressed. “The general response has been that a lot of people are feeling it and a lot of people that aren’t feeling it, aren’t feeling it because of the production. But then, others love the production. So I guess it shows that we’ve all got different opinions.”
Pique is grateful to Prestige for giving him the opportunity to display his lyrical skills, but PQ is also keen to spread his wings and work with other producers. However, like many other new acts, Pique has been frustrated by the lack of opportunities there are in the homegrown rap scene to develop his reputation. “Radios don’t really wanna play my EP,” he states. “I can understand that ‘cos every tune is not for everyone. But I would still say that if not every tune, most tunes on the EP are at least playable – especially when you hear what does get played.” He adds “ Some DJs don’t wanna play it cos they’ve got their own agenda; a lot of magazine people don’t wanna hear it; and certain people don’t wanna work with you cos you’re new – which I really don’t understand. I think I could have got a lot more exposure.”
So while he waits for certain people to come to their senses, PQ is concentrating on promoting himself through other means. “I got a little something from Hip Hop Connection and I’ve got something coming up with a next underground magazine. So things are working out now. But really, if it wasn’t for the Internet, the EP wouldn’t really have come across as it has. That’s where I had to start so that people could see that the record was out. Now, more people can hear it – I’ve got it on the Peoplesound web site.”
Now that Pique has started to get a piece of the spotlight, he is already planning his next move. “The EP was just there for you to absorb it. I just gave you the appetiser, but now I’ve got some hotter shit in the works waiting to come out,” he says. “I wanna save my LP for when people will appreciate it. I want people to go out and get it because they know it’s hot. So I’m thinking of dropping a 12” next.”
With a very promising future ahead of him, PQ is determined to leave his mark on British hip hip and earn the esteem of his peers. “Every true emcee just wants to see themselves recognised a one of the best emcees around, whether it’s in America, the UK, France, Japan, whatever,” he concludes. “That’s where I wanna see myself soon – getting the respect I deserve.”
‘Shadows in the Darkness’ EP is currently available on Social Misfits Entertainment.
PQ is also featured on the forthcoming ‘Sir Prestige presents… Social Misfits’ LP and at the end of May he will be performing at a show organised by the Big Smoke magazine.