In the beginning she was Isis from X-Clan and The Black Watch Movement, now re-establishing herself as Lin Que, the last decade has seen Hip-Hops warrior princess evolve into an artist who has written and worked with MC Lyte, built her own production and advertising empire and appeared in Spike Lees He Got Game. Lady A.i. speaks with Lin Que on all things Hip-Hop.
Ai: Congratulations on the release of GODspeed, I just downloaded my copy from iTunes
LQ: Wow! The albums supposed to be dropping on the 30th September, but iTunes has a waiting period, so I wanted to make sure it was available on the release date, youre not the first person who got it early.
Ai: What was the inspiration behind GODspeed?
LQ: For me Godspeed means in Gods timing. This albums been a long time coming, I wanted to finally speak to the masses and say what my motto is: Hip-Hop saved my life and I wanna return the favour.
Ai: So whats been happening with Lin Que over the last decade or so?
LQ: Ive had like 3 major record deals, but only one album came out. I think it had a lot to do with the transformation that Hip-Hop was going through in the latter part of the nineties. I got caught up in that, so people didnt get to hear fully what Lin Que was about. So GODspeed is that, its a 360 of what I can do as an artist and my versatility.
Ai: To be honest I only really discovered Lin Que early last year through the Let it Fall video on YouTube
LQ: Yeah Ive been in the game for a while now, I tend to meet three types of Hip-Hoppers; those that know me as Isis from X-Clan, those that know me as Lin Que from the Let it Fall video and those that have never heard of me before and are like yo youre different so its all good, Im just happy now that people are seeing me finally as an artist in all of its senses.
Ai: I have to say from the perspective of a female MC, seeing you in the Let it Fall video, your strength, your style and seeing you doing it right, not misrepresenting yourself, thats an inspiration
LQ: Its been hard, because I love what I do so much and it feels like Im home when Im writing, at home, in the studio or on stage, but because I wouldnt compromise myself, I had to do without that for a while and it was excruciating. I sometimes feel I cant always give 100% because its almost like my 100% is way too much for the industry, now when I say the industry I dont mean the people that listen to Hip-Hop but the people that sell Hip-Hop.
Ai: Did anyone teach you to rap or did you just jump on it DIY style?
LQ: Rap is the kind of thing that just pulls you in. So, you sit there and listen, absorb the lyrics, memorise them and study the flows. Just listening to the artists I loved at the time, helped me learn how to rhyme.
Ai: So there wasnt anyone who took you under their wing to teach you how to rhyme, write songs and produce?
LQ: As far as learning the structure of a song I definitely learnt that through getting down with Professor X, X-Clan and the Black Watch Movement. I learnt what a song is about, you need a hook, 16bar verses and so on.
Ai: How did the X-Clan connection come about?
LQ: I actually started in the industry Pop-Locking which is a part of Breakdancing and I had a manager named Duane Hayward, he asked if I wanted to make records, cos at this point I was writing with a guy and our name was Rough & Rugged, Duane felt he couldnt take me any further and so he introduced me to Lumumba Professor X Carson R.I.P. When I met Professor X he asked me to rhyme for him, he liked my style and explained to me what they (The Blackwatch Movement) were about; teaching the black youth where their roots came from, that we come from Kings and Queens and we need to show some Black pride.
Ai: Why did you leave X-Clan and The Black Watch Movement?
LQ: It got to a point where I felt that I needed to move on. It was a movement first; the record deal was a secondary thing. The Black Watch Movement was about going to different states, to crack houses, telling them to take down the crack houses and marching. Im talking about Police in riot gear. I have a song Let Um Know (GODspeed) it talks about the whole experience. It was like freedom fighting, we were searched by male cops and it got to the point where it was too much for me when you go to war, the people you fight with become like family to you. The X-Clan and the Black Watch Movement is still a major part of my life, it created who I am today as a person and as an artist.
Ai: Was the name Isis given to you?
LQ: Yes, it was given to me by Professor X.
Ai: And then you changed to Lin Que
LQ: Yes, Lin Que is my birth name. A lot of people think its a tag name or a stage name. Its actually Chinese, my dad named me; hes Chinese-Trinidadian and my mom is Black.
Ai: Classic question: What is Hip-Hop to you?
LQ: Hip-Hop was something I could relate to. It wasnt just about being black; it was about being black, being young and being able to get out my house and see people that looked like LL Cool J, people that looked like Run DMC, so it made Hip-Hop tangible for me. It became my obsession.
Being black at that time, we were dealing with a lot of blatant racism. The only black representation we had on TV in the States was The Jeffersons and Good Times and here we had people that were coming up with innovative ways of working with music and creating an art form, it gave me pride in being black and being brought up in the inner city, being part of something that we could see was something huge, an alternative to gangs and crazy stuff. It went from negative competitiveness to healthy competition.
Ai: Nowadays I find a lot of style over substance in Rap, whats your view?
LQ: Its because Rap music has made it to such a commercialised status, that a lot of what is out there is one style, whether it be flash, Im getting paid, cars, jewels its all about the money. Rather than someone telling me whats really going on.
Ai: I have to say when it comes to the youngsters wanting to emulate the rap stars and make money can you really blame them? After all, the majority come from poor inner city backgrounds
LQ: I dont see it as money is the root of all evil, theres nothing wrong with money, its jus allowing it to rule you and putting it first is where the problem comes.
Lets say I was born on this planet today and everything was fresh and new to me, how I would see Hip-Hop is: women are only used for sex, get this money no matter how, drink alcohol to the point where youre drunk all the time and do drugs
Everyones entitled to the American Dream, but whats not good is that people are respected for having money and people are not concerned with how theyre getting it. It subliminally plants in the heads of the young that its ok to disrespect women, go after money, fight etc and thats all there is to life.
I mean we have our Talibs, the Outkasts, The Roots but these groups are not making the same money as the people that are talking bout flash & money etc. So were completely saturated with one type of thing. This makes the young think this is the route I have to go to make money the balance is missing.
They dont have the coverage, exposure, the big record budgets they should have, so people are not seeing the other side. When I was younger we had everything, we could listen to Gangster, NWA, Public Enemy, Salt n Pepa, Native Tongues, Too Live Crew, Luke Skywalker, Jazz, we had all these different facets. This is missing today and it gives people the illusion that thats all there is.
Ai: Then theres the whole vocal/verbal style where you have the Dirty South for example being imitated by New Yorkers! Whats that about?
LQ: I definitely agree with that.
Ai: New York is where it was for Hip-Hop where does it stand now?
LQ: As far as New York especially being the birthplace of Hip-Hop its almost like the death of Hip-Hop here now, money takes precedence.
Ai: How do you define a true MC and what for you makes a good MC?
LQ: First and foremost a true MC writes their rhymes. Second an MC is a person that reaches deep within their soul, through the crap and whatever experience has tainted them and thats a very painful process. It takes a lot of courage to reach into ones soul and see whats there; and then to be able to put it in a way that makes it communicative to the masses, I think thats brilliant!
Ai: Its also brave, cos not many people can bare their souls to the world, especially on the underground where youre not necessarily going to get the money and the fame
LQ: Right! Its so important and thats what I love about Hip-Hop is that people get to speak whatever is going on within them and it doesnt matter where theyre coming from or what part of the block theyre from as long as theyre coming and reaching into their souls.
For some people their thing is to make people laugh or tell stories like a Slick Rick, or to speak Black Power like a Public Enemy and X-Clan or to talk about the grind of the street like a Kool G Rap. We had so many types of rap and each type had such beauty within itself. When someone can paint a vivid picture of what their going through using words, I think thats incredible.
Ai: You were saying that a true MC writes their own lyrics, my question therefore would be: Should an MC, MC if they cant write their own lyrics, cos surely Hip-Hop equals self expression?
LQ: In my eyes, if you dont write your own lyrics youre not an MC, youre a rapper. At one point rapping and MC’ing was the same thing. But when Hip-Hop hit a Multi-Platinum status in the industry, Hip-Hop went into two different places. Hip-Hop is about the culture and MCing is about reaching into your heart and souls and spitting out some shit. Rapping is about lets make this money. Theres nothing wrong with that if thats what youre about, but what bothers me these days is that a lot people dont know the difference, they think a lot of these rappers are Hip-Hop lyricists and theyre not.
Ai: Would you define MC Lyte as a Rapper or an MC?
LQ: An MC.
Ai: You write for her?
LQ: I wrote for her once, I did a song called Hardcopy on Aint No Other. But she still writes her rhymes though.
Ai: Why is it so hard for a female MC to make it on her terms as opposed to the industries terms?
LQ: I think its just the sexism that exists on this planet; Hip-Hop is just one facet of that. If sexism is in religion its gonna exist everywhere. I was blessed to be born into a family with three brothers so I already knew how to deal with the brothers and get my respect even if I had to take it.
Ai: Any words of wisdom for the female MCs?
LQ: Its so important for a female MC to believe in themselves, because were in an industry that will tell you that you have to fit into a certain box in order to be marketable. And that box is whatever will appease people and that basically is sex, females sell through sex period. Trying to fit in that box, you can lose your self and your soul.
In my experience you have to hold steadfast to who you are, know who you are and be true to who you are as an artist.
I believe in elevating and being risky GODspeed is risky.
A female is going to get to a point where she will have to ask herself, am I an artist or an entertainer? There are artists that can entertain you, but an entertainer is trying to just get that money, be popular and have fame and fortune. Its important to know your place and stay in your lane.
Ai: Is Duke Da Moon still going? (Duke Da Moon is a production company started by Lin Que with MC Lyte)
LQ: Actually its not, after Duke Da Moon me and Lyte had a company called Ace Entertainment. After I moved from Elektra Records (Let it Fall) I got discouraged with Hip-Hop, so I had to figure what I wanted to do as an artist so Ive created an advertising firm with Barb Sherin, its my way of being creative and also making money. My company QueBinc is the vehicle that allows me to get back out to the masses and do things myself without the industry telling me what a single is or what I should rhyme about or if I should have on some pum-pum shorts!
Ai: How much do you know about UK Hip-Hop?
LQ: I love it over there. I went to the UK when I was touring. Yall knew about the roots of Hip-Hop, you know how refreshing that is? To go to another culture and the people there know about the roots of your culture.
I have so much respect for yall, that you do your homework. Its easy for me to know the roots of Hip-Hop cos I live here, theres younger cats here that are yet to do what you do and they live here!
Ai: Are you coming over anytime soon?
LQ: Yeah, Im trying to set up a tour right now; I wanna get over there as soon as possible.
Ai: If you could write a book, what would be its concept?
LQ: It would be based around the same thing I do with my music. Transforming souls and truly being awake on this planet, being conscious. There is a way to follow this path where one can know ones self and through one knowing ones self one can know every other person on this planet cos to me were all one anyway and to be able to get this point across while the masses are not really knowing their learning anything thats where the brilliance comes in!
Ai: Any other upcoming projects?
LQ: The Womb – its a group of pioneers of Hip-Hop including Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, Rodney C (Double Trouble) Mighty Mike C, LA Sunshine (Treacherous Three) we travel the college and high school circuit and talk about real Hip-Hop in a way that it has never been spoken about before.