What do Four Loko, the Notorious B.I.G. and porn star Roxy Reynolds all have in common? They’re all influences credited by Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire, the Crown Heights rapper who has rap critics and bloggers from all corners of the Web saluting his eclectic and eccentric take on East Coast rap. “I don’t believe in fitting in,” says eXquire. “I believe in standing out.” It’s precisely this ideology that has garnered eXquire so much buzz in the past few months.
Growing up in Brooklyn, eXquire idolized Biggie, whom he calls “the first rapper I was obsessed with,” and Cam’ron, whose Confessions Of Fire was the first CD he ever bought. He’s planned on being a rapper since he was 12, and when CMJ asks him what he would be doing if he weren’t rapping, he’s stumped. “I never even considered doing anything else,” he says.
Now 26, eXquire has his writing style down pat. “I write shit one time,” he says. “I don’t erase, I don’t do any of that shit.” He favors action over calculation. “Music is expression. You don’t calculate when you cry, right? It’s not like, ‘Yo I’m gonna drop this tear out my left eye.’ It’s like, ‘All right, I feel this way, let’s go.’”
His breakout mixtape Lost In Translation, released for free in September, is a wildly adventurous collection of gritty beats, from the likes of El-P, Necro and others, laced with eXquire’s alternately inspired and demented rhymes. Over the course of 18 tracks, eXquire demonstrates an impressive range of storytelling as well. There’s a wealth of action-packed fun to be found in his songs like “Chicken Spot Rock,” the chronicles of late-night trips to an off-brand fried chicken spot, and the absurdly imaginative narrative of “Maltese Falcon Pt. 1 And Pt. 2,” in which our hero meets director John Wu and travels through a time warp in pursuit of a marble sculpture that doubles as the key to a secret treasure. But there are also moments of emotional fragility and insight, as on the reminiscent memory lane session of “I Should Be Sleepin’”, the grimly revealing “Nuthin’ Even Matters” and the lovesick pleas of “Lovesponge,” on which eXquire flexes his melodic sing-song abilities.
Although eXquire has been recording and performing music for years, his big break came when Danny Brown Tweeted about his homemade video for the Lost In Translation track “Huzzah” and the view count rapidly jumped from 5,000 to upward of 70,000. As the buzz was accumulating for “Huzzah,” eXquire wrote to the Brooklyn-based clothing brand and music source Mishka to ask if it would be interested in sponsoring his mixtape. A few weeks later Lost In Translation hit the Web from Mishka’s Bandcamp .
The ensuing video for the “Huzzah” remix, featuring Das Racist, Despot, Danny Brown and El-P, garnered even more attention when it was featured on Pitchfork and Stereogum. eXquire, however, is hardly fazed by the video’s success. “It doesn’t mean anything” he says. “I love being acknowledged for my work, but it doesn’t really matter the platform or who it is that’s acknowledging it.” He’s more concerned with what comes next. “With rap music, you gotta remember that everyone has the memory of a goldfish, so you gotta realize it’s never about what you did, it’s about what you’re about to do.”
This is true now more than ever, in a musical climate where, as eXquire tells it, rappers get “chewed up and spit out” by the internet with unforgiving rapidity. eXquire says he has a few tricks up his sleeve to keep from becoming another victim of the hype machine, but he declined to elaborate. However, fans can look forward to a new video as early as next week, and a new mixtape with his four-man Peel Off crew, including rappers featured on Lost In Translation, set for Christmas.
Although Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire may “fit in” with today’s rap landscape, saying that he exists “in [his] own bubble,” he’s far from unreachable. eXquire keeps his phone number posted to his blog, inviting fans, journalists, hopeful collaborators and anyone else to connect with him. “Making music is really a spiritual journey,” he says, “Believe it or not, it really is.”
Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire plays Santos Party House as part of the True Till Def showcase on Saturday, October 22.