Image via Chrisma Richardson

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Donald Morrison doesn’t skip the Entourage theme song in his house.

There’s a cold vein of cruelty and violence running through Young Quez’s music. His villainous persona is a feature not a bug, as the young artist originally started rapping as a way to humiliate high school foes via hyper-specific diss records. Quez says he’s still dealing with beef stemming from music he made and uploaded to YouTube nearly a decade ago. These days he avoids name-dropping, but hasn’t lost the ability to paint an authentic picture of a man seemingly at war with everyone.

Quez comes from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, a city of just over 40,000 about 45 minutes outside of Little Rock. Census data from 2021 shows that it saw a 12.5 percent population decline between 2010 and 2020, the largest percentage drop of any metro area in the entire country in that time frame. A state representative told the New York Times that Pine Bluff is suffering from a dearth of agricultural and manufacturing jobs, a crumbling education system and a startlingly high murder rate, with the likelihood of a homicide in Pine Bluff being seven times more than the national average. Local news recently reported that half the murder victims in Pine Bluff this year are under the age of 18.

Quez’ perspective is that of a man who’s been dragged through the mud, excavating a psyche wracked with PTSD. He has the raspy fury of Lil Boosie and assertiveness of a young Kevin Gates, building his latest album around themes of street authenticity, loyalty, and revenge. The beats are dark and somewhat unrelenting, a moody soundscape that matches Quez’ bleak outlook on the future of his community and those around him.

“My City” is a standout from Quez’ latest release, Still The Realist, finding him claiming his territory all the way from Olive to Blake Street. The album sees Quez burrowing deeper into the street rap he’s known for and experimenting with sung raps on the somber “Night with Dmack.” The 16-track album is a great collection of loosies that Quez says he picked out of a folder with more than 100 songs. I spoke with him in August ahead of the album’s release about making diss records in high school, not listening to other rappers music and how Pine Bluff shaped him into the man he is today.

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