A Summerfest night that will live in infamy will be the one of Tuesday, July 5th. With a crowd backed up to the lakefront, Wiz Khalifa brought all the crazy out. Girls dressed in tiny dresses and stilettos, standing on metal benches asking for concussions after an unfortunate slip and fall, ‘taylor gang or die’ shirts, camouflage shorts and lamppost-climbing-superfans looking to cause some trouble. Wiz Khalifa also brought out an antsy crowd ready to be entertained— and entertained they were, by a tall and charismatic rapper by the moniker Que Billah. The Chicago native shared some insight into his writing habits, name origin and future goals with Stork Music, and we’re happy to share those all with you.
Summerfest, Harley Davidson Stage
S: We know Que Billah isn’t your real name, where did you get it?
Que: In Chicago, a lot of people get the nickname, “illah”, for some reason, dillah, sillah, I got a friend named E Sillah. When I was in college I had like a million different rap names. And what I found out is, you can call yourself anything, but nobody is gonna call you that. You got to go with the name that people call you. This was back in my pubescent years when I wanted to be in the Wu-Tang and shit. So I just called myself Trigonometry. How cool is that? Not cool at all. One of my friends just started calling me Que Billah and everyone just started calling me that, it stuck with me. One of my other friends came up with acronym for it, it stands for Basically Invisioning Life Lyrically Always Hilarious. So my earliest songs I was trying to make people laugh with my raps or whatever. Since then I’ve gotten a little more serious, I still talk shit though, I got a song called ‘Head in the Whip, While the Chick Driving.’ Yeah, so people just started calling me that, and so then my guys made up an acronym for it, it stuck with me.
S: Do people often say it wrong? Because it could be pronounced “Kay” sometimes in Spanish.
Que: Man, I got a dude, that owns this store. Its a real nice store, in Chicago, called Leaders. They have all the best shit, all this exclusive shit. And me and the dude are real cool. And he always calls me ‘Kay’ Billah. And for the past two weeks I’ve been going there, and I’m like, man, I kinda of feel like a punk because I haven’t corrected him and shit. So that’s the first thing I’m gonna do when I get back to Chicago. I’m gonna go into Leaders and correct Corey. I try to say my name in front of him as much as possible. You know, so we won’t have to have an awkward conversation.
R: That’s how we found out too. We said ‘kay’ also until we heard it in your songs.
O: So, Head in the Whip While the Chick was Driving, where did you think of that song?
Que: Man, a lot of my songs man, I’m the type of person where I never give up on songs. That started out as a freestyle, there is just a beat, and I was like, “Man, I’ve done some things that have seemed surprising, I got head in the whip while the chick was driving.” And all my friends were cracking up. So I took that line and put it in a verse. So then, it went from a verse, I made a whole song about it. Then, it went from a song, to like, a remix. And I like changed different beats every year. So I just did different versions of it every year, I used to start off my show with that. That’s a great ice breaker, it’s like, you come see somebody you never seen them before, and they tell you they got head in the whip while the chick was driving. Now you want to hear everything they have to say. So I changed it up every year. This year, I recently retired it, because I’ve been doing it for at least five years. And I recently retired it, because I changed my content a little bit. I don’t really talk as vulgar as I used to. So, I retired it, but I felt good, I opened up for Wu-Tang and shit. That was the first show I did in five years without doing ‘Head in the Whip.’
O: So you’re not doing it today?
Que: Nah, I’m not doing it today. I didn’t need it though. I always felt I needed it. As an artist, you can become a slave to your own ideas. Sometimes you’ve just got to break free.
R: How would you say your style has developed over the past few years?
Que: Well, I’ve grown more mature. Y’all ever heard what a busdown and jumpoff is? A busdown and jumpoff is a really promiscuous woman. If you call a woman that in Chicago, it is super duper disrespectful. Right, so I used to have this song, I think this was the song, people loved the most, out of any song I’ve ever done, called Quick to Busdown. Its just a mixtape song, a few years ago, Lil Jon did a record with Nas and the Bravehearts and it was like, “I know your type, I know your kind, you’re quick to back down!” So I flipped it, and I was saying, “quick to busdown!” And everybody loved it, and it got to the point where I was like, man, I’m tired of disrespecting women in my lyrics. So, I stopped doing the song. And then people got mad when I stopped doing it. Even girls got mad. I’m like, damn, what the fuck. I’m trying to do right, I’m growing up, I got a nephew who is ten years old, one day he asked me what a busdown was. Stuff like that makes you think. Luckily, I don’t have any kids, otherwise I’d be on Yo Gabba Gabba right now. But you know I still got some street in me. But, I’m maturing. I’ve gone from talking about bussing down, to talking about love. I actually have love songs now. I never thought that I would actually do that. I’ve grown, I’ve been through stuff, in relationships, just going through crazy stuff. Its always good when you can write about your life. It’s interesting.
R: What kind of music do you personally listen to?
Que: Mostly hip hop, indie hip hop. But I listen to a lot of Bob Marley. I listen to this group out of Chicago called Hey Champ. I listen to a little of Coldplay. I listen to a lot of old stuff, like Red Hot Chili Peppers. I used to mess with Portishead, a girl I was dating put me on to that. I just opened up for a group called J Davey, real dope, out of California. It’s a guy, he is a producer, and a girl who is the singer.
O: What hip hop artists have inspired you?
Que: Redman, my favorite rapper. Redman, Common, Busta Rhymes. I’m a big Busta Rhymes fan, because my strength and my passion in life is performing. If I couldn’t perform, I wouldn’t even rap. I haven’t had a show with my band, in like two months. And we rehearsed last week, and I was like damn, I wish we rehearsed every day. They’re crazy, man. So, I like Wu-Tang. And I’m from the golden era. I’m from the 90s. That’s when I was a kid. Those are the artists that influenced me. Now though, Lupe and Kanye, I think Kanye is the greatest rapper right now. If he keeps going the way he is going, he might end up being the best of all time (we don’t think he meant to, but nice word choice). A lot of people in Chicago don’t like him though, because they’re jealous of him. But, I think Kanye is dope. The funny thing is, I don’t know Kanye at all, but I met him 1998, and I could tell he was going to be somebody.
R: What got you started with rapping?
Que: I wrote my first rap in the fifth grade. I still remember it, but it’s corny, so ain’t gonna rap it to you. I had a teacher, my favorite teacher, she was really into animals, and she was a science teacher. So we all had projects to do, a presentation on a certain animal. Mine was the king vulture. So I wrote a rap. My other friends wrote raps to theirs, but all their raps sucked. When I did my rap, my teacher was like, so impressed. Like, she stopped me later and asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I was like “I wanna be in the NBA!” When I was in fifth grade I was 5’6″. And she was like, “I have a better plan for you,” One of my classmates died last year, so I had to call her, and I hadn’t talked to her since like eighth grade. And I told her what I was doing, and she was like, “I can totally see that. I knew that you would be an entertainer.” Even more than rapping, I like entertaining. So, it’s just like, that moment inspired me to keep at it. Along the way, I got more serious about it through other events. I had a friend, one of my best friends, she is a female. When we were freshmen in high school, she was in a talent show, and she wrote a rap. It was real cold, man, and I saw her on stage and it inspired me. That was the only time she ever rapped and shit though. I like to be on stage, it really helps me.
S: What are your song writing habits?
Que: Man, I’m glad we’re talking about that because I just changed my whole formula. I used to be the type of person who would take from an hour to three months to write a song. Now, I just go into the booth, and do it all off the top of my head. Its less pressure, you don’t second guess yourself. What I do is, I go in, turn a beat on, vibe to it, might be a hook already, if not I make the hook, as soon as I get for the first four bars, I go in and record it. Then I stay in the booth, and add lines until it becomes a verse. I find it works better, instead of three songs in a week or month, it becomes three songs in a day. And you vibe to the beat better, you find the pocket and stay there.
O: So you’re from Chicago, so are you a Cubs or White Sox fan?
Que: Man, I don’t even like baseball. I hate baseball, it’s boring. Like, I don’t understand why people can watch it for like six hours and shit.
R: What sports do you like?
Que: Basketball, of course. I don’t dislike football, but I’m no football guy though. I’m just a basketball dude.
S: What are your goals for the future?
Que: World domination. World peace. To be honest, I want to do a lot of stuff. Realistically, I have to narrow it down. I have to aim at something. In the near future, I want to put out two mixtapes this summer. And I’m trying to shoot a video for every song in both mixtapes. That’s gonna be like 40 videos in one summer, that might not happen. But at least ten of them will happen. What I also want to do is I want to tour. I have performed in every venue in Chicago, with everybody. Anytime anyone big comes from out of town, I open up for them. But I need to get on the road. I just want to tour. But that’s my main goal. I don’t need a Bentley, or a fucking house with 100 acres and shit. I just really want to tour for the rest of my life.
R: Speaking of videos, how was shooting “Fresh Air Syndrome”?
Que: That was crazy, because I thought that was going to be easier than shooting a regular video…So not easier. It was two times harder, but it was cool. The guys that directed it, we came up with the idea together. I didn’t even know that the pictures were going to be moving. He was trying to explain to me what he was doing, and I was like, “You’re speaking Greek to me.” It just so happened it turned out super duper dope. I’ve been working a project that’ll come out in August, called “A Thousand Words,” because a picture is worth a thousand words. So every video would be kind of similar to that. So, that was cool, kind of groundbreaking. I don’t think we got enough views on the shit, we gotta get that on World Star or something.
S: I think we’re done.
R: NO. I wanna ask that. Because we’re Stork Music, if a stork could deliver you one thing, what would it be?
Que: One thing, if I could have a stork deliver me one thing, it would deliver me a bag…full of more storks that could deliver me 100 more things.