By Setota Hailemariam
The name Mikael Temrowski is probably unfamiliar to the majority of the general public — but ask most college kids with Spotify accounts and ears for up-and-coming talent who Quinn XCII is and they’re likely to respond excitedly.
The 26-year-old singer/rapper/producer/all-around-boy-wonder hailing from Detroit has had a meteoric rise to fame in the last few years, 2018 in particular being very good to him. His unique brand of hip-hop and electronic-inspired music clearly resonated with fans all over the country, as his February debut record “The Story of Us,” has racked up millions of streams in the months since its release. In April, he was signed to Visionary Music Group, where’s he’s now labelmates with the likes of Logic and Jon Bellion.
All these are fairly good indicators that Quinn, whose stage name is an acronym standing for “Quit Unless your Instincts are Never Neglected” coupled with his birth year, 1992, is on the cusp of having a huge career breakthrough almost any day now. Before he skyrockets to the national stage, though, University of Maryland students were able to see him perform at Ritchie Coliseum on Nov. 2, as he brought his internet-acclaimed catalog to life.
The Writer’s Bloc caught up with Quinn before the show and heard his thoughts on making it as an artist and the intensely personal inspiration behind his work.
Setota: I was looking you up online and I saw you started making music while you were in college, actually, at Michigan State. Funnily enough, we’re playing them tomorrow [Nov. 3], I don’t know if you saw.
Quinn: Oh, are you? I didn’t even know that.
S: Yeah, I was going to ask if you were going to the game, is this just a coincidence, or –
Quinn: Shoot, I would’ve stayed! No, we have a show tomorrow in North Carolina. I would’ve stayed, I didn’t even realize. I have not been following the season very much lately, which is unfortunate.
S: I just wanted to ask, how do you think you first started to get buzz or get your name out there while you’re making music in college?
Quinn: Yeah, I mean I think it was a lot to do with … I was in a fraternity, so a lot of my friends actually, like that I was in with, just shared my music via word of mouth with other friends, and they were all from different parts of the United States, so like they would go home for Thanksgiving and be like, ‘Oh, listen to my friend, he’s making music,’ and then that person would tell another person and kinda just spread like that.
So it was super organic in that sense. I kept showing people it all the time and it just kinda spread throughout campus and then kinda from there, like, went more out of East Lansing, which Michigan State’s located [in], so it kinda spread around the entire state. And ayokay, my friend who I make music with, at the time was my sole producer, he went to Michigan. So he had friends also listening to it, so we got really noticed in both Michigan and Michigan State’s campuses, and then from there it just expanded naturally through blogs and stuff.
S: What advice would you give to other budding musicians who are in college but their real passion is music?
Quinn: So my parents, they knew I wanted to do music full time, but they also were like, ‘Ok, that’s amazing, but just get your degree first and then go after it,’ so I wouldn’t suggest dropping out of school because music’s so hit-or-miss and — not saying no one can do it, obviously — but it’s good to have a backup plan, so to speak, so I got my degree in advertising. So I would say just finish out your school but do it [music] on the side, because I feel like in college you have the most downtime as a student, like the least responsibility you’re gonna have in your whole life, probably.
S: I want to know how you define your sound, because people call you, you know, an electronic artist, a pop artist — what’s your personal definition?
Quinn: I don’t really know, honestly. I heard this fake genre called “melting pop” … like years ago. I call it pop music because it’s probably … the easiest way to describe it, but it’s just a melting pot of so many different influences and sounds. I guess a pop artist, on the surface that’s what it is, but it’s so deeper than that, I think. I just chalk it up as that just to save time … like Spotify has me as a pop artist but I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I mean it is what it is, it’s cool.
S: Who’s your dream artist to work with? I know you mentioned ayokay, you’ve done a lot of stuff with him — he’s actually coming to D.C. next week [Nov. 6].
Quinn: Yeah, yeah, where is he playing?
S: Songbyrd, it’s a cool venue.
Quinn: Yeah, his tour starts tonight, actually … I would say Michael Jackson, but obviously he passed away, but that was always my number one, he’s my favorite artist of all time, that was my dream collab. But I would love to work with Kid Cudi, or Twenty One Pilots. I don’t know, there’s so many, Third Eye Blind would be amazing, Jack Johnson would be really cool. I always answer this question with the same answer, I could just sit here and tell you people I want to work with, but those are a couple that come to mind often.
Quinn: Yeah, so the last album was the debut album, and it was sort of just like a autobiographical thing I did, because it was the first release on a big label, so I wanted to basically in like 10 songs tell people who I am and experiences I’ve gone through. So to answer your question, yes, I do write about personal experiences a lot, but also I don’t. I like to talk about things that I’ve seen people go through that I know, or step into people’s shoes, that maybe I haven’t gone through that experience but I can shed light on it, you know, use my platform for somebody who is going through something like that.
But with “Sad Still,” and this new album, actually, it’s a lot more deeper in terms of me and things that I’ve gone through negatively, like anxiety and mental health in general, and I think just the prevalence of that topic right now is really important, I think, to speak on. And again, having a platform as I do, that kind of influenced me to make music like that, topic-wise, but still doing it in a “Quinn” fashion, the way it sounds … it’s kinda like just a whole, again, melting pot of things I’ve seen or gone through.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Student Entertainment Events.
Setota Hailemariam is a junior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.