“Sitting at home / trying to figure out what to do with all of these emotions / cause I’m alone going through the motions,” are the opening bars to Self Care a nine-song, 34-minute hip-hop / rap album Josué “JQ” Quiñones recently released. From when I met JQ at my LB’s birthday bash and up until now he’s been a rap enthusiast and dabbler. He had created a couple of tracks here and there and we even had a cypher in my old apartment in Bergen, NJ. Yet, I don’t think I saw his vision to be a rapper. So much so when he excitedly said, “I’m working on a project,” I imagined it would be more on the lines of Success is a Lifestyle paraphernalia like the shirts, sweaters, and hats he already sells. Nope. It was Self Care—JQ’s journey of dealing and overcoming self-doubt by creating music.
Once Self Care dropped I purchased my copy. However, I didn’t have any initial expectations. Would the tracks be filled with Eminem lyricism? Righteous like that, “I paid Sallie Mae Back” rapper? Possibly, none of the above and etched in JQ’s own originality. But once I put my feet to the pavement to do a Chicago Marathon training run, I listened to Self Care from 14th Street to somewhere in Central Park, and then I texted JQ, “You should be proud.”
None of the beats from the snares in the intro track “Self Care pt. 1” by Flashbeats to the last track, “Self Care pt. 2” produced by Young N Fly out do JQ’s raps and overall message. In my favorite track “Wishin,” JQ’s voice and craft are potent here. He raps, I don’t want to be the guy / that says “he always saw it / but never lived it / said, “he always had that fire,”/ but never lit it. Those bars struck a chord with me. They’re relevant to me. How many times have my own ideas died once the excitement fizzled out?
Self Care is definitely a journey from JQ not letting his lesser thoughts get in the way of his better talents. Each track is like a 9-step program of recovery that can be summed up in JQ’s own words, “Everyone one of us travels with baggage / some of us never check it / that can turn out to be tragic / now in flight / you trying to fight / but frozen from all the damage / I pray one day you get saved eliminate your pain through passion. Those raps are from, “Passion Painful Purpose” a good track that could’ve been greater. JQ raps, “Recounting stories about how my Momma gave me my name,” and I’m thinking, he’s gonna reveal one story. But that doesn’t happen. Nor do listeners learn the meaning of his name. Ironically, this is the same track he raps, “Not everyone is gonna like what you put out but keep working.” So, true.
I know the passion and I witness the purpose but what about the pain? What led JQ to try to be perfect? What led him to believe his work ethic didn’t already set a standard for his peers or himself? Maybe the details are crazy and they’re too much to share. Maybe he hasn’t fully explored it. Self Care could be JQ just getting started and more of the pain led passion will show up in later projects. But for sure the talent and work ethic are there in Self Care and it’s an album that will be in my workout rotation for a while. And more importantly, I take careful note of what I need to do in order to show and take care of myself.
Rashaun J. Allen(@rashaunjallen) holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from SUNY Stony Brook and is the first Fulbright scholar in the program’s history. He has independently published poetry chapbooks: A Walk Through Brooklyn & In The Moment. He has been published in TSR: The Southampton Review, Tishman Review, Rigorous, Auburn Avenue, Poui and Fourth Genre. When not writing he runs for the thrill of crossing the finish line. Find more of his work at www.rashaunjallen.com.