Last week the Down to the Beat gents sat down with the legendary Papa Quest and chopped it up about the Ottawa talent pool, the culture and his personal philosophies. A pioneer within the Ottawa music scene, Quest’s career has spanned over 20 years which allows him to play a grandfather role among the city’s many up and coming artists.
Quest is shepherding a new group of talented people working to overcome a traditionally non-collaborative creative scene. In the interview he reflects on the reputation the city’s music scene has garnered, echoing sentiments expressed by Ottawa moguls like City Fidelia and Night Lovell.
“The biggest problem with Ottawa music before was that everyone was in competition, but an ugly competition. Not a good competition.” He said.
His mission has been to change that. Helping new artists with diverse sounds come up through his newest project, Dreamland Sessions, is just one of the many ways Quest advances the culture in the nation’s capital.
To him the culture is all encompassing, bridging the gaps between different mediums. It includes graffiti, singing, podcasting, producing, videography and anything in between that can help advance the creative field he is so deeply involved in.
Quest grew up in what he calls the “golden age” of hip-hop, of culture. His idols DJ Premier, Havoc and the RZA influenced his philosophies to this day. Quest moves through life like a guru, offering wisdom and a calming presence in an industry that tends to be turbulent.
“As a producer, you need to be a good listener,” he says. In the interview, he describes the process of getting a feel for the artists that feature on Dreamland Sessions, talking through the vibes and energy that will eventually flow out into the booth. For him, being a good listener and interpolating the energy around him extends well beyond music.
Quest believes in karma -- getting back what you put into life. This is a driving ideology for him in all aspects of life, influencing his work ethic and his collaborative efforts, which are intense. A wallflower since grade school and a self-proclaimed geek, he prides himself on his observant characteristics and his strategic mentality, but he makes sure to balance that with passion and joie de vivre.
Mixing up his projects and lending his mind to newer and increasingly creative ventures, Quest pursues everything he does with that passion. No project he touches remains unfinished and every song, album or beat becomes personal to him.
Quest’s core mission from the beginning has been to leave a lasting legacy behind him and to inspire a city to keep evolving and creating. For a man whose influence is ubiquitous among the upstarts and the big shots alike, he seems well on his way.
John Balser & Colman Brown