After meeting him selling his mixtape on Academic Row, I sat down with Arbutus-born rapper, Qualidee Spit Flame to talk about his career, influences and the controversy his music could start.
How long have you been rapping and how did you get started?
Since I was 14 and now I’m 28. That’s 14 years. I got started from a friend from Germany. He basically showed me the ropes making beats on FL Studio. He showed me what it is to make music, and I took off from there. I used to be in Arbutus and I used to make tracks for my local neighborhood just to bump to and they loved it.
Where did the idea for the name Qualidee Spit Flame come from?
Honestly, my first name was Little Glock. I was trying to keep up with all the thugs. I used to be living that thug life. I found out that, at the end of the day, the thug life isn’t where it’s at. So I changed my name to Qualidee because I want to give people that quality in my music — nobody gave me the name. And Spit Flame because that’s what I do. I’m a punchline, metaphorical artist.
If you had to, how would you describe your image? Is this how you want people to see you?
My image is wherever the wind blows. Meaning like, today I might rock some Chuck Taylor’s and say “fuck you.” Tomorrow, I might rock some casual dress clothes. However I’m feeling at that time is how I dress. My piercings are just me. It’s just like a hairstyle — you can’t explain a hairstyle; you just wanted it. So, my image is for anybody to take it however they want to take it. I want to display it so that if I walk into a crowd of 100 people, all 100 people there will remember me.
I met you selling mix-tapes on Academic Row. What is it like having to be outside everyday on the street, trying to get people that might not even like your type of music to buy your tape?
Basically you have to feel out the person first. You have to feel where they’re trying to go and what their situation is. You have to ask them, “what are you doing down here? What’s your name?,” and then present yourself. If you come up to somebody just about you, nobody is going to listen to you. People don’t want to listen to you if it’s not about them or it’s not about something they’re doing.
Can you outline your creative process? How do you form ideas and how do those ideas go from idea to beat to song to video and what happens in between?
Emotion. So basically, I could be in the studio right now, but it’s about what emotion am I feeling right now to get into the studio. Some artists, all they do is drop, drop, drop, drop, drop, but they talk about everything that everybody else is talking about. Me, I used to make music just to make songs, but it’s about more than just making songs. You gotta make memorable songs. Michael Jackson is dead, but are people still listening to Michael Jackson? Yes, because he made classics. I want to make classics. I want to make stuff with emotion and about stuff that I’m dealing with in my life so people can hear me now and in 10 years, they’ll still hear me.
So far you’ve spoken a lot about growth throughout your career. How has that affected you and your music?
I used to get bank down in Arbutus all the time. I used to sell drugs, I used to hustle weed, only weed. Weed is for the soul but some people still, they hate it. To me, I love it. But I can’t smoke it now because I’ve lived a life where I’m on probation now. The thing is, I’ve grown from that. Probation has helped me, but at the same time, you know, I have children and they are my outlook on life. Would I want my children getting high and coming home? No. Would I want my children doing what I used to do? No. Would I want my children where I am at in my life now? Yes, and I want to leave something for them so they don’t have to go through what I went through, and that motivates me to be the man I am today.
What would you consider the hottest album out right now?
Honestly, damn. That’s hard bro. I fuck with Joey Badass a lot, but I’m not saying that’s the hardest album. He’s doing it in a way where people can listen. At the same time, I’d have to say Kendrick Lamar, bro. Kendrick Lamar is that. You heard of Lucy? You know what Lucy stand for right? Lucifer.
What kind of content have you put out recently? Where can we find it? What do you have planned for the future?
Recently, I put out “Middle Cla$$ Celebrity.” Meaning that there is no middle class bro. You either broke or you’re rich. You think you’re middle class, but you’re not. You’re broke compared to the rich. I put that out because I want people to understand where the money and fame gets you and then when you don’t have the money and fame, where that gets you. I put it out because I’m a normal, ordinary, average guy trying to embrace life and chase his dreams. You can find it on payhip.com/qualidee or you can find it at Now and Then Music in East Drive, Arbutus. My next tape is called either “Aliens” or “Shadows and Dreams” and is set to drop at the end of Feb. or end of March.
You say that selling your mixtape on the streets is like selling drugs and you say you have experience with both. Can you elaborate on this?
Everybody wants it. Even though they don’t have it, they still want it. You talk to [someone] broke and he always has money for weed. If you’re a music junkie, you always have money for music. Straight up, it’s the same thing. If you relate the two, everybody listens to music, but does everybody smoke weed? No. So which one is making more money and which one is more powerful? Music. You have to look at it that way. It’s like drugs because it’s in every market, everybody does it and there’s no getting away from it. You flip on the radio station, it’s on. You turn on the TV, it’s on. Everywhere.
One of your songs is called Sharkeisha. What does Sharkeisha represent to you in this song?
First off, I’m not signed to a label. That’s the thing about marketing. What does your hoodie say? UMBC. Alright, what’s my video called? Sharkeisha. Who’s Sharkeisha? A girl who beat up another girl. How many views does she have? Millions. Millions. Why not make a song called Sharkeisha? Was I talking about a fight? No. I was using it as an analogy. To get more what? Views. Exactly.
Your music videos feature smoking, drinking, profanity and they negatively portray the police and generally rebel against authority. Do you think that this may put you in a negative light?
Your whole life you have been told to have authority over you. If you were here right now about to get killed the police ain’t here. You have to call them to do their job. They only come when you have some illegal substance on you or some bullshit, so fuck the police. They are not superman.
Do you think that it perpetuates negative stereotypes about African Americans?
To the older crowd yes. To the younger crowd, we grew up saying fuck the police. I didn’t like the police the first time I broke a bottle and they made me clean it up. I was going to clean it up anyway, but the way they made me do it was wrong. The police have too much authority. They feel as though you’re their slave. It breaks down a new world order. They chose their side and I chose my side, and when the war happens, it’s going to go down.