Above: 2RQ at a 2016 show; middle image [COURTESY]

As a little kid, 2RQ, real name Quin Norwood, never let anyone know he could rap.  He would freestyle in his room or with brother Damon Jones.  Norwood got good, by listening and reading Source Magazine and album inserts, noting all of the how to’s and how come’s of an artist’s process.

Study helped him specify, like differentiating between East Coast Rap, his favorite, and West Coast Rap, Jones’ preference; the brothers introduced each other to their favorite artists.  Both genres were played in heavy rotation.  Yo MTV Raps! was on TV everyday by then, so the show got swallowed whole.

The well-read, well-practiced Norwood joined up with friend Ryan Dillworth, who had never rapped before.  The two were asked to display talent outside of the school choir so Norwood put Ryan through a month-long rap boot camp.  For the first week, Dillworth watched Norwood and Jones practice; Norwood made him rap the second.  “I told him whatever comes out of your mind in a rhyme just say it. It doesn’t matter if it’s corny.” 

Dillworth picked it up quickly and naturally.  After learning to rap, writing was next, and after that, performing together as a unit.  The first show for either artist was their first show together, at their eighth grade Village Woods Grade School dance.

They performed as 2RQ, a name formed using their first names. Originally the second ‘R’ belonged to another friend, Robert, who stuck to the beats when Norwood and Dillworth became “too lyrically advanced” for him.  The polished 2RQ was encouraged after the show because they sounded professional.  Their next big show was South Side’s talent Fest their freshmen year; they didn’t win but “we got that respect,” Norwood said, and “it started to follow us so everywhere we rocked.” They won their next talent show.

This was around the time that Ryan Dillworth passed away in 1997.  2RQ then “became to Ryan from Quin because everything I do is for him.”  Fans asked if he would continue and he did, with friends Whitney and Justin for some shows, with friend Sherrie for some more.  It was always in a team, there was always a hype man or another MC.

Roughly around 2002, LL Cool J came to Piere’s Entertainment Center in Fort Wayne and killed it with a mic in his hand and a deejay behind.  The one-man show inspired Norwood to do it himself; he vowed to become a solo act without the safety net of a wingman on stage.  That meant more study, analyzing solo acts like KRS-One, noting how they carried a crowd.  “It’s levels to being a student.  It never ends when it’s your craft,” he said. He took a year off from serious rapping to learn music production; he learned beat making from DJ Eclipse.

Norwood has always loved digging through music crates, finding the gold.  He had to dig when he studied those album inserts, sought out random quotes from artists.  Reading is not instant gratification, and neither is digging through a box of dusty, old albums.  Norwood takes a similar approach with today’s music, today’s rap; the good stuff isn’t on the radio. “Everything you hear on the radio sounds like the last person. If you want something different you have to dig…it feels like [the different] is underground. I like that.”  Crate digger loves to dig.  “I like to find new, inspiring, breath-of-fresh-air music.”

The artist who reads magazine articles to procure wisdom and seeks out inspiration, on their own volition, is going to form their own voice.  2RQ defined his style as “very stand-out-ish,” an unexpected flow that you don’t expect coming out of the Midwest and the Fort Wayne area.  “That is what made me different than everybody else,” Norwood said.  “I’m being authentic to myself.  Straight me.”

Norwood described his own style as something beyond his zip code.  So it’s probably not a coincidence that, in addition to collaborating with local artists, he has sought partnerships with national artists, asking a big name or twenty to contribute a verse to his latest track.  “I was talking to one of my friends about this.  People don’t realize how easy it is to contact national artists.

It’s 2018; most artists post their email, or some other form of electronic contact, on their Instagram page, which is Norwood’s most used communiqué.  Most artists will negotiate on the price for a verse if they like your music, coming down, sometimes half the price or more, from a flat rate.  Norwood has negotiated a $1600 verse down to $800.

It will be 2019. 2RQ, having worked with local artists Nolan, AMFJ, T-Zank, DJ Polaris, Jason Miller, Fatima Washington, and J Tubbs, will record something, for the first time, with artist Sankofa for his next album.  Having worked with national artists Micky Factz, Sadat X of the group Brand Nubian, has a joint with Future coming out soon.

The new album “Finally Understanding Nothing,” with the acronym F.U.N., will be released at the beginning of the year.  Two months away. 

Fort Wayne Hip-Hop: From the Root to the Fruit is a continuation of a documentary project started with Frost Illustrated Newspaper. All rights reserved William Bryant Rozier. Logo design by Eric Stine.