Growing up in Bernal Heights and Noe Valley, J. Quest was exposed to hip hop’s elements of graffiti, breakdancing, dj-ing, and emceeing all around him. A true 90s kid, it is evident that J. Quest’s style is very much 80s and 90s, classic hip hop/rap influenced. Although he loved hip hop culture from a young age, it wasn’t until he moved to Honolulu, HI at age 16, that he began to participate more heavily as an emcee. “Living in the Kaneohe and Manoa areas, really shaped my use of *pidgin in my raps and honestly gave me a deep sense of my Asian roots & local culture that I present today in my music,” said J. Quest.
While in Hawaii, he connected with a long time family friend named DJ Kutmaster Spaz. “The first time I ever got on the mic in Hawaii was back in 2002/2003, at Kutmaster Spaz's album release party, and there was an MC battle for a cash prize at the Pali Golf Course, said J. Quest. He also states that he used to catch rides sometimes with Hawaii Hip Hop OG Big Mox, who at the time ran street cyphers under the freeway (in the parking lot near the infamous Ice Palace skating rink). J. Quest also mentioned how he used to call-in to Jus Bone’s “Got Rice?” show on KTUH radio. Furthermore, he met longtime Hawaii entertainer Lina Girl, while taking classes at the University of Hawaii Windward campus who then gave him a contact to record some of his first demos. He stated, “San Francisco gave me that ‘blue collar meets the streets vibe’ but if it wasn't for moving to Hawaii as a teen, I might have been yet another statistic shot down or crippled or locked up for keeping up and trying to ‘keep it real.’”
I recently wrote a track-by-track review of J. Quest most recent EP Son of a City Worker, which was released in 2016. While I believe his overall flow and delivery can be improved, J. Quest’s songs and lyrics definitely showcase the mind of a grown man, in tune with his various identities. One of the songs from Son of a City Worker is called “Hapa Boy,” inspired from the term *hapa, which in Hawaiian generally refers to being mixed. The song speaks on the struggles and strengths J. Quest has experienced, and how he uses music to express and share his identity. “I am a hapa boy, Chinese /Portuguese on my mom's side & Croation on my dad’s,” said J. Quest. Unfortunately, his parents separated when he was 9, but gained a father figure when his biological one wasn't around. He stated, “My father figure is a big Hawaiian growing up in San Francisco and my mom and I eventually moved to Hawaiian our own. So Hawaii’s unique local culture has always played a big part in my life even before I moved to the islands- from speaking pidgin, to my taste for food, and taking off my sneakers before coming in the house, very Asian and Hawaiian influenced like Hawaii’s culture is.”
Photo Credits: Young Dedicated Proper (YDP)
Independent music blog based in Honolulu, HI. Hotsted by artist/rapper Jehzan Exclusive.