It's not an easy road to stardom in the rap industry. You have to constantly work on your craft and consistently drop new material despite facing setbacks. No one knows that better than the artist formerly known as QuESt, Sylvan LaCue. He started his career in 2009, but it was slow start for him. For most rappers, the struggle helps fuel their drive and keeps them motivated; for Sylvan, the struggle almost derailed him.
The Miami native managed to preserve with the help of Visionary Music Group and, most importantly, his faith in God. Sylvan released the critically acclaimed Searching Sylvan under VMG, but left in 2014 to focus on his own brand and to form his WiseUP collective.
As he gears up to drop his latest mixtape Far From Familiar, Sylvan chopped it up with HypeFresh's Jesse Lyles about how he overcame the low points of his career, his relationship with Logic and VMG, Miami's music scene, and embracing himself.
You recently changed your stage name from QuESt to your government name. Why did you decide to make the change? Is it a sign of a transformation period in your career or a fresh new start?
SL: I guess kind of a little bit of both. Changing my name to Sylvan LaCue was a natural thing for me. In 2015, I was taking some time off to kind of work on new music and really explore who I was as a person. And things got to the point where I felt Sylvan LaCue, using my government name, was the natural transition for me. QuESt was becoming more of this idea that I was trying to become and chase; and Sylvan LaCue was more of an effort of me saying “you know what, why don’t I just be myself and embrace being myself as much as possible.” It is a bit of a transformation and a different step in my career, but more than any of those it’s really just a way to embrace myself as much as humanly possible.
In previous interviews you've mentioned how you almost quit rapping. Surely a lot of rappers have felt the same way as you during that point. How were you able to overcome that difficult period in your career?
SL: I would have to say faith in God, just number one. I think without God I wouldn’t have been able to get through that period. But besides that, at that time when I did quit rap, which I think was around 2012-2013ish, I was presented with the opportunity to actually tour with Logic and Visionary Music Group. So that kind of got me a little bit more back into saying, “Ok, I’m going to at least give this another shot.” But that was really kind of my way of giving it another go. Ultimately it was God, because had God not brought that opportunity to my steps, I probably would have left making music and quit rapping all together because I felt like I’d been doing it for too long and too much time was passing by and there were other things that were becoming more important to me. So ultimately it was God. God allowing that opportunity to come to my front door step really changed the course of everything for me.
So if you did give up rap all together, what exactly would have been your next steps? What career would you have chosen?
SL: I’m not sure to be honest. I think I would have went back to school, probably dive into marketing maybe. But to be honest I wouldn’t be completely sure. If I did actually quit rap, I think I’d probably just go to school, kind of explore other options. But I wouldn’t be able to give you a REAL answer as to what I would have done to be honest, or what I would do.
You mentioned Logic. Before you formed Wise Up, you were signed to Logic’s Visionary Group. How did that relationship come about and what was it like working with him?
SL: It came about seamlessly. Logic kind of reached out to me in 2011 when he was working on his earlier mixtapes and I was kind of on my mixtape circuit grind as well – the online mixtape circuit-- and we kind of kept in contact. And when he had his first tour in 2012, he invited me on a couple of dates in California. From there on, his management reached out to me and wanted me to be apart of Visionary Music Group. That was around the time, I think around 2013, and I went on tour with him again in 2013. I think that was like 31, 32 dates. That’s kind of how that whole formation came about. And then dropping Searching Sylvan, etc., etc.
Working with Logic, it was a learning process. I got to observe him kind of in his natural element. I would like to say that he was kind of in this realm of just getting it – so things were just happening for him like signing to Def Jam and getting XXL Freshman. So it was like I was there to see the process of how things were beginning to grow for him. So I was able to kind of learn from his steps and learn from how he was maneuvering around things and accepting things and rejecting certain things. It was a good experience for me to be able to observe the come-up of an artist that is on the rise and bubbling, you know?
When most people think of Miami rap, they instantly think of Rick Ross. Along with yourself, who are other Miami artists or Florida artists we should keep an eye on?
SL: Definitely Denzel Curry. Denzel Curry is definitely doing his thing he’s been bubbling real hard especially out of Carrol City. Pouya, super dope; Fat Nick, super dope; Yung Simmie is super dope. This kid named Xali that’s pretty dope. Kodak [Black] is doing his thing too, he’s not from Miami, he’s more like Pompano, but he’s not that far away from Miami. He’s doing his thing.
Of course Bizzy Crook, he’s from Miami as well. Yeah, those are the most prominent dudes that I kind of see that are starting to do their thing. So they have been grinding and pushing really, really hard lately. Those are definitely like the top dudes to me. There’s also Prez P as well, he’s a good dude -- he’s been doing his thing for awhile. So yeah, those are definitely the top dudes out Miami, at least that I see that’s grinding hard.
Now let’s talk about the mixtape. Your first offering from it is “Fall From Grace,” how did the concept for that record come about?
SL: “Fall From Grace” was really sporadic, honestly. We had another record that was actually supposed to be on the project that wasn’t “Fall From Grace” called “Arrogant,” and that record didn’t really work out. So, we had the beat at bare minimum, it’s probably one of the first records that we worked on way back with our producer Linzi Jai. I wrote two verses for it and it was pretty cool, but we didn’t really come back to the record. And then, I think we had like a hard-drive failure and everything kind of, like half the project got missed and deleted entirely. So we came back, I re-recorded my verses, but we rebuilt the beat over entirely. And we added organs, then we added choirs, then we felt like it was sounding very spiritual.
For me, I was just kind of going off the notion of what the chorus kind of meant to me. So I created the chorus maybe in, no more than about, 10 minutes, and it just kind of like a natural progression of like it coming together. From a conscious standpoint, it more or less represents one of the lowest times of my time being in LA during like my QuESt period and my QuESt run in like early 2015. It’s kind of a contrast, like the verses are very, very ignorant and very, very like confident and braggadocios and really ridiculous, like this ultimate confidence. But, the chorus is like a plea to God to save me from myself really, because I’m in this mindset that can destroy people. So yeah, it came together as a process but it was pretty effortless.
That’s really dope! So what can fans expect to hear on Far From Familiar?
SL: Just myself, man. I made Far From Familiar in an aid to be as much as myself as humanly possible. So all my influences, all the things that I’m influenced by, but myself entirely. In a nutshell, I am aiming to be as much as myself as I possibly can be with this project.
Have you narrowed down a date for the release? I know you said Spring of this year, but have given a specific date yet?
SL: We’re kind of playing it a little bit by ear. I’m pretty sure of the month that we’re looking at, but as far as like the actual day, we’re kind of going back-and-forth. I think we should have something probably within the next 2-3 weeks. But I don’t have like an exact date yet, as of right now.
Be sure to follow Sylvan LaCue on Twitter, Instagram and Soundcloud