“I am no longer afraid of becoming lost, because the journey back always reveals something new, and that is ultimately good for the artist.”
― Billy Joel
For San Antonio, Texas based hip hop artist Question, these words hold very true. In the fall of 2005, Question found himself in the Beverly Hills, California high rise condo of then up and coming Super Producer Jonathan “J.R” Rotem recording song after song, laying the foundation for what ultimately would be a roller coaster of a professional music career.
“I was in awe. Here i am this kid from Texas, that no one really had heard of and I'm sitting in the studio with another kid who had worked on records with Snoop and Dr. Dre not even a week prior..it was surreal. And even though those sessions didn't lead to stardom or huge success, to me they were monumental life changing events that inspired me to push myself even harder”. Question had been living in Los Angeles on and off for nearly a year before the chance meeting with industry vet Zach Katz and Dr. Dre prodigy J.R Rotem took place, and his name quickly became the buzz commodity in the music industry within months of recording over 40 songs to J.R’s triumphant ( and highly in-demand) signature productions.
Katz decided he believed the music that Question and Rotem were creating was good enough to land a record deal and began making phone calls to industry managers hoping to procure strong willed representation for the artist before they signed Question to there new production company. Katz setup a meeting between Question and Jon “Jonny Shipes” Shapiro, who’s new management company Cinematic Music Group was already making huge waves in the east coast hip hop scene. Shipes listened to the music and was convinced Question was someone he definitely wanted to manage and flew Question to New york City immediately in December of 2005. Within a day of hanging out, Question knew Shipes was the perfect manager for him and agreed to have Cinematic represent him professionally.
Shipes decided that Question needed to leave Los Angeles and return home to San Antonio and focus on building up his local support before they made a push to the record labels. Question put together a mixtape primarily made up of all original material that he had worked on with Rotem, and in March of 2006, he released his debut “I Am Question”. A project that Question invested $9,000 of his own money in to, then shockingly gave away 10,000 copies away of, for free. “In my mind, i was a new artist that no one in my region really new about, so i figured that i could give away 1,000 copies before i could sell 10. It worked. I covered my friend’s Suburban with a promo vehicle wrap and rode all over Texas giving those Cd’s out. Within months everyone knew who i was.” Shipes and Katz were both impressed at the artist’s initiative and drive and quickly began devising a plan to create a larger regional buzz that reached across multiple states. Question soon began popping up on countless nationwide DJ Mixtape series such as Big Mike, Evil Empire, DJ Clue, DJ Green Lantern, DJ CHUCK T, DJ Scream, Trapaholics,and more, with notable freestyles and original songs that garnered significant underground notoriety. His buzz began to grow even larger and Shipes decided to bring in radio promo vet J Grand in to the fold to help find a radio single to push, not knowing that Question already had one.“Ridin’ Slow” was a song that Question helped co-write the chorus on with then unknown pop singer Sean Kingston. Rotem asked Question to assist on writing hooks for tracks that he wanted to present to fellow texas native and Swishahouse alum Paul Wall, and felt Question could add the Texas feel, lingo, and perspective to the hooks Kingston was laying. But after the songs were presented and turned down, Question knew that he could make the song all his own and recorded two verses to it and asked local underground rapper Kyle Lee of 3rd degree to guest feature on it. The song instantly gained popularity with DJ’s in Texas and even local and regional radio began playing the record without any real push outside of word of mouth. The song organically began to grow and J Grand knew it was time to seize the opportunity and reached out to Texas hip hop pioneer Bun B (of UGK), and added him to the remix and quickly the song was in mix show rotation on over 30 stations nationwide. (Including a very Popular “West Coast remix” featuring Nipsey Hussle)
Now, with both a sizable underground following and radio support, Major record labels began contacting Shipes about signing the texas MC, and Question met with the likes of Atlantic, Def Jam, Interscope, Universal, and EPIC records. EPIC not only was interested in Question, they were interested in Shipes and decided that they wanted to give his management company an imprint label deal that included deals for both Question and Nipsey Hussle. “Here i was walking in the halls that Michael Jackson built. Rage Against the Machine Built. I was going to be signed to the same record label as Shakira (laughs)! It was intimidating yet exciting. I had little reservations that they hadn't been successful with hip hop acts, because i had my manager in-house now. I felt like the team that help me build my buzz independently would now be with me on the next level too so everything would be fine. I was naive as hell, but i ran with it.” In December of 2007, Question became the first hip hop artist from San Antonio, Texas to sign a recording contract with a major record label.
Question spent most of 2008 living between San Antonio, Los Angeles, and New York City recording over 150 songs for his debut album produced by the likes of David Banner, Green Lantern, Hi-Tek, Nottz, Just Blaze, Denaun Porter, Mr. Lee, StreetRunner, Hit Boy, DanjaHandz, and more, and also began ghost writing for a few notable acts. During this process he was featured on The Empire and Lil Wayne’s “The Drought is Over 2” on a song called “World Of Fantasy” that elevated his growing buzz exponentially in the mixtape underground and even got him featured in both The Source and VIBE Magazine.
2009 was supposed to be the year Question released his debut album under the EPIC Records banner but unforeseen events unfortunately derailed that. While out on his first national promo tour, Question received word that the president of EPIC, Charlie Walk, had suddenly quit and the label was reshuffling internally and decided to close its urban department indefinitely and that he would now be moved to another label within the SONY MUSIC umbrella that did not include Shipes and the Cinematic Music Group staff. Under the advice of his lawyer, Question instead asked for his immediate release. The release wasn't initially granted and Question spent most of 2009 fighting in litigation to get his stage name, likeness, and master recordings, back from SONY. After nearly 11 months of negotiating, An agreement was made and Question was released from his recording contract in January of 2010.“I cant even describe what it feels like to rapidly go from being considered that “next” artist to blow up to being stuck in legal bullshit where you can't even put out music without the threat of a lawsuit. To go from interviews on Shade 45, having dinner at the same table as Jay-Z, popping bottles in the club with nipsey hussle and Big Krit, to being stuck at home emailing your lawyer back and forth for months waiting to hear when you can resume your music career. Probably the most depressing and frustrating period of my life….I really became so jaded i decided i was going to quit. But i had already been accepted to perform at SXSW 10, and i decided i would at least perform that showcase before hanging it up….man, i am glad i did.” The showcase re-energized Question and gave him the inspiration to resume recording and eventually led to him releasing a double album of entirely original music composed of new songs along with previously unreleased songs recorded for his Epic Records debut that made up “Xanax 3”. The album surprisingly sold over 3,000 copies with no real promotion or marketing budget, instead relying on blog exposure on sites such as 2dopeboyz.com, nahright.com, DJbooth.net, thafixx.Com,sermonsdomain.com,allhiphop.com and rave reviews from respected industry veterans like Charlie Braxton and supporters alike. Question began building his buzz once again, and was selected to perform for SXSW Festival in 2011. By the end of 2010, Question seemed to be back in full form even getting featured on MTV JAMS as one of the next artists out of Texas to keep an eye on.
2011 however was a very dark year in contrast to the revival he experienced in 2010. Personal family issues and health issues prevented him from touring and he again became frustrated. “It seemed to be 2009 all over again. But instead of relenting and falling victim to personal demons, i decided that music would be my best therapy.So i decided that i would start playing with a live band and debuted DEAD BROKE at SXSW 2011.” He also began working on an experimental project with producer Harold “Hits” Tolbert called “Fear Of Dying” which would incorporate Hip Hop and Classic Rock and released the Album in August of 2011. The project, though it received critical praise, wasn't as embraced by Question’s fan base .”I think it reflected a lot of the personal issues, pains, depression, addictions that i was enduring at the time..which can be related to by many But definitely think it was too much to the point where it just turned loyal fans off. Pair that with the fact that sonically it wasn't a traditional hip hop project, i think it just went over a lot of people’s head. And because it didn't do as well, i think i became disconnected and discouraged again….and just stopped supporting it completely. Looking back, i should of stayed with it. Playing with a band, along with the Pains of failure actually made for a great live show.” By the end of 2011, his relationship with his youngest son’s mother (and recording engineer) came to a crashing end. Dealing with this along with the other frustrations of losing everything else dear to him, Question decided that he would not pursue his music career in 2012 and just take a break. “I was burnt out. I just needed to unwind and focus on getting my life in order without the distraction or frustrations. I lost everything i had worked so hard for and thought it would be therapeutic to just not put my focus in to music and though i was able to get some piece of mind from it, slowly as the year went on it actually made me realize that music was my therapy and that even though i had made it a career focus, music was actually just something i loved to do and that i missed it regardless of whether it was my profession”
In the beginning of 2013, Question began releasing freestyles and previously unreleased songs on his soundcloud page. Excitement seemed to grow amongst his fanbase as 1000’s of tweets and Facebook messages began pouring in in support of the possibility of a new album. Slowly getting back in to what he calls “Playing Shape”, he finally started writing songs and put his focus back on resuming his passion . “I had to get in my zone again after such a long lay off. I had a bunch of false starts where i thought i was there but wasn’t. I had great talks with industry mentors, one of whom introduced me to some amazing producers. The feeling slowly started to come back and i knew i was on to something special. It just took me getting in that pocket, that groove, musically, where i knew i was crafting the best music i have ever made.”
In late summer of 2013, Question announced his next “Project” would be called “Trilluminaughty By Nature.” The official release date will be in mid march and will be available in a Custom USB format (available at www.trilluminaughty.bigcartel.com). “It’s in the works to be setup as something monumentally epic. I am doing this on my own terms, my own way, by my own rules, and it feels great….I am experienced. Im Smarter. Im wiser. Sharper. I am just better at this then i have ever been. Its time i let everyone else i have no expectations but my own this time around and I'm certain that I'm going to blow away everyone else’s…i have endured the worst and experienced some of the best. I realize now that life is just life…you have to live it the best way you know how to….so even though i have gotten lost a few times on this journey, i also have come to realize i really enjoy finding myself when i do…and music has always been my guide.”