"I actually wanted to do a mixtape called Iced Coffee back when I was 19," says QuESt as he drinks an Iced White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks. "Terrible idea. Terrible idea."
The coffee chain's stores have become temples of freshly brewed ideas for the 22-year-old Miami rapper, who sometimes spends as much as seven hours in these places, writing material for one of his mixtapes.
It's been more than two years since the release of his last project, Fear Not Failure, and the anticipation from fans for a follow-up is building. But on May 12, 2012, QuESt almost quit rap.
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"It was a pretty devastating date for me, because around that time, I came home and I felt like I was going to quit," says QuESt. "I was going to quit rap altogether, because it was just like, 'There is just no way I can focus on rap right now. I need to figure out where I am.'
"Me and my dad went through some issues. I was living with him at the time. We got evicted, I didn't know what was going on, and then I lost my job. And then I gave him my car and I had to go back to my mother's crib."
But personal problems were not the only discouraging factor. For most aspiring artists, seeing little to no success after putting in the work, certain questions begin to come up, like, Is it time for me to put an end to this?
And after years of attempting to make his mark by releasing material, reaching out to people in the industry, and independently doing shows, QuESt started to have some serious doubts.
"You're trying to break through that proverbial wall. And when you're not seeing that success after a certain amount of time, you just kind of think, Maybe I need to take a step back and kind of reevaluate what's going on."
With his mind nearly made up, QuESt reached out to his A&R contact Amanda Berkowitz to make her aware of what was going on. She told him to sit down and discuss it over Starbucks.
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"We were talking and I was like, 'I don't think I can do this anymore,'" says QuESt. "'I don't have the passion for it. I'm musically not there right now. I'm going through a lot of shit. I've been trying to figure out what I'm going to do. Where's my energy going to be directed at?'
"She just told me, 'Don't quit, but just take some time and don't do anything.' That's really where my absence came from actually."
Taking that advice, QuESt instead spent his time listening to music and focusing on doing shows, making connections, and allowing things to happen to him, like joining Logic, the Visionary Music Group artist and 2013 XXL Freshman, on his Welcome to Forever tour.
After building a great relationship with Logic and VMG's president, Chris Zarou, QuESt became a part of the label, making the formal announcement in August by dropping a new video for "NEATO Season" and stoking even more anticipation for a new project.
It has been nine months since then, and no mixtape. To many, the signing to VMG may have been a foolproof plan to gain additional exposure while at least releasing some singles at steady pace. For QuESt, the moment isn't quite right for his next complete collection of tracks.
"Whatever you do, you have to stand behind that entirely. And for me, it's always been make sure your product is right before anything, and just because there was an opportunity for me to capitalize off of something, I wasn't going to sacrifice my art."
And even with little new music released, QuESt says the layoff has benefited more than hurt him.
"I did more without dropping music in two years than I've done in five with dropping music consistently," QuESt claims. "I went on a national tour, I signed to an independent label, I got my connects up, I got in the process of perfecting my sound. What am I in a rush for?"
To him, longevity is the goal.
"I want to be here in 20 years," says QuESt. "I don't care about next year. I don't care about what's poppin' right now. I don't. I'm trying to be here in 20 years. I want to drop an album whenever I want to drop an album 20 years from now and still care about it."
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