Casualty of War: Finding Empathy for Quentin Miller
War isn’t about rules. War isn’t about fairness. What matters in war is only who wins, who loses, and the changes that occur after the battle. Drake and Meek went to war last year; a war of words; a war of pride; a war of secrets, and both sides have been affected by the conflict. Meek was soaring higher than ever before, he had the biggest album in the country, but was sent plummeting back to earth after exposing Drake’s little secret. Drake’s secret being let out the bag didn’t end his career, but he lost something he’ll never regain, something that no rapper ever wants to lose―their credibility. “Rico,” the last song the two did together, and what should’ve been the song of 2015’s summer, was abandoned like some orphan while the rappers loaded up their clips and fired shots back and forth.
Meek was wounded, but not beheaded by “Back 2 Back,” and the reference tracks may have left Drake with a deep gash, but the attack wasn’t fatal. The true winner of their war will be crowned after the smoke clears and we see the lasting effects of their beef, but if I had to select a loser, it would be Quentin Miller―the quiet casualty of their war.
Quentin was the secret that Drake tried to hide in plain sight; he put his skeleton in the living room and not the closet. He may have been credited on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, but he was never supposed to be outed as Drake’s ghostwriter. Not only was Quentin put under the brightest possible spotlight, his name was stained with a title he’ll never be able to remove or run from, and it will follow him for many years to come.
Quentin was working in a bakery when Drake called him one random day in late 2014. If you believe the story, that was the day his life changed forever. We call him a ghostwriter, he considered himself a collaborator, but regardless of the title, Quentin went from a being a relatively unknown Decatur rapper with a day job to being alongside the biggest rapper in the world. It’s the kind of fairy tale story that you dream of, that phone call from your idol to come into the studio and work on music. I’m sure there is more to the story, even more secrets that have yet to surface, but I also believe working with Drake gave him a freedom that didn’t exist prior. In silence, he was in the company of Drake, while also able to do his music on the side. If the bakery was his Gap, Drake was his spaceship. Without ever getting a verse, Drake took him to Mount Olympus; his view of the 6 was one from the very top. One call changed his life, and one tweet changed it again.
“Winter 2014… I was just another guy working a job he hated with a passion for music…. And somehow found myself on the phone with one of my idols. I told him I worked in a bakery and his exact words were ‘Fuck that, your destined for greatness.’ — Quentin Miller denies claims he is Drake’s ‘ghostwriter’
The only time I recall Drake acknowledging Quentin was when he rapped about taking him to the strip club on “Digital Dash.” Quentin has released a few songs that have been speculated shots at Drake, but nothing was ever confirmed. All photo evidence that could tie the two together has been erased from the internet. Drake dodged questions about him like Neo dodging bullets―it would bring too much attention if he continued to associate himself with QM. I’m almost certain their previous relationship is severed, even if the reasons are amicable. Drake is too much of a politician to be seen with the most important person to the scandal.
I compare Quentin’s situation to someone getting fired from a job due to another co-worker’s loose lips. Not only is it possible that his affiliation with Drake was ruined because of the beef, but he claimed a physical altercation happened between him and Meek’s camp. I never saw any footage of this alleged attack — Meek denies the accusation — and with so much untold, it’s hard to know what is true and what is fabricated. Quentin Miller is an artist surrounded by a swirl of speculation.
Last month, Quentin took to Instagram and revealed that his left leg has been amputated from the knee down as a result of bad car accident. Quentin’s manager confirmed the accident with The FADER, but also reassured the publication that the rapper was full of faith, still recording music, and enjoying life. It wasn’t until hearing “To Turning 27…,” a song released on the rapper’s 27th birthday, did I realize how much has changed in just one year for the young man.
The sound is a mixture of 808’s Kanye and everyday Travis Scott: moody with a heavy touch of Auto-Tune. I thought with the rollercoaster that was the last year of his life there would be plenty to get off his chest, but the song is rather short. What stuck with me was the beginning when he raps, “Last year was supposed to be my greatest year, look at me I’ll never be the same again,” and as soon as the words entered my ears I couldn’t help but feel empathetic. He went from having a hand on one of the biggest albums of 2015 to being thrown in a war zone that had little and everything to do with him. Now he was faced with another change, a big change.
I don’t know what the future holds for Quentin Miller, but I respect his resilience. He is a reminder that today’s blessing isn’t promised tomorrow. That blessing could be anything―a record deal, a ghostwriting gig, or even a limb. It’s easy to get comfortable in situations, believing that the moment will last, but it could easily be taken from you. The industry, just like the world, isn’t always full of Kodak moments. It can be cruel, unfortunate, and merciless. Quentin hasn’t quit, and I find that to be admirable.
It’s important to remember that rap is business, that hip-hop is a culture, and that artists are still people who have lives outside of the memes, the discussions and the debates. Quentin Miller’s life has gone through many twists and transitions; he has seen the bottom, the top, and the wide space between the two. Even if he never becomes rap’s next big star, he was the catalyst of what will be remembered as social media’s biggest rap beef. But he’s also a man who has a dream.
He’s chasing the same thing so many others are chasing, and despite the obstacles, he’s still running.
By Yoh, aka Yoh Crshrs aka @Yoh31.
Photo Credit: Honey B.
Originally published at DJBooth.net on October 12, 2016.