“The Idea Of The ‘Rap Star’ Is Kind of Fleeting Now”: Sylvan LaCue on Artistic Re-branding
Last year, we interviewed QuESt, a Miami, Florida rapper who had his eyes dead set on one prize: rap stardom. Almost exactly a year later, QuESt has dropped the stage moniker to return to his birth name, Sylvan Lacue, and with the new identity comes not only more grandiose goals, but also his best album yet, Far From Familiar.
On the album and in our conversation, Sylvan explored his ever-transitioning desires, his changing environments’ effects on his perspectives, and how re-branding as an artist can be beautiful, not harmful.
We did an interview last year around the time Searching Sylvan released. When I asked you who Sylvan was, you said, “Sylvan is, at his core, a humble, over-analytical dreamer who has ambitions and aspirations to become a rap star.” Has this changed?
One thing has changed: the rap star part. My ambitions now are more to be myself as much as possible. I think the idea of a “rap star” is kind of fleeting to me now; I’m much more in tune with exploring the layers of myself. The last time we spoke, I was tunnel-visioned on this idea of success that I was trying to attain so rapidly. Over the last year, the amount of things I’ve experienced, and the things that have changed, have made that chase not as important to me as being myself as much as possible. I think being a “rap star” now, at least in that context that I said it, really doesn’t apply to me.
With Far From Familiar, were there identified things that you wanted to show people about yourself that you hadn’t before?
I had an idea of how I wanted it to feel. I created a mood board for it. I wanted it to be based around the cities that I spent the majority of my time in, which are LA, Miami, and Oakland. I wanted to tell what was going on after Searching Sylvan. We were super methodical about it.
Why did you pick that name for this album?
It just explained all of the experiences I was going through at the time. It was actually going to be called Far From Home, which was trash. But Familiar describes the feelings I was going through much better.
When you made this switch, from QuESt to Sylvan, was it difficult to convince the people around you that it was right?
The people that were around me weren’t too concerned. It just kind of felt right. I was changing a lot—my mentality, my music, the way I was dressing. I think a lot of things that were attached to QuESt were fading off naturally. It wasn’t really difficult to make the change, and for the most part, the core group of people who listen to my music understood. It wasn’t like I was selling another idea; I was just selling myself, and that’s why it worked.
“Hollywood Identity Crisis” is where you address there’s been a name change. Why did you choose to do it in this way?
That scenario kind of happened. There was a situation where I was really trying to get into a club and they were playing my record and there was a bouncer who wouldn’t let us in. And there was a dude that was with me who was saying similar things as the guy in the skit. It kind of addressed the switch from QuESt to Sylvan playfully and tactfully.
There’s a lot of wave-riding in hip-hop. How have you blocked out the trends and stayed honest to who you are?
When I was coming up, I was always trying to hop on waves, but people wouldn’t give me the time of day. When you get to that point, where you’re knocking on doors and nobody’s answering, you have to create your own wave. What other options do you have? That’s what it came down to for me. I’m from Miami, and I’m not a product of my environment. So from the get, I’m already ostracized. We’re in an industry where everything is built from a specific idea, and if you don’t fit that idea, you’re isolated. It’s more high school than it’s ever been. There are the popular kids, and there are the loners figuring out where to go. But in the end, being rejected allowed me to accept what I needed to do.
For an artist who’s looking to rebrand himself, what advice would you have to give him?
I think the question is: do you want to jump or do you not? It’s very easy to create something that you think you believe in and grow into something else, and then realize that you built your entire stake under this idea. We’re all kind of building these ideas of ourselves and wanting people to buy into it, but if you don’t believe in it, then I would tell him or her to jump. It’s not going to be pretty. You’re going to fall, but jump.