George Ford, a born-and-raised Detroiter, is 24 years old, and he makes compelling music under the name King Quartz. He also performs with Axe Ripper and BLVKTOVD. Sacramento-based Colosseum Records just released a fancy-looking full-length cassette tape, his debut release, Fauxtoshop. The music is a compelling blend of hip-hop and trap with newer underground genres such as vaporwave, synthwave, and cloud rap (if you don't know what that stuff is, hold your horses, we'll get to it). The basic aesthetic is a stoner layering of '90s consumerist culture with '80s electronic washes and super blunted '90s hip-hop beats. The videos layer video game graphics on top of each other. It's a lot of fun. Check him out at Facebook.com/thekingquartz.
Metro Times: Why don't you play out live; what's the deal with that?
George Ford: I've played live in other acts. I have toured the country with Axe Ripper, another Detroit band, and love the stage. However, with King Quartz I would really like to give people a bigger experience than just being a dude on stage, to project a larger image. So I am not currently performing live until I am able to make that vision a reality.
MT: What the heck is vaporwave?
Ford: It's a newer style of music that is honestly strange to describe. It's very gestalt. It is satire and exaggeration of the late '80s and early '90s consumerist culture, when plastic and product ruled. Happiness had a price and was high in stock. It's nostalgia for something you never had, at the same time it conveys the soullessness of those illusions. The music and the imagery are equally important, and tied together.
MT: And cloud rap?
Ford: While I don't necessarily consider myself cloud rap, I've been called it enough that I just deal with it. The sounds of the beats and feelings conveyed are more ethereal — cloud-like — than what normal rap would be. The lyrical content can be about anything, and more often than not it's abstract. It's far distended from traditional hip-hop.
MT: In what ways does your work reflect your environment?
Ford: Entirely. But at the same time, not at all. I obviously got into hip-hop due to the city; it's a huge part of Detroit. But I've been told numerous times my music doesn't sound like it's from Detroit. I never really cared to make sure that I sounded "Detroit," also mainly because J Dilla to me represents what Detroit sounds like, and his genius is something I could never touch, so I wouldn't dare to try and recreate his sound-field. I just focus on doing what I hear in my head.
MT: Which contemporary Detroit artists are you most excited about?
Ford: There are so many fantastic artists right now in Detroit! Sol Le, Sheefy, CrackKillz, Sun Tzu Cadre, I couldn't even name all the hip-hop artists in Detroit that I admire, let alone other genres. Against the Grain puts out fantastic rock. The Worst Of have crazy live energy in their shows. Man, there's just so many and I don't know who to name.
MT: What's BLVKTOVD all about?
Ford: It's a group of artists and poets and weirdoes from Detroit formed a few years ago, consisting of myself, Yung Souja, A.N.T, Beezy, and Blizzard. We are mostly hip-hop artists. I was playing in a jazz band at the time and the others were active in the Detroit poetry community. We met from them doing their poetry over our jazz at spots like Artist Village and Manila Bay Cafe. Some of the members were part of a poetry group called Black Tie Collective, who do poetry and community work around the area, as well as run a restaurant called Conscious Corner Cafe. After playing shows with them enough, we eventually found that we shared common tastes and interests, and decided to start creating art together.
MT: How are you getting by these days?
Ford: I'm currently unemployed — recently laid off from my job as a city worker. Making my money hustling all my music (laughs nervously), and hoping to find work soon.
MT: You said earlier that "most of my fans are in South America and Europe." How do you know this? What's the deal?
Ford: I know this because of the Internet. I see exactly who is liking and sharing from all my social media sites, and most of it is from those two areas of the world. I can't explain how that happened. Most of it has to do with the fact that the scene for this style is much bigger in those areas than here. So those who go looking for something, find it.