Quadry Winters’ distinctive name and voice help him rise above the rap pack.
Known simply as Quadry in the rap world, the Baton Rouge artist's idiosyncratic vocals cut through the beats, electronics and instrumentation that accompany his playful lyrics.
“When I first got my music out there, people said I sounded like an early André 3000 (of Outkast),” Winters said. “But then I started putting out more music.”
Winters established his hip-hop identity through his four albums, 2014’s “Dope!”, 2016’s “America, Me,” 2018’s “Malik Ruff” and his latest release, “They Think We Ghetto.”
“The things I’m doing in ‘Ghetto,’ the vocals and eclectic production, follow the arc of the story that I started telling on ‘Dope!’,” he said.
“They Think We Ghetto,” released in July, is the follow-up to the well-received “Malik Ruff.” Several media outlets covered “Malik Ruff,” including Fader, DJ BOOTH and Complex. He also performed at the Pigeons & Planes showcase in New York and toured the U.S. with Norwegian singer-songwriter Anna of the North.
Despite rapping and recording seriously for nearly a decade, Winters said he’s just getting started.
“I can push my music to another place,” he said. “This new album is my best work yet, but it also gives me the feeling that, 'OK, I have a lot more to say and share with people.' ”
Production for “They Think We Ghetto” began two years ago, shortly after Winters signed with a major label.
“But because the pandemic created uncertainty in the music industry, the label was skittish about artists’ projects going forward,” he said. “They knew that they weren’t going to be able to promote the music properly.”
Winters speculates that his unique rap style, topical lyrics and having “Ghetto” in the title of his album contributed to the label taking a pass. Going forward nonetheless, he’s preparing to follow up his indie release with a new website and merchandise and a documentary about the making of the album. He hopes the response to “They Think We Ghetto” crests just as music venues are more comfortable about staging performances.
Winters’ given first name, Quadry, turned out to be an excellent rap name. Created by his mother, it’s a variation of NFL wide receiver Qadry Ismail’s name. Nicknamed “The Missile,” Ismail played for the Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints and other teams in the 1990s and early 2000s.
“My mother liked the way his name rolled off the tongue,” Winters said. “She added the u to soften it. Friends of mine, they have ambiguous rap names. They have to fight to cut through. But with my name, if you hear it once, you remember it.”
Influenced by his mom’s love for ’90s hip-hop, Winters began rapping when he was in elementary school.
“When she was at Grambling State University, she waited in line on a very cold night to buy Snoop Dogg’s first album, ‘Doggystyle,’ ” he remembered.
His mother’s CD collection, however, ranged widely, from hip-hop to R&B stars Mary Mary and En Vogue, gospel great Mahalia Jackson and rock-singer Alanis Morissette.
New Orleans' Lil Wayne is Winters’ biggest rap inspiration.
“For a good chunk of my childhood, Wayne was the hottest rapper on the planet,” he said. “He’s a great writer. I admired the turn of phrases, the similes.”
The new wave of rappers that followed Lil Wayne, including Drake, J. Cole and Wiz Khalifa, further spurred Winters’ musical aspirations.
“They were making the projects that are classics today,” he said. “That era put the battery on my back. Every time I heard one of their songs, I would be inspired to rap. I was like, ‘Yo. I can do this.’ ”