Young Black and Gifted are producer Kidd Called Quest and rapper Azariah. We spoke to them about how they got in the game and how the collective started. Plus how releasing music in the middle of a Pandemic and the unlawful killing of George Floyd impacted their album The Second Coming.
Tell us where you’re from?
Peace, we are both from Rochester NY located in the western NY area. The area has been getting a lot of good looks from people around the world. We just play our part and work on getting the world familiar with Young Black and Gifted.
What artists/producers inspired you?
Kidd Called Quest: It’s crazy I was influenced by a lot of artists and producers growing up that inspired me to create music. I will say my influences artist wise would be, Redman, Bumpy Knuckles, LL Cool J, Fat Boys, Wu-Tang, Pharoahe Monch, MOP, Scarface, Common, Edo G, Krumb Snatcha, Dead Prez, Puff Daddy, Black Rob, OC, and many more.
My Influences producer wise would be Hi Tek, Showbiz, Diamond D, Rza, DJ Premier, BUCK Wild, Q tip, Dr Dre, Erick Sermon, Ski Beatz, DJ Shock, DJ Quik, Rockwilder, Beats By The Pound, Just Blaze, Midnite, DJ Sight, Babu, Alchemist, Jazzy Jeff, and many more.
Azariah: Pretty much everyone Quest said definitely Nas, Rakim, Kool G Rap, Roc Maricano, AZ, Cormega, Sean Price, Prodigy, Raekwon, and Ghostface, Styles P. These were definitely an early influence on the emceeing aspect of what I bring to the table. Producer wise Quest summed that up.
How did you first get in the game?
Kidd Called Quest: When I was 13 I began learning how to make my own beats. My brother DJ Sight had an old keyboard he never used. So I used to go down into the basement and start messing around with it. I started playing all kinds of different melodies on it. From there on I just stuck to that keyboard for about seven months.
It was with that keyboard that I learned how to layer sounds into patterns and count out bars. Then, I got the new keyboard, that had actual real-sounding drums and sounds. It was nice because I was able to tweak out all the sounds and make them hit as hard as I wanted. It also introduced me to the art of sampling.
I’ve been hooked on chopping up stuff since. I didn’t start really taking things seriously until 2005. That year was when I started to adventure off and put my work out to the public. The first tape I did was (Jay Quest Vs 9th Wonder) that beat tape really took off and circulated around.
Azariah: Being around my pops early on in the late 80s early 90s introduced me to the culture. I’m an 80s baby born in 86. Growing up I would write my lil raps just trying to find something catchy. Then when I got to high school all I would think about is rhyming in class.
That’s when I first started recording in 2003. Things grew gradually after high school I started performing, building a buzz, and releasing music. Honing my skills.
Kidd Called Quest, you actually worked under the name Jay Quest. Why did the name change?
Kidd Called Quest: I had to change my name because there were a couple of guys going by the name. I was already familiar with one of them from the Boston area. The other guy I wasn’t too familiar with. He was going around doing silly stuff, like taking credit for the stuff I was actually doing and some of the other things.
People got me mixed up with him so that’s when I decided to change the name up. It was a tough situation because so many people knew me by the name Quest so I had to keep that in the name.
I’d say around 2008 that’s when I came up with Kidd Called Quest, I knew no one would try to copy that name. Because it sounded kind of like the Tribe. I’m not going to lie, the first few years were harsh. But once I started to release music and projects people started to get more familiar.
I still sometimes get someone every now and then that will talk some B.S.
You both started working together in 2006. How did that come about?
Azariah: I met Quest in late 2005 through a mutual friend we both were grinding in music and our rapport grew organically. Back in 2006 Quest produced about 4 to 5 joints on my Subject To Change project. We just keep working and working and formed the collective YBG in 2011.
Azariah tell us about the Subject To Change project
I put Subject to Change out in 2006 it’s available at azariah.bandcamp.com. It was my third release and had production from DJ Ace from Europe, QuarterPound, Kidd Called Quest at time Quest was running as Jay Quest, Husky, and a couple others.
It opened up a few doors for me at that time as well.
Back in 2009/2010 Kidd Called Quest you formed Young Black and Gifted. Tell us about the concept behind the collective?
At first, when we started out as a group we were going by the name Living Proof. But during that time there was a group that was coming up named Actual Proof. We didn’t want people to get us mixed up and confused. I learned that there was a group called Living Proof, so I said let’s scrap that name.
I was listening to the radio one day and the Big Daddy Kane song Young Gifted and Black was playing. The idea for the name hit me right there on the spot. I was like what if we switched it around? That’s how I came up with Young Black and Gifted.
The whole concept behind us is being a solid consistent hip-hop duo that was an mc and producer collective. During that time we developed there wasn’t really any modern-day mc and producer groups like Gang Starr, Pete Rock CL Smooth, JigMastas, Black Moon, etc.
Most of the groups during that time were based on artists and producers doing collaboration projects together. We wanted to step out and stand out from everyone else.
You released the first album Long Time Coming. Talk to us about that release.
Azariah: I was going through some personal shit and that added to the aggression displayed lyrically on that album. It’s our origins as a collective. The first project we dropped so it’s dope to see the growth from then until now.
Long Time Coming was recorded over a longer time frame than Second Coming and Black Gifted. So, sonically it’s not as balanced as the newer projects. It put a lot of hip hop heads on to what we do and we are still trying to broaden our reach.
There was an 8-year gap before you worked together again to explain the long hiatus.
Azariah: I was battling my own demons at that time and Quest was focusing on other artists but still under the Young Black and Gifted banner. Me and my brother Quest had our differences but we still kept in contact and work on joints occasionally.
I was dropping projects still staying active and we just came around to give it another go. We both have a strong passion and a crazy drive to create. It’s a perfect tandem Quest on the production and business side and me on the mic.
In 2020 you finished your latest release The Second Coming which was set to be released in June but Covid 19 hit and the unlawful murder of George Floyd. How did these circumstances impact this release?
Azariah: It pushed it back due to everything that was going on. A lot of our music focuses on issues that connect with that type of behavior. So, it was kind of crazy how the universe works. This ain’t nothing new though. This is what the country was founded on racist and white supremacy.
Kidd Called Quest: Yes 2020 was definitely a tricky year for the project. We had things we were trying to work out and fix. On top of all the other personal stuff that was going on. The covid ruined a few ideas and plans for the album.
It really had me picking and scratching my brain trying to figure some things out. Once all that got situated and everything was set and ready to go the Floyd situation happened. The same time we actually dropped the album. We were both like this might take the attention and focus away from the whole project.
But it really didn’t hurt it that much. It actually opened up some ears for some new listeners. These were the kinds of situations we were already talking about and covering on our first album. I think at that point and time our music was very relatable.
People felt it was covering the harsh reality. The police beating, killing, and harassing people in low-income societies. From the inner cities across the country and other parts of the world.
This release was digital as well as a limited edition vinyl, and cds. Where can people go and cop The Second Coming?
As of now the limited vinyl and CDs have sold out. But people can stream the album at this link. If you would like to purchase some merch you can hit us @youngblackandgifted585 on Instagram. page.
What’s next for Young Black and Gifted?
Not 100% sure yet just going to keep working and go with the flow of everything. There will be more music coming out. We will be releasing a project titled Black Gold. This album will have all the singles off the Second Coming featured on it with a couple of unreleased songs too.
Interview by Jai Boo