Press Play: qu – damn shame ft. Josh Kye

The newly released track “damn shame,” a collaboration between the emergent Vietnamese-German producer and artist qu and British singer Josh Kye, just unveiled its official video and is now accessible on all major streaming platforms via Kabul Fire Records. Despite qu’s tendency to maintain a discreet individual presence, his collaborative endeavours reach impressively beyond the confines of Germany. His prolific work includes projects with creatives ranging from London to Los Angeles, some even linked with iconic names like Kendrick Lamar, 6lack, SiR, and Isaiah Rashad. At the age of 25, qu is already distinguishing himself in the music industry where his roots in classical guitar training breathe a unique life into his work, setting him aside from the traditional beat-making crowd.

We had the chance to chat with qu about his latest work with Josh Kye, the creative process with Highsnobiety’s in-house videographer Gary Emekwa for the official music video, and the anticipation building around his upcoming debut album, “where did the sun go?”.

KALTBLUT: What led to your collaboration with British vocalist Josh Kye on your latest track “damn shame”? 

Basically, I was in L.A. and he hit me up through Instagram. Later that year I played my first support gig in London for my label mate and closest friend agajon. we stayed a few more days and got in some studio time with Josh, where we met for the first time. We didn’t have much time then but it was enough to realize that it was an artistic match. And I wanted to invite him to come to Hamburg and see where we could go musically. Damn shame is the result of that. 

KALTBLUT: Reflecting on the creative process of “damn shame,” you mentioned laying the foundation on the first day of Josh’s arrival despite exhaustion. Can you share more about how your creative synergy unfolded during the making of this track? 

Before Josh arrived I had prepared some ideas keeping him in my mind from our first session in London. One of those ideas that stood out to me, was the demo which is now the song „damn shame“. I made that one from scratch and I immediately knew it could make the album. Luckily all dots connected when Josh heard the beat and immediately laid down some melodies. One of them was Josh humming that intro you can hear at the start of the song. I knew it was a good foundation for a good song when I first heard it. 

KALTBLUT: How did the concept for the video come about, and what was your experience working with director Gary Emekwa? 

Gary & I have a lot of respect for each other’s artistry. Since we are pretty good friends & I was already familiar with all of his works, I had already put lots of trust in him and his visions. So I let him play the part on the visuals for damn shame. With that being said, he came up with the concept for the video. He interpreted the track into a story that was heavily influenced by the depiction of love triangles in different Korean movies like “Burning“ by Lee-Chang Dong or “Past Lives“ by Celine Song. 

Gary and I go way back. We went to school together & spent quite some time being really good friends. We even went to college in San Antonio shortly, for a scholarship. As we graduated from school our paths kind of unfolded in a way, that we haven’t seen or talked to each other that often. Because he was going to a film school and I pursued my dream of making music, I always told him many years ago, that our paths would cross again and that we would work on projects together.

So the whole song and the visuals are very special to me. It’s truly a full circle moment for me to be able to make art with your friends that you grew up with.

KALTBLUT: Your upcoming debut album features prominent artists like Jay Prince and Serious Klein, as well as emerging talents like Josh Kye and Malaya. Can you tell us about the concept and themes behind this album, and how it showcases you as a multifaceted artist? 

Well, it’s definitely an rnb influenced album but on some tracks (e.g. stronger feat. Serious Klein) you can hear that as a producer I come from hiphop. At the same time I wasn’t really following one concept or trying to hop on a specific trend. At least Im hoping that people who listen to the album will feel that I’m actually just doing me. Obviously I’m influenced by the music I love myself but my goal is not to sound like the next artist xyz / album xyz. And I really wanna mention that I understand why artists would wanna hop on certain trends or try to replicate a certain wave/sound that is popping right now. But I don’t even think I could genuinely do that, unless I really like what I’m doing. 

That’s why the album is in that sense not really a conceptual album resulting out of one flow. It’s more a collection of sounds from the past few years, where I’m having fun with arrangements and instrumentations that are not very hiphop or very rnb either. And it’s not even intentional, that I seem to be bending genres or doing crossovers between different genres. I just primarily try to evoke emotions through music. Pharrell once said in an interview with Rick Rubin, that he is constantly chasing a feeling that comes through music. And I think it describes my way of making music perfectly. 

KALTBLUT: Can you share challenges you’ve faced along your journey as an artist, and how they have shaped your perspective on creating music as an art form? 

So far, I think one of the biggest challenges for me as an artist is actually being satisfied or content with myself. I’m a very ambitious person and my cultural/educational background is very much rooted in having to perform on a very high level, always competing. I know so many artist have a different view on that but I also know many that feel the same. I’m always on the hunt for the „next thing“ to do, next level to reach. Making new songs/beats/ideas. Because I’m kind of never satisfied with the last thing I created 24 hours ago. I enjoy my art the most when I almost forgot about it & one day rediscover it and suddenly like it again. 

Another huge challenge I face outside of the music making process itself, which has a huge impact on my craft, is life I guess? I’m not a full-time musician/artist yet but I wanna perform like a full- time artist. I’m expecting myself to perform like a full-time artist in terms of outcome & productivity, despite the fact that I’m working part-time in a restaurant. 

And every time I don’t live up to that standard that I set for myself, I’m not satisfied with myself to say the least. On some days the shoulders feel heavy and there seems to be a lot of pressure on every single idea, the chord that I play and outcome that I make, that it has to serve certain purpose or bring me closer to the goal of being a full-time artist. 

So finding a healthy balance between those dilemmas, protecting my art from those earthly problems and at the same time engaging & solving those challenges is crucial to me at the moment. 

KALTBLUT: Can you share the meaning behind the title of your upcoming album “Where Did The Sun Go?” and how it relates to the themes explored within it? 

“where did the sun go?“ ultimately is a question that I’d ask myself during the time when I first decided that I wanted to pursue music full-time and as a career. That was like 3 months before covid and the first lockdown hit. Like for many people at that time I was going through several processes, doubting my decision, feeling anxious about the future etc. and coming up with a plan that would allow me to center my music in life and still make ends meet. At the same time, when you listen to the album, even the most melancholic tracks don’t feel dark or hopeless. So I guess the music itself is the answer to that question that comes from a place of uncertainty and exhaustion: the sun never really disappears, you just can’t see it at times. It’s absence is as much part of life’s complexity and even crucial to development and growth of self, of art or society as a whole. 

KALTBLUT: What do you hope to achieve or communicate through your music and artistry moving forward? 

Sounds very very cliché, but being authentic, being yourself, which for me also means accepting the handicaps with which I come into the music business. Like having to work in a restaurant to maintain life as an artists, having my own studio, is a challenge yes, but it also makes sure I stay connected to real life, real people from outside of the creative business understand why I’m doing what I do. 

The music & the sound that I might put out today is a trace of my past life & challenges that I have overcome & is now ready to be shared with the world. I will move on and in fact I already did move on into another chapter of my life. And I hope people that hopefully will follow my journey are going to learn that the sound to the next chapter of my life will change as well. But I will still sound like qu. Thats for sure. 

Video: @emeka.emekwa

damn shame is out now: