Who is NyQuinn?
Singer, songwriting, guitarist, blogger, vlogger, filmmaker, self-help author, and social-influencer… what more could you ask for? She’s a powerhouse and she’s here to make sure you see her. She’s also self-aware, constantly in self-reflection seeking growth, and self-admittedly sometimes taking some extra time to understand things for herself.
“You might know me as Slow Class Kai… ‘cause I’m a little slow… I have to learn things the hard way.”
Self-confidence and a sure purpose centers NyQuinn, driving her forward despite fear and the anxiety she has struggled with her whole life. That confidence didn’t come easily, as this interview reveals. In addition, there is still a healthy dose of fear, and plenty of adverse feelings and high-expectations from self, as well as others, to battle.
Biggest Fear: All This Scrutiny
“I think sometimes people forget that you’re human.”
One of the things to love and appreciate about NyQuinn, aside from her obvious talent and work ethic, is her honesty. True to her character she was genuine and raw throughout our entire conversation. From the moment we sat down, our interview was more of a dialogue than anything, and we open with her expressing how difficult it is to face scrutiny in the public eye. It’s hard to deal with negativity and hate, and it can be even harder knowing that with more success comes even more scrutiny.
“No the f— that’s not what I signed up for! I just signed up to make music and perform!”
It’s a common struggle and line of thought amongst creatives and artists. The artist desires to share and be known, but they’re only human and the world can be cruel. The artist, in this case musician, just wants to create, and share/perform.
Frequently, when artists are attacked and their lives are put under a microscope, we respond to them in their hurt and say they signed up for it, but did they? We may need to say its unavoidable, and the artist should be prepared for it, but should we be shrugging off the concern so nonchalantly?
Regardless, we do know it’s inevitable. And between her music and her thriving YouTube channel, how does NyQuinn deal with the scrutiny? As she describes a situation in which someone left a hateful comment on her video, she describes her philosophy on the subject through example,
“Well, I’m not going to comment anything bad. I just commented, I said, “Thanks for the view!” and I put a heart, ‘cause really at the end of the day you can say something negative about it but you still gave me a view. Like you still watched my music video so that makes me feel good.”
As far as NyQuinn is concerned, why put energy toward it? A big proponent of gratitude, she chooses to strive to reflect on the positive in the situation and move on to the things that really matter, reminding me in the process how much more important it is to stand for something, as opposed to always fighting against something.
In the same breath, as a woman of strong opinion and some experience that results in wisdom, she wishes people wouldn’t police her political correctness quite so fiercely.
“But people always want you to be politically correct…they want you to say, “Do whatever makes you happy! It’s your life do whatever makes you happy… Yeah, you can do whatever makes you happy but does that really make you happy?”
There is a clear distinction between opinion and hate, critique and bashing, challenging or attacking; and we may have let the lines blur. In the process, we have lost the valuable and vital, life-saving force of accountability.
We want people to stay out of our business, and we don’t want people to get angry when we say anything. We walk around unsure and not knowing what to do, but unwilling to seek help or accept guidance. It’s when we don’t have people in our lives ready to keep us on our toes or help safe-guard against dangerous people, situations and lines of thinking that we’re really the most vulnerable… in the worst way. We should be striving to make sure any time we do speak, it’s with love and intent to heal.
“I don’t really like to like solicit my opinion to people, but if something is on my heart and I really feel like this person is being self-destructive… I feel like if I’m close to you I have the right to say something. Now, of course, it’s also my job to make sure I also say it in a loving way and it’s not like judgmental but at the same time people need to be willing to receive certain things and not always be so defensive.”
There’s more than one side of high expectations to deal with from people. On the one hand the artist/creative has the negative scrutiny to deal with, but it can go another way too. Sometimes the pressure comes from being regarded too highly, almost as more than human. NyQuinn expresses how hard this side of things can be, too. As someone who actively shares what she is learning and has even written self-help books, she feels that sometimes people now forget that she is only human.
“I don’t like when people put me on a pedestal because I want people to understand that I’m a human.”
NyQuinn has been very open about the ways in which she is only human, even publicly outing herself in her substance abuse struggles on her YouTube channel here.
“I definitely had a substance abuse problem and the people around me had no idea”
Wisdom often comes through experience, and sometimes it’s difficult to remember that the people we look up to have been through it too. In fact, they may be going through it right now. Just because a person has valuable wisdom or a reason to be admired, doesn’t mean we should forget that they are human too. In NyQuinn’s case, the constant pressure made it hard to be open with her struggles at times. She describes how scary it was to put together the video and make her confession. If prior to recording the video it was exciting to have new content and to share, the reality sank in quickly.
“… Once I actually sat down and I started making the video, and I actually said the words ‘I’m an alchoholic’, it was, it was like embarrassing.”
However, in the words of Jay Z, ‘You can’t heal what you never reveal.” So, what was revealed?
“…and the reason I was constantly smoking and drinking all the time was because of anxiety.”
A Lifelong Battle with Anxiety
“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve just always been a like very timid, very nervous, very anxious person.”
NyQuinn came with a willingness and readiness to bare all. When we move into the dialogue about her anxiety, it can’t be done without unveiling a list of significant struggles and trauma to overcome. NyQuinn suffered molestation at the hands of her father, and her relationship with her mother was strained. She reflects on the struggle of having a mother who was young and alone herself.
“I understand because she was a single mom of three kids, three kids! She did it by herself!”
Understanding a situation, however, doesn’t make the situation less painful. Often, as a child, she found it difficult to get the attention or affection of her mother. In addition, her mother often was dismissive of her feelings or hurt. Many parents struggle with this; it’s so hard to meet a child where they are at, but the effects can be lasting. For NyQuinn, it left her feeling like less of a person, and she describes the frustration that these nonchalant and dismissive statements we throw around produce in the recipient.
“Stay in a child’s place: it’s like, okay, but you did something that hurt my feelings so I should… I should be able to express; I should be able to express to you that mom you hurt my feelings!”
She’s right, expressing is vital, but there’s more to it than just needing to learn to express in a safe environment.
“I felt trapped, like… My mom can just treat me however the f— she wants, any adult can just treat me however the f— they want, and I just have to deal with it and accept it, because I’m a kid and I can’t say anything.”
When our voices aren’t heard by the people who are supposed to teach us to hear and be heard, it makes it hard to know healthy boundaries and be secure around others. It can teach us it’s okay to hurt, or okay to be hurt, and destroys opportunity to learn how to apologize and how to forgive.
NyQuinn lost her grandmother, a formative maternal figure, at a young age. To add insult to injury, a terrifying dream of her death a week prior to her actual passing left NyQuinn shaken. She describes her cousins coming to tell her, and being so overcome with emotion when she saw her grandmother that all she could do was lay on her and cry. Her young mind, unsure of what to do with such a traumatic dream, had to now deal with the even more traumatic actuality. NyQuinn battled confusion and guilt for a long time after her grandmother’s passing.
“For a while I felt really guilty, like, I felt like her death was my fault because of the fact I had a dream she was gonna die.”
An abusive and then absent father, a young and ill-equipped mother and the loss of her other formative maternal figure all culminated in a life-long struggle for security and against anxiety. Luckily, her relationship with her mother has drastically improved. However, often, NyQuinn still feels the weight of her past heavily as she sees how its lasting effects on her current thinking, inhibitions, and fears are holding her back from her purpose.
“I feel like God has so much that he wants to use me for, but it terrifies me, to like express myself to people and speak to people sometimes, because I feel l like I’m that 9-10 year old girl again like I feel like… what I have to say doesn’t matter.”
These fears make it easy to want to quit, easy to want to give up. NyQuinn finds herself constantly overthinking and desiring to isolate, but she knows that at the end of the day there’s something bigger than anxiety and fear. She says about giving up,
“As easy as it would be, like, and much as I feel like doing that sometimes, I can’t. I feel like I can’t because I know that God is, God is using me for something.
“That’s what kept me sane.”
Feeling that she had no one to hear her, NyQuinn turned to the music.
“Well, if I can’t speak to my mom. If I can’t express myself. I’m just gonna lock myself in my room and write songs”
NyQuinn credits music with helping keep her from diving too deeply into other coping mechanisms for her anxieties and fear. She used the music as her escape, writing songs for hours as she would play make-believe that she was starring in her own “Behind the Music.” The music became a place of solace for her, a safe- haven.
Now, as time and experience has given more wisdom to her heart and mind, it has also translated into her music. This happens naturally, however, if you ask her, she’ll tell you she just lets it flow.
“Whenever I write songs, it’s definitely from my subconscious.”
Personality is the key theme when we talk about NyQuinn’s music. Every song may be different, even drastically so, but every song is all her. Usually, it starts with a beat with the song coming to match that emotion. However, for her upcoming project she has teamed up with Greg Owens for custom productions. The songs are written first, and the production will be built around them. And according to her, they’re already mostly written! We’re very excited about this new custom production, and so is she.
“It’ll allow me more freedom to just do whatever I want.”
It was surprising to hear NyQuinn talk about how her next project (tentatively titled Little Missunderstood 2) is more personal, seeing as how it already seemed as if personal was the name of the game with this E.P. Songs like “Conformity,” which highlights some of the struggles with overthinking, anxiety and substance abuse through a light-hearted and comedy-tinged approach. NyQuinn likens that song to her version of, “Laugh to keep from crying.”
To NyQuinn, making light of just how serious it all is while still addressing it head on makes it all just a bit easier to stomach. It’s also a reminder to her that at the end of the day, she’ll make it through whatever new struggle comes just as she made it through the struggles of her past.
“At the end of the day, even though I’m going through this stuff, I know everything is going to be ok.”
But she says the new music is even deeper. As she’s been on a journey to understand and love herself more, she’s taking that introspection to her songwriting for this upcoming project. Despite her fear of possibly sounding cliché’, NyQuinn described a song where she reflects on her lack of a father figure and how that affected her sexually, as well as her substance abuse; but she insists when we hear it, it will be something different and unique.
“But honestly, when you hear this song, it’s like, ‘Woah!’”
“I want to be a renaissance woman.”
We can’t wait! Neither can she, though of course there are nerves involved too. To NyQuinn it may feel easy to get halted at times, but we’re all going to die one day. To her, that’s motivation enough. Even more so, she doesn’t want to find herself older and full of regrets and ‘I wish’. As NyQuinn puts it,
“I don’t want to be sitting in my rocking chair like… I could have been Beyonce’ I could have been Maya Angelou.”
It would be easy to stop because of what people think, or what we think people think. But what if those people are acting poorly toward us because they are unfulfilled? Hurt people hurt people. Do we want to allow that to also halt our own fulfillment and purpose? Why allow the cycle to continue? Her perspective is to strive to respond to what is beneficial, even though it can be easiest to respond to the negative. But if the person has ill intent, why entertain them?
“I’m not about to waste my time responding to people who don’t believe in me or are trying to hurt me.”
NyQuinn feels that she’s a character, and it’s hard to disagree with that assessment. She describes herself as having 100 sides; you can never be sure who you’ll get. She loves letting this shine in her music now, but it was different for her as a youth.
“There just comes a point in time when you just have to stop giving a f— – that’s really some sh– I would say to my friends.”
Always wishing she could be poised and collected as a youth, she now embraces her personality as it is.
“I just want my respect, that’s all.”
The new-found confidence brings its own set of problems, as NyQuinn describes herself now battling the struggle with entitlement and wanting people to see her hard work. It’s understandable; after all she’s one of the hardest working women in the city. She describes navigating the struggle with entitlement in everything from social media to booking shows.
“I kind of feel like Kanye when he’s like, when he first came out and he was like saying like, “Y’all gonna respect me.”
Recently, however, she’s seen success using a different approach. She recently realized that she had more she could be doing to promote herself, and put the feelers out there for shows. She quickly got a bite and had three shows booked at the time of this interview. She talked about humility to know your purpose, but knowing also that you’re just one person.
“Having an ego isn’t a bad thing, but I’m just like, ‘God, please help me keep my ego in check, and keep me humble!’”
Putting herself out there is a fear, but remembering that greats have all had times of failure also helps motivate her forward to step out and self-promote. She encourages other artists and creatives to do the same – to promote themselves, to put themselves out there, to network. She reflects on Lauryn Hill’s experience at the Apollo,
“I’m sure the people that booed her didn’t know she was going to be anybody, but she knew.”
Speaking of being booed off stage, NyQuinn reflects on a time where she performed at a talent show. She had horrible stage fright.
“There’s going to be people who don’t think you’re good enough.”
The performance didn’t go well, and when she got off the stage, her mother laughed at her. The experience drove her back to isolation and she stopped sharing her music for a time.
“For years, I would just sing to myself in my room.”
Finally, at 20, she decided she didn’t want to follow a college career path. Though that is a noble and commendable path, she knew she wanted a different one. She began going to open mic nights and practicing endlessly. She still gets nervous, but the difference is night and day for her and her fear. Her first project is out, and the next one is nearly written,with recording already in the works. All this, in addition to new videos coming out and shows being booked.
“You just have to make sure your self-esteem stems from yourself.”