Tucked away on the Alamo City’s North Side, a nondescript strip mall houses a professional recording studio where San Antonio hip-hop history is being made. Inside the dark studio, producer extraordinaire Polygrafic works behind the boards, while Daniel James Boskind, the emcee known simply as Question, directs from inside the booth. Seated in front of the mic, Question puts the finishing touches on a track tentatively titled “Love Stoned,” which is geared toward the fairer sex and accented by hooks from San Antonio crooner Eddie B.
From the booth, Question confidently commands the studio like an orchestra conductor, quickly moving from rhymes and verses to sound effects and ad-libs in precise fashion. On-the-verge emcees Fast Money and Lil’ E soak the vibe, and as Question exits the booth he jokes about his preference for sitting while he spits, noting that he shares this trait with rap heavyweights Big Pun and Christopher Wallace. A healthy 28-year-old, Question cracks on own his weight, particularly self-deprecating banter for a man who just three weeks ago signed a six-album record deal with Epic Records/Cinematic Music potentially worth three quarters of a million dollars, making him the first homegrown San Antonio solo emcee to sign to a major label.
“That’s a long time,” Question says, reflecting on his new corporate obligations. “I don’t even know if I’ll get to six albums, but God willing I will. They’re giving me a nice budget. They’re giving me a $100,000 independent budget on top of the deal to go out and do mix-tapes and go out and do DVDs, and do all the things on the street level which a lot of labels don’t do. It’s a nice situation. I have my company Dope Supply. They’re giving me the imprint with that so it’s a good situation. I can’t complain.”
To gauge how far this San Antonio native has come, just listen to the first track of 2006’s I Am Question mix-tape. In the song he describes hard times growing up all over SA with his mother and, occasionally, his drug-addicted father. When things got rough, he turned to shoplifting and slinging drugs, served a short stint in the Army before being discharged, and was even homeless for a spell. Through it all, he continued to cultivate his growing talent as a wordsmith, eventually taking the name Question, which was given to him by his grandfather because of his curiosity as a child.
“There’s a difference to me between being a rapper or an entertainer and being an artist,” he says. “All artists to me draw from their past, from their pain, from their hard times, from their good times. They draw from all that. That’s one of the things that I try to do. I try to draw from every experience that I’ve been through and I feel everyone’s been through those same experiences. I don’t come off like I’m some super-hero or some gimmick rapper. I’m an average person and I feel like the majority of the world is made up of average people. My past and what I’ve been through is still inspiration for what I do.”
Question’s latest opus, the two-disc Kush 2008 mix-tape, is easily the most polished street hip-hop release to come out of San Antonio. The album has already sold more than 5,000 copies, received rave reviews, and is now available for free on Question’s MySpace page. For the album, which also features production by his fiancée/life manager Nora “Phyre” Abrary, the prolific Question recorded 35 songs in three days. He plans to hole up in the studio for the next three months to record 80 songs for his major-label debut, titled Odd Jobs, Pawn Shops, and Dope Fiends, in reference to his father’s usual means of survival.
Back at the studio, San Antonio’s first family of hip-hop looks back on recent hardships and the brighter days ahead. “For the time that we’ve been together I’ve seen him struggle,” says Phyre, who credits her parents for helping keep the family afloat through lean times. “I’ve seen him traveling. I’ve seen him stressed out and broke. I’ve seen him homeless.
“Still, he’s worked his way through it and given me motivation by just watching him move through everyday life. It’s been amazing to me and such a relief to see that he got what he needed to get. His dream is coming true.”
“When it finally happed, it was a relief,” beams Question. “That process was pretty interesting because I went up to Epic Records and sat down with the label president. I’ve done more commercial-style stuff and he heard that and said ‘I like that,’ but when he heard the more hip-hop side of me, he actually said ‘That’s the vision I have for you.’ That was a relief because I was always worried about my artistic integrity.
“Once you go to that machine they don’t want you to be artistic. He actually encouraged it. So that process was great, to hear a president of a record label tell you, ‘We want to do what you want to do. You lead us.’” •