Qbala, A Fort Collins Rapper, Rejects Labels Through Music

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Photo: Qbala in OpenAir Performance Studio
Fort Collins hip hop artist Qbala in CPR's OpenAir Performance Studio on July 11, 2016.

Qbala has gone through a lot, and the Fort Collins hip hop artist's beats hit on all of it -- topics such as drug abuse, sexuality and an absent father.

Born Kahlie Quinones, Qbala prefers not to be categorized by sexual orientation, gender or race. The artist's latest EP, "Battle Cries," came out last fall and is all about rejecting labels. Qbala performs at the Walrus Saloon in Boulder Tuesday night.

The hip hop artist spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.

In response to the recent shootings in St. Paul and Baton Rouge:

“I’m finally starting to just speak up. When is enough enough? I as an artist have to start saying something, I have to start acting. I have to maybe even start meeting up with police officers in our area to kind of spearhead this movement so that this energy doesn’t come to Fort Collins.”

On rapping about gender and sexuality:

“It really shows in my music, and if you go back through the four albums that I have released you actually can see a storyline of where I was at. I was just blurting stuff out, really short, choppy, spoken-word poetry. Then it starts to develop into more storylines of, this is what I’m going through and some of it is just anger and frustration. Now I’m really starting to speak on intimate moments within my life that are not just intimate to be but to my family as well.”

On how music helped the artist get clean:

“I found my writing while sitting in a basement smoking methamphetamine, and it was almost like a graduation of drugs and a progression of this is getting worse, and this is getting worse. How do I break these apart? How do I separate this person over here that is really scared of life and is using substance basically to medicate, to this person who is trying to free themselves from this and write about it so they can get away from it. And that for me is holding myself accountable out loud. If I say it out loud and tell it to the world, then I’m going to have to be accountable for my own actions.”