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Qwote makes the kind of music that sparks a sweaty hunch on the dance floor, right before you and your new friend start kissing. And back at the crib, after poppin' bottles, he can be there, again, when you need some more of that sweet lovemaking music.
This decade is sorely missing its modern-day Marvin Gaye, and Qwote, Miami label Slip-N-Slide's new act, hopes to fill the foreplay-music void. Born James Leonard in Haiti 27 years ago, he delivers music that is unabashedly all about the bump and grind. "Girl, I'm addicted to your booty/Bounce it, baby, love the way it jiggles," he sings on his latest single, "Shawty It's Your Booty," which is getting heavy rotation on 99 Jamz (WEDR-FM).
And although Slip-N-Slide is mostly home to hip-hop artists, Qwote is definitely not a rapper. "I am what you call the new bad boy of pop music," he says over the phone on a recent Friday afternoon as we set up an in-person meeting. "I hate when people try to categorize me as pop or R&B. I am taking it to a whole new level.
"We can do this interview wherever you want. You want to come over to my house? We can go to the gym and work out," he continues. "You tell me how you want to do this." I mention I will be at Churchill's Pub, in Little Haiti, after work, and we agree to meet there around midnight.
A few hours later, while enjoying a cold bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon at the bar, I receive a text message from Qwote saying he has arrived. Outside, his black Jaguar is surrounded by the local, um, "parking attendants." A tall man with dreadlocks, who introduces himself as "Crip," leans toward the driver's window and says to Qwote: "Just park right there, man."
Qwote peers out at me from inside the car. "I don't know about you, but they don't have no name tags or nothing," he says of the questionable valets. He unlocks the passenger door, and I climb in. We decide to just cruise instead.
His hair done in R. Kelly-style cornrows; he sports lightly tinted sunglasses, a black T-shirt, khaki cargo shorts, and camouflage Chuck Taylors. We stop at a red light in front of a 24-hour laundromat. "It's ironic that we are driving around this part of town. The first time I came to Little Haiti, it felt good, like I was being thrown into my culture," he says. "I've had a lot of Haitians come up to me and they're real excited about what I'm doing. I feel like my people are behind me.
"My parents are Haitian, and I am proud to be Haitian. I lost my mother when I was 5, and my father pretty much left the situation. My grandmother lived in New York, and she raised me. We moved down to Miami when I was 12. We stayed in Liberty City first, and then we moved up to North Miami."
One of his songs, "Down on You," plays on the stereo. With a Michael Jackson singing style, the recorded version of Qwote croons about cunnilingus: "I'll go down on you/Girl I'll be kissing your lips/Promise you'll be feeling my licks/I wanna lay my head between your thighs/Slide your panties/Show me that Brazilian wax/Gonna try/Some of that sweet pie."
He makes a left turn onto NE 40th Street. "This song came out two years ago, and it got me street exposure. The underground played the hell out of it, and I got some attention. [Fellow Slip-N-Slide artist] Trina did a remix of it," he says and turns down the volume. "I was just chillin' one day, and I started writing a song about going down on a girl. One thing led to another, and there was the record."
He parks in front of Grass Lounge, in the Design District, and we step outside. "My music is about what really goes on in a relationship. A lot of guys don't want to touch those sensitive points, but I'm not afraid to get emotional. God made us with feelings to love and hate. Women love when you can break your feelings down like that. I'm giving them a man's point of view, and I'm not trying to be macho about it. Women love when you cry in front of them. That's keeping it real. You can't hide your true feelings when you're in a relationship."
Later, back in the car, I ask him how he ended up on Slip-N-Slide. "I started hustling my music about five years ago," he says. "I would get to the studio at, like, 5 in the afternoon, and I would start recording around 2 or 3 in the morning. I'd have to wait for everybody else to finish. I ended up on Slip-N-Slide Records because of my manager; we were just trying to find the Qwote niche. I'm excited about my situation with Slip-N-Slide. To me, music is music. Whatever comes out of me is whatever comes out. You know what I'm saying?"
We drive back to the Churchill's parking lot. "Next time, we're gonna do something a little more adventurous," Qwote says, stopping the car. "You ever been skydiving? Let's do it. You think I'm playing, but I'm serious. I'm gonna make the arrangements, and I'll let you know."
We shake hands, and I exit the car, visions of skydiving with 2009's answer to Barry White dancing in my head.