Hip-hop artist Brock holds onto dream
UB senior aims to establish brand with his group, Network
At Trattoria Aroma, an Italian eatery and pizzeria in Williamsville, Quinton Brock knows what it's like to be under pressure.
Whether he's grilling vegetables and meat or placing pizzas in the oven, Brock is constantly multitasking. In his mind, there's nothing he can't handle; he has performed in front of a crowd of 2,500.
Pizza making isn't his primary focus. Brock, a junior English major,is an up-and-coming hip-hop artist. Instead of sausage, onions and dough, Brock works with 808 drums, sci-fi sounds and lyrics in his home studio.
"Working at restaurants is cool because it forces me to constantly challenge myself," Brock said. "I constantly have to think. I'm multitasking. I have dough in the mixer, a pizza in the oven."
Brock applies the same logic to his music. He has to find the right ingredients to separate him from others and give listeners a product they will enjoy - just like his pizza.
Rapper Brock and producer Derek Sullivan, a UB alumnus, make up the rap duo Network. Brock has a sense of quiet confidence - until you get him talking about his music.
"If music was an organized thing at UB, I [would be] Khalil Mack," Brock said. "I am the No. 1 draft pick. That's what it is. I have the productions to prove it."
Others believe in Brock's talents, too. Jon Bap, his older stepbrother, is Network's sound engineer. He's confident in his brother's talent.
Brock's confidence is something that was embedded in his DNA at a young age.
When Brock was 5 years old and visiting New York City, he walked through Times Square with his family and was approached by a homeless man.
The man stopped Brock and his family and said Brock was "blessed." Brock believes it happened for a reason. He feels that he is destined to become a well-known recording artist.
Many artists have modern musical influences they idolize and aspire to become, but for Brock it's a bit different. His musical influences aren't the latest artists many of his peers listen to or rappers from the '90s and early 2000s.
Instead, he has two radio stations programmed in his car: XMU - an indie station on SiriusXM Radio - and '80s on 8.
These two stations help make up his musical Rolodex.
"I listen to a lot of different music all the time," Brock said.
Brock uses current chart-topping rappers like Kanye West and Drake to stay "in tune" with today's generation of hip-hop.
He wants to make people think - something he says he didn't do in the past as "Scooter" Brock, his former emcee name from his freshman year.
During his freshman year at UB, Brock played a show with well-known local rap artist Chae Hawk and dubstep recording artist Grabbitz at The Vault in Buffalo.
Hawk invited who he thought was the next up-and-coming generation of performers to participate in the local showcase. Brock's second video, "What You Want From Me," had 125,000 views, which put him on Hawk's radar.
But when Brock arrived to the venue and Hawk was introducing the artists, the crowd's reaction created a weird atmosphere for Brock.
"Chae walks up to the microphone and he's hosting the show and he announces these other guys, 'Oh, tonight we're going to have the Queen City Boys,'" Brock said. "Everyone claps. He says, 'We're going to have Grabbitz.' Everyone's clapping. And then, 'Scooter Brock.' Boom. Dead silence. It was, like, the lowest. I was like, 'f***.'"
Brock said after the "uphill battle" of that set with the crowd, he realized "it couldn't get much lower."
Since dropping the "Scooter" persona and teaming up with Sullivan, Network has played shows with popular recording artists like Pusha T, Mike Stud and Wale.
Before Network, when Brock was performing solo, he drew a lot of influence from Mac Miller. But he has come a long way since songs like "Bros," which was inspired by Miller's style.
In one of Network's latest songs, "Chocolate Milk," Brock uses a metaphor to describe his transcendence from "Scooter Brock" to a more mature artist. Brock said that throughout his time in school, from kindergarten to 12th grade, the only thing that remained constant in his life was the delicious beverage.
"Now, I get to college and there is no more chocolate milk. I don't drink chocolate milk every day anymore," Brock said. "So the song is about change. It's about me letting go of 'Scooter Brock.' It's letting go of everything that I did, all of my accomplishments. I took my videos off of YouTube that had 125,000 views."
For Bap, working with Brock is comfortable; it isn't strict like running a business, he said.
"I feel when he first started, he just had this idea of, like, being famous," Bap said. "Now, it seems like he cares more about the music aspect."
Brock and Sullivan do numerous things outside of performing together to establish themselves as an engaging and friendly rap duo. The group puts its music on YouTube, SoundCloud, Bandcamp and Facebook.
It started with "Mayo Mondays," something the duo tries to do every week that includes promo pictures and mixtapes to create anticipation for future albums, Brock said.
It also encapsulates who Brock is as a person: funny and laidback. This week's 'Mayo' special is their new single "Pendulum."
"[Derek and I] were sitting in Chipotle, and we didn't have a title for the album Light Mayonnaise," Brock said. "And it was originally going to be The Mayonnaise and Co. LP. But then, we were in Walmart shooting the cover and the case only said 'Real Mayonnaise,' the other case said 'Light Mayonnaise.' So we took a picture of the light mayonnaise."
Sullivan helps keep Brock focused. Brock likes to refer to him as "Dad," not because he is older than Brock, but because if Sullivan doesn't like anything that Brock produces, he is honest and open with his criticism.
"I think the cool thing about our dynamic is that he is the dreamer and I'm like the realist," Sullivan said. "He wants one thing and I see it another way. But it's that constant clashing that kind of, like, brings us together. We're never on the same page with anything. And people who know us will even say we are best friends that hate each other."
Sullivan and Brock are trying to brand themselves as artists with the help of Bap and the relatively new Network project, which began in Aug. 2012.
Brock will continue studying artists and listening to their first interviews after they sign big record deals. He wants to see how he can get his big break. And Sullivan will keep feeding him thrashing beats.
With Network, Brock believes he has found the ingredients for success.