Appreciating Qari's Ascent Towards 'No Time To Explain'

 Photos by Michael Salisbury

Photos by Michael Salisbury

Qari’s importance in Chicago hip-hop is much like his music - understated, intuitive, and true to himself. The rapper with height and unruly hair has low-key presence and loud influence in the local scene. His pen never runs out of ink; Qari is as talented a writer as they come, and his ear for songwriting is only getting better. Widespread recognition is less an if than a when, and 2017 left the distinct impression that major success was in striking distance. The same feeling we got with other local artists like Saba or Smino or Noname, that true greatness was around the corner. Qari is about to get his moment, so let’s reflect on where he’s been recently.

Qari’s upcoming project is titled ‘No Time To Explain’, and will likely redefine how we think of his music. Even at Qari’s most subtle and complex, or maybe because of that, he can paint the picture of a wallflower. Pushing forward, ‘No Time To Explain’ centers Qari, takes all his unique elements in orbit and aligns them around him. Storytelling with unconventional presentation, lyricism delivered via sideways flows. The effect is a Qari who’s music feels present, here and now.

Qari’s already got what seems like a long career path bringing him to this point, and in Chicago he comes off as a vet. The impression is this career point has been lying in wait for years, from the Supreme Regime to Hurt Everybody, from Carl to Qari. But at 21 years old and with talent supporting longevity long outlasting trends, Qari’s only just getting started. Hurt Everybody would have been a suitable peak for many artists, but for Qari it’s what made his solo music possible, an incredible internship for his rapper resume. That ended in 2016, and 2017 was the next part of of his forward progress. Looking back, we can easily trace the events of last year confirming Qari is on the verge of big things.His releases last year were building blocks for what we’ll be hearing soon.

Qari and Mulatto Beats’ intergalactic Space Jam EP landed from somewhere far away in January 2017. For Mulatto Beats, the instrumentals were unusually subdued compared to what he had made in the past, and the project was an evolution for both artists. It resulted in one of the best Chicago rap songs of the year, the upside down “Pants From Japan”, as well as the smooth guitar of “The Motions” and the driving inevitability of “Picture Perfect” (ft. Lucki). ‘Space Jam’ was very Qari as we knew him, left-field, low-key and as usual quality over quantity (that won’t change).

After Space Jam was released, the rest of his year was occupied by hot single after hot single, each which gives us an idea of the direction he’s heading. He had two fiery tracks on Mulatto Beats’ special .22 Summers project, “Good To Lose” and “UMX”. “Good To Lose” put that incredible pen to work, and saw Qari exploring more vocal range and melodies, as well as filters, something you can be sure to see more of in 2018. More notably, it was a glimpse at the Qari we’re hearing now, taking that lyricism and wrapping it up in delivery that moved. “UMX” is Qari at his most personal, telling us his life story in unflinching detail. That Mulatto Beats gave him the last track on the project speaks for itself, and when I spoke with Mulatto in the summer of 2017, he described Qari as his favorite Chicago artist to make music with, period.

Other great songs in 2017 include the wonderful acronym “MBDLMNM” and “Love Is Going To Find You”. He also had some great features with artists like Dally Auston, Samii Beats, and Phoelix. The trend we’ve seen is that his lyrics are dense, his songwriting keeps a light touch, his ear is on point and he’s only getting better. One change is that his music seems to be getting a little more weighty and grounded as the year progressed. It’s a sign that Qari’s ability and vision are syncing in a big way.

Since embarking on his individual music, Qari has made huge developments, largely in the last year. With No Time To Explain on the way, it was well worth our time to reflect on what this man’s been up recently, as nobody deserves it more than he does. Expect more shows, more music, more big steps forward. You may have forgotten just how many jewels he dropped over the year, but this is your reminder. Digging up those gems was mandatory, and catching up with Qari was a necessity.