From September 2014 to November 2015, Rich Homie Quan released five projects: three solo mixtapes, an EP, and a collaborative Rich Gang tape with Young Thug and Birdman. From December 2015 to March 2017, he released zero. Had Quan, famous for tapes with titles like Still Goin' InI Promise I Will Never Stop Going In, and If You Ever Think I Will Stop Goin' In Ask RR, finally stopped going in? 

In truth, the drought was caused by a legal battle between Quan and his former label, the independent Think it's a Game Records, during which Quan wasn't allowed to release new music. This period of uncertainty ended when Quan signed a new deal with Motown in February, and the long stretch of time without a new RHQ project came to a close two weeks ago with the release of Back to the Basics

The title and long gap between BttB and its predecessor suggest a comeback, as does Quan's tone throughout the new project. He's been through a lot in the past couple of years-- the label dispute, an alleged fallout with Young Thug, a few leaked songs with morally reprehensible lyrics-- and that's immediately apparent in the opening lines of BttB intro "Never Made It":

Never thought that I would be in the situation that I'm in
Never thought these folks would turn their back on me, thought they was fans
All these n****s talkin', smilin' faces I had thought they was friends

The whole project's filled with commentary on all of the gossip that surrounded Quan during a time when he wasn't able to speak for himself via his music. True to its title, it's also a return to the impassioned, melodically-driven, lyrics-focused Quan that his fans know and love, but haven't seen in a while. 

Set to release a more official debut album with Motown this summer, Quan is back in the driver's seat after being on hiatus against his will. We hopped on the phone with him to talk about all that's changed in the past 18 months, some key lyrics on Back to the Basics, and his relationships with his haters, his fans, and Young Thug. 

So it’s been about a year and a half between your last project and this one. Why did you feel like it was time to go back to the basics now?

Ah man, I was finished with my litigation, you feel me? At that time I couldn't really drop any music. So I just wanted to go back to the basics and get that hunger back in me, 'cause when you're an artist and you're making a lot of money, you forget where you come from. I didn't want to get lost in the sauce. I wanted to show my fans that I've been working and show them my mindset.

When you were selecting beats for Back to the Basics, were you specifically looking for producers who could take your sound back to its roots?

It wasn't so much looking for producers who could bring back that sound, it was looking for instrumentals that I could tell a story on. If somebody played me a beat I could really write to, I definitely wanted to get on it. I wasn't trying to do any of these radio beats or anything like that, I just wanted to tell a story. I wanted to keep an original sound and not go too far, you know, just do me. 

I've seen you quoted saying that a certain period of your career didn't make your fans happy. Which part, specifically, were you referring to?

Probably everything after [2013's] I Promise I Will Never Stop Going In. I just wanted to get back to that same focus, get my focus on and concentrate more on what I'm doing. At that time, I was just making money, feeling myself, and I was getting away from the basics. 

Why do you feel like the success of “Flex” made people hate on you?

I went double platinum in my city, and I was industry, doing amazing things. Everybody wanted to hate, and I felt it. Jealousy, envy, all of that. 

And now you feel like your day one fans weren't rocking with that song and others that came out around that time?

That music was more to my liking, as opposed to what the fans wanted. All of my songs are my babies. It's just like, I got comfortable with what I was doing and I just wanted to let the fans know what I wanted to do, and that's just not what the fans want. 

Where did that feedback come from?

Social media, word of mouth. I know when people be talking about how they feel about me online. 

It must have felt amazing to go double platinum on an independent label though. Were there any downsides to being independent?

The downside was my contract. I wasn't in a bad contract, but it wasn't the best contract either. Basically I wanted to do it over and boss myself up, get another contract, but like a boss contract, you know what I'm saying? The [Think it's a Game] contract was cool, but I didn't feel like I was getting enough. You've gotta be about your business, and make sure your business is taken care of the correct way. When I signed that contract I was young, so that ain't nothing but growing pains. If I could do it all over man, I wouldn't do it no different way though.

You wouldn't make any changes to your career at all?

Yeah, because I feel like if I didn't go through everything I went through, those situations wouldn't have made me into who I am today.

About two and a half years after its release, the Rich Gang tape has been called a classic by a lot of people. Do you look back on it in a positive light? Or is its reputation clouded by your fallout with Young Thug and Birdman? 

Yeah, [Tha Tour Pt. 1] was a classic. I try to look back on everything positively, because a negative light will bring out negative energy in me. I'm at a point in my life when I'm not trying to do that. So with Rich Gang, it's a milestone. We recorded great music, and there's never nothing to be disappointed about. Every last one of us who was in that situation came away better, stronger, smarter. It was good while it lasted. 

Are you on good terms with Thug?

I'm on good terms with everybody. We don't have any bad terms, it's just like, now we're solo artists, you feel me? I think people forget that we were always supposed to be solo artists, we just happened to collaborate on a project. There was never supposed to be another project like that. 

Right. In addition to being for the fans, Back to the Basics also directs a lot of lyrics at the haters. Why did you feel like it was important to shout them out?

I've probably got more haters listening than day-one fans, you know what I'm saying? So I just wanted to let them know, in addition to the fans, that I'm right back out here. That was basically the goal. 

You also refer to your hiatus, saying, "They think I'm sleep playing dead, no I'm just meditating." 

I was still on the road, still going strong. My money didn't stop. It was just that I couldn't drop any music. So I saw the comments, I saw my fans talking, but at the time, I couldn't do anything about it. So the whole time I was just grinding, working on my craft, trying to perfect it, working every day. People thought I wasn't doing nothing, but I was basically working on myself, making myself better, listening to everything everybody was saying about me and taking it all in, the good and the bad. 

You introduce "Replay" by saying, "I'm so content with the person I am." Has that always been the case, or was that part of the journey you had to go on to get here?

It came with growing up. I had to go through that stuff to be happy with the person I am. At first I wasn't, but I'm so content right now that I couldn't give a fuck about what anybody say about me or feel about me. It doesn't matter anymore because I know who I am and what I want. 

You seem to focus more on your youth and the time you served in Dekalb County on this album than you did on past projects. Why is that more on your mind now?

I wouldn't say it's on my mind more, it's just that on this project, I tried to put myself back in that mindset when I was living with my momma. I wanted to go back to that starting point when I was all about the music, and I studied my [old] music, because I wanted that same sound. I was hungrier then because I was broke. 

Throughout the project, you talk about saving your money, or like, “I don’t buy nothing, I’m dirt cheap.” Is that how it’s always been for you since you starting getting rap money, or did you have to mature a bit first?

Yeah, I been saving money. It's just like, I know the game I'm in, and I know with all the jewelry and cars, man, you're going broke right there. I'm getting older. When I was in my "Type of Way" days, I was buying everything, whatever I wanted. So every line on this tape is the truth, the actual facts, as opposed to just making words rhyme. This is my actual lifestyle. 

Ok, now tell me about your new Motown deal, that’s pretty huge. 

Well my career's been going on six years. I just felt like it was time, like we had done all we could do, I was independent with a platinum plaque, you know-- everything but a Grammy. And with Motown, once I got in the building I felt comfortable, like I could make my own. That was the deal for me. I definitely went in plenty other buildings, but I felt like that one was for me. 

And you've got an album coming out this summer.

Yes, Rich as in Spirit.

How will that differ from Back to the Basics?

It's definitely going to have that old Quan sound-- you can just call that the Quan sound now because I'm back to it-- but I will definitely go into more detail and get deeper. Real life stuff, motivation. 

Do you foresee ever taking one of these extended breaks again? 

I can't ever take another break. It wasn't one I ever wanted to take, it was a break I had to take. Hopefully I don't go through no more legal stuff. 

Last question: are you ever going to release another Going In tape?

I can't decide man. I don't want to end that saga, but I can't concentrate on that now. You've just gotta keep listening to find out.