MAMA, 1998
“Ibrahim is his middle name. He started out rapping under his childhood nickname, S-Quick, and his first name is Samuel.”

She was always telling him that story about how he got sick as a baby. He was such a small baby, she’d say, and it’d been so hot that summer. She’d forgotten what hot was after living in Chicago for six years. L.A. was hot as Hell. Try moving to Hell five months pregnant, Samuel. Like he could. Because that was suffering. She said she knew he’d have a bad temper because of that heat. She’d tell him he couldn’t wait to come out either, so impatient he was born a whole week and a half early. She’d been afraid he was too little but his grandmama had said any baby who can scream like that was too healthy.

“You got so sick before your first birthday, we thought you were gonna die.”

She straightened his collar sharply, yanking it upright as her fingers went to the yellow bowtie around his neck.

“You couldn’t keep nothing down. You stopped eating and would lie there screaming and lost all the fat on you, and the doctor said it was up to God now.”

She was always telling him this when he got into trouble.

“Well. He must’ve saved you for something because I sure didn’t.”

She pushed the knot towards his throat and fixed his collar, eyeballing him like she dared him to open his mouth and complain again.

She’d caught him playing hooky with Dero last week. He’d been forging her signature on all the please excuse my son from school notes, running around with D’s older brother and playing lookout from the backseat of the car. He’d never seen his mother so mad in his life. He’d been cuffed so hard in the back of the head, he was sure there’d be a permanent dent in his skull.

He hadn’t made any of his usual protests this Sunday about going to church.

“You think it’s alright now because it’s a small sin but a small sin is worse than a big one. Do you know why?”

He asked her why, reluctant, as she motioned him off the chair so she could fix up his brother.

“Because you don’t stop doing ‘em, that’s why. You get used to ‘em. And you stop asking for forgiveness.”

Ib hated her lectures about God more than anything and couldn’t understand why she couldn’t let him be like all the other boys who got to do whatever they wanted to.

“Are you listening to me, Samuel?”

Yes, ma’am.

“God won’t save you if don’t ask to be forgiven.”

“Despite his principle calling him just average as a student, he maintained high grades throughout all of high school and graduated in 2004.”

“A real man won’t raise a fist unless he’s ready to use it.”

“That way–” Uncle Ray squatted down close to the dusty concrete and held his wrinkled hands up, pink palms facing outward as temporary targets. He grunted from all the effort it took to move. His legs had been no good since the accident in ’92. The city had lost its mind and someone had hurled a Molotov cocktail at his windshield while he’d been trying to get home with certain perishables in his backseat. He’d crashed into a phone pole and broke both his knees.

Now Uncle Ray sat around vocalizing his opinions from noon to night.

I was a lucky sonuvabish, he’d say. Lenny’s brother got shot dead trying to get his wife to the hospital.

Ib could smell the smoke and liquor and sawdust soaked into his uncle's skin, and he stood there with an unimpressed look on his seven-year-old face. They were boxing in the basement so his mama didn’t find out Uncle Ray was teaching him how to fight.

“–he maintains the element of surprise.”

“I don’t need the element of surprise. I don’t fight dirty.”

Uncle Ray chuckled, the air wheezing out of his lungs as he motioned for Ib to start swinging.

“Dirty is what keeps you alive.”

“That ain’t what my teacher says.”

“Lemme tell you something. Your teacher don’t know ass from elbow. That’s just lies she teaches to keep you stupid. Women don’t know ass from elbow.”

“My teacher says–”

“Fuck what your teacher says and listen to what I’m saying. Life is dirty. I know, boy. The sooner you learn nobody in your life gonna fight fair, the smarter you’ll be. You don’t need school for that. Now hit me.”

PUP, 2006
“He started writing in grade school but it wasn’t until middle school that he started rapping. By high school, he was already killing cyphers and recording his first mixtape.”

“You got a gift, man. Like a real gift. You better not wind up like this. You better not, nigga. You oughta be flippin’ records, man. You better than anybody on the radio. Anybody. You murder all ‘em baby ass niggas on the radio. It makes me mad as hell. They got no credentials, poppin’ off like they know something. Name one. Name one, homie. Okay, maybe three, but that was five years ago. Stay your ugly ass in the studio. Don’t come back here no more. I’ll be mad as hell if you end up like us. I can’t tell you nothin’, nigga. If I was you, I’d never come back. Shit. I don’t wanna die here, man. Fuck that. I gotta get out. I miss Dos, man. I miss Keets bad. I miss the homies bad. If I could go back, nigga, and do it again? …”
“He auditioned for TDE founder, Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, by stepping into the booth and freestyling for two hours straight. Tiffith pretended to ignore him the whole time.”

“You think you can write a check and my life’s gonna be different?”

“I gave you that money for tuition and if you’re too fuckin’ blind to see what that’s good for, go fuck around with Jazz and wind up like him and his brother.”

“I ain’t skipping out on them just because you left.”

“The fuck I left.”

“Nigga, you left everybody.”

“I went to get money. For you. For moms. For J. So we don’t have to do this shit anymore.”

“See, that’s your problem. You think money’s gonna change my life just because you got out?”

“The fuck are you talking about. All we ever needed when we were kids was money. How many fuckin’ times did you wish you could be Dee Dee.”

“Who do you think was taking care of shit while you were gone?”

“He formed the group with his TDE label mates, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, and Schoolboy Q, in 2009. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg have called them “the new N.W.A.””

“I never saw anybody clear a gate faster’n Quick.”

Ib started laughing as he leaned back in the recliner, lacing his fingers together and pressing his palms against the top of his head.

They were hanging around the studio, waiting on Q.

“I thought Top was playin’ when he brought this nigga in,” Rock said. “He didn’t say nothing. He just sat there like he was deaf the whole time I was writing. And Top was like, yo, this lil nigga go hard.”

Bodied you on that track.”

“He wrote fifty bars in his head.”

But Ib was used to it.

He was quiet, kept his opinions and his hands to himself. When he’d started a few years ago, Rock had told him to appreciate what Top was doing for him. Top was saving lives, and Ib had had the world on his shoulders, knowing if this rapping thing didn’t work, it’d be back to the poorhouse. His family was barely scraping by.

Ib had just grown a foot that summer. The rest of his body had been trying to catch up. He’d looked like another underfed kid from the hood, easy to forget, easy to dismiss. Rock had dismissed him.

Ib never minded that though.

Being underestimated gave him the element of surprise. When he hit the stage like a hurricane, and he always hit like a hurricane, he suddenly became impossible to miss.

“We don’t play games out here. You an emcee or you a fraud.”

FREE, 2012
“Dre reached out to Ibrahim after hearing “Ignorance is Bliss” and tested his protégé’s skills by throwing him in the booth during their first meeting. Ibrahim recorded “Look Out For Detox” right after meeting Dre and was signed to Aftermath in 2012.”

Ib was in a shit mood.

He didn’t feel like rolling out of the bunk he was lying in as the bus whipped along the highway to Houston.

He was tired and hungry and he didn’t feel like playing games, but his best friend-turned-manager wouldn’t leave him alone.

“Are you doing the show or not?”

“I don’t like the nigga.”

“Who cares if you like the nigga? That ain’t your job.”

“I don’t fuck with thieves.”

“You want numbers, don’t you? I thought you were out here spreading the good word.”

“Fuck the good word. The people don’t want it.”

“Nigga, you ain’t out here to give ‘em what they want. You show ‘em what they need. How you gonna be the Resurrection if all you ever wanna do is bitch about everyone’s thievery. Nigga, this is the industry. You ain’t special. You gotta give some to get some.”

“Man, fuck you, nigga.”

“Why’re you always giving me a hard time? You know I’m right.”

Ib pulled his cap over his face and rolled over.

“Get your shit together, Ranell. You got mouths to feed.”

SHENG, 2016
“He did, however, buy a new house for his parents and put his siblings through college with his first million.”

“You miss it?” he asked.

His ex hovered in the doorway for a beat before crossing the floor to stand beside the couch and look down at him.

“Do you miss it?” she fired back.

He knew she was referring to how empty the house looked now that she’d moved out. There wasn’t any food in the fridge, no laundry in the hamper, no signs of recent habitation.

Ib sat there for awhile before reminding her, “I never wanted it in the first place.”

She sighed deeply and moved to sit on the coffee table in front of him, setting her spare keys down on the glass, tucking her hands between her legs.

He did miss it sometimes though, even if he wouldn’t say it. He missed the concept of home. He’d grown up living at his aunt’s and then his grandma’s and then his parents had finally been able to afford a house when he’d started school, but he’d left it a few years later when Top had adopted him.

Ib had never really had a Place.

He’d never fit into the places with money, and now he couldn’t fit into the places without.

“Remember when we were kids and you and Chad were always talking about how big your house was gonna be?” she asked, smiling at him.

“Yeah, but he wanted a water park in the backyard.”

She started laughing behind her teeth.

“You did want this house once. For your twelve kids,” she said.

“We couldn’t fit twelve kids in here.”

“Your mama raised four in a closet,” she snorted. “We could do it.”

Ib fell silent again. And then finally said, “I’m sorry.” For everything.

She just smiled at him, shook her head. “I hope one day you figure out how to be happy.”

IB, 2003
“Though he doesn’t abstain completely, Ibrahim doesn’t support the glorification of drug or alcohol abuse in his music. ”

The fury ate away at him like a cancer. He could feel it rotting him from the inside out, day after day, night after night, till everything he spewed was bitter. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. There was no brighter day. There was no equal opportunity, no progress, no future. They’d lied to him all his life. Working hard didn’t matter. Studying didn’t matter. Wages and grades and church didn’t matter. God didn’t matter. Money mattered. Money and firepower and skin color and zip codes mattered. He’d been born three blocks south of one war zone and ten miles west of a good life, and that’s what mattered. He was sick of hearing life ain’t fair. He’d ripped that paper-thin shield off when he’d been ten years old and if nobody was going to fucking save him and they wouldn’t let him save himself, why did he have to keep fighting. Why pretend shit was gonna get better. For who? No matter what he did, these roots were his. A seed could only grow where it was thrown and this jungle was his. These people were his. His eyes were spinning in his skull. He could feel the heat spreading from the pit of his stomach. His lungs were on fire. The walls started to warp and he felt around the sofa, fumbling over the rough armrest as Vic started laughing at him, pointing. Nigga don’t know what hit him. He felt somebody smack the back of his head. Chill, man. You rollin’ with us tonight. You one of us tonight. Vic took another drag and passed the blunt back to him. He didn’t want it. He felt the surge of adrenaline crush him as Vic started talking about paying L--- the kinda visit that only ended one way. He couldn’t concentrate. Vic was still holding the blunt out to him and asking, You one of us or nah?
1987-2014 STEP
1994-2013 BRAZE
1990-2013 CHAD
1985-2013 PUP
1983-2012 SLAM
1988-2011 EARL B.
1984-2009 MEECH
1987-2008 RED
1984-2007 JUICE
1985-2005 HERBO
1979-2002 DOS
1983-2001 KEETS
1962-2000 UNCLE RAY
SLIM, 2016
“He proposed to Sherlyne Holmes in 2014. Sadly, he and his long-time girlfriend split last December. ”

She’d turned the lights off and pulled her hands into the sleeves of her jersey to jump on the bed.

Her iPad was blasting her pre-night party playlist and he was lying on his back, asking her why DMX was supposed to be pre-night music.

She flopped over on top of him, breathing hard and grinning.

They’d been talking about her exes, the rules of engagement, where the crucifix she’d found behind her bed had come from. She’d asked him if men wore crucifixes and then proclaimed the devil was stalking her.

“Don’t it bother you?” he asked.

“What? Your old chicks?”


Her head whipped around to look at him as her eyes narrowed. “Why would it?”

“It bothers me,” he said. Her exes.

“That’s old shit. You’re here now, aren’t you?”

And it seemed so logical when she said it like that.

He thought about it. He thought about all the ugly things he couldn’t tell her, all the things he’d dragged around all his life.

Old shit.

“ARF ARF!” she barked, launching to her feet again with her oversized jersey on and her hair raging like a wildfire. “WHAT Y’ALL NIGGAS WAAAAAAANT!” And she raised her fists to the sky and howled before sinking dramatically back onto her knees and launching into the most aggressive rap he’d ever seen, too big for her body.

He started laughing. He laughed too much in this house.

Later when she fell asleep and he thought about the resurrection, he told her he’d come back from the dead to walk this evil earth again, just to keep her company.

Maybe her subconscious heard it.

Max Weinstein April 10, 2016 2:11 PM

Ibrahim Ranell is a lot of things to a lot of people. Some love him, some don’t, but no one questions his talent. His star power has been manifest in the tidal wave since good kid, m.A.A.d city and now, almost four years and six Grammys later, he’s solidified his status as a reigning king of hip hop.

Part of Ibrahim’s charm is his restraint, despite how autobiographical his stories are. We only get a “Day in The Life of Ibrahim Ranell” at most, never the whole story. So while he’s now an international star, there are still details about who he is that remain unknown to the general public.

While music fans await his next release with excitement, we excavated the S-Quick archives to find out a little more about him and why Dr. Dre signed him. These are 10 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Ibrahim Ranell.

01. He didn’t always go by Ibrahim Ranell.
02. He was a straight A student in high school.
03. He started rapping young.
04. He signed to TDE at 17.
05. He’s part of hip hop super group, Black Hippy.
06. Dr. Dre co-signed him when he was 21.
07. He didn’t own his own place until 2014.
08. He’s not a big drinker or smoker.
09. He does not consider himself to be religious.
10. He dated his high school sweetheart for 10 years.