iLoveMemphis

It began with just $35 and a dream. From that humble start, hip-hop newcomer iLoveMemphis not only emerged as one of 2015’s hot breakout artists—he also set off a pop culture phenomenon with the infectious single “Hit the Quan.” Co-signed in short order by such celebs as Ellen Degeneres, Chris Brown, Kendrick Lamar and The Rock, “Hit the Quan” rocketed to No. 15 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and No. 7 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. To date the track has sold more than 500,000 units, while fans’ own “Quan” dance videos have racked up more that 175 million cumulative YouTube views. And even before the Nov. 12 premiere of the single’s official video on YouTube, the artist at the heart of hip-hop’s latest dance-craze movement had already landed at No. 50 on the Billboard Artist 100. “I just want to bring fun and energy back to hip-hop,” says iLoveMemphis who signed with Barry Weiss’ indie RECORDS label after fielding various major label offers. “’Hit the Quan’ was something I created because I wanted everyone to get up, get moving and, most importantly, have fun being themselves.” A self-described studio junkie (“When I get an idea in my head, I shoot straight to the studio”), the 22-year-old Memphis native was born Richard Maurice Colbert. He began honing his natural writing and comedic talents in his early teens as a member of a local ministry group, “reciting poems, writing plays and performing skits.” Graduating in 2011 from Manassas High School, Colbert added modeling to his repertoire while his comedy work and self-taught dance moves built a sizable Instagram following—all while juggling a security guard gig for Memphis Light & Power. With a stage name iLoveMemphis, a tribute to his hometown, Colbert segued into rap after teaming with producer Bucknasty in 2014. The pair’s work caught the ear of manager Michael “Miami Mike” Sykes (Soulja Boy), who signed iLoveMemphis in March 2015. Just three months later—inspired by the Rich Homie Quan hit “Flex (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh)”—love Memphis unleashed his Bucknasty-produced, freestyle breakthrough “Hit the Quan.” “People were going crazy when Quan danced onstage but there wasn’t a particular song for the dance,” says iLoveMemphis, whose influences include Lil Wayne, Yo Gotti and Fetty Wap. “So I came up with a song and my own signature dance. Everything just came together.” The hip-hop newcomer then pumped that momentum to the viral level when he posted a video for the $35 song on YouTube and simultaneously launched a #HitTheQuanChallenge dance contest. Fans uploading their own creative takes on “The Quan” immediately sparked a chain reaction. The rapper jumpstarted the BET Awards with an animated live performance that had Snoop Dogg, Soulja Boy and the entire audience on its feet. An early shout-out by Chris Brown plus performances on The Ellen Degeneres Show and The Real talk show gave way to Kendrick Lamar and Terry Crews getting their “Quan” on for Lamar’s “These Walls” video. The Rock, in turn, whipped up more social media frenzy when his “Quan” gym workout was picked up by Good Morning America, The Today Show, Rolling Stone, USA Today and Entertainment Weekly. The dance has even garnered some touchdown action by such NFL players as the San Diego Chargers’ Keenan Allen and the Carolina Panthers’ Mike Tolbert and Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce. Underscoring social media’s powerful status in the music industry’s new world order, iLoveMemphis is currently on the road with his first national tour. Having kicked off Oct. 8 in Hampton, VA (with Fetty Wap on that date), the 19-city sold-out run wraps Dec. 19 in Lafayette, LA after stops in Memphis (with Silento), Denver, San Diego, and Little Rock. But don’t even think about counting iLoveMemphis out as a one-hit wonder. Eager to give back to his hometown, where hundreds of dancers and dance crews from all over the country braved the rain to shoot the official “Hit the Quan” video, he pledges that people are going to hear a lot more from him. “Many kids here think they have to do what drug dealers are doing to get ahead,” declares iLoveMemphis. “I’m building a movement that embraces doing positive things to get ahead. I plan on changing the world—and it starts with Memphis.”