The self-styled "boy who invented rap," esQuire was a striking and much-appreciated alternative to his contemporaries within the Detroit hip-hop scene -- favoring colorful, tongue-in-cheek lyrics and funky, swaggering beats over the ridiculously grim-and-gritty approach of Eminem and his ilk, his music evoked the halcyon days of old school rap while infusing the genre with a glitz and showmanship all his own. esQuire was born Kevin Herron in Detroit in 1976 -- the child of a musician father and dancer mother, he later recalled that his first exposure to rap was Blondie's classic "Rapture." As a teen Herron briefly studied cello, but did not begin rapping until a student at the University of Michigan, making his public debut at a 1999 show headlined by rapper Princess Superstar.
The following year, while attending a ballroom dancing class, he befriended fledgling DJ/producer Craig LeRoQ (born Craig Badynee), and they began recording together -- in mid-2000, Herron adopted the larger-than-life esQuire persona in advance of a opening slot for rapper Peaches, and a legend was born. Complete with vintage track suits and a pudding-bowl haircut that would have made Brian Jones swoon with envy, esQuire immediately set new standards for hip-hop fashion -- even better, his live shows featured a group of sexpot go-go dancers to guarantee maximum entertainment value. Q made his recorded debut in December 2000, issuing "The Boy Who Invented Rap" on the Japanese label Escalator; a year later, he returned with "Let's Get Right Down to the Real Nitty Gritty," one side of a split single with Losfeld. By now a near-mythological figure among Motor City concertgoers, in May 2002 esQuire issued the 12" "Brandy and Xanax"; the four-song Viva Detroit! dropped around the same time, but was made available exclusively to the hipsters in attendance at his headline show at Southfield's Buddha Lounge. In February 2003, U.K. label Rex Records issued a 10" version of "Brandy and Xanax," with the accompanying video clip earning airplay on Britain's MTV2. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi