Quinn XCII’s fifth album doesn’t take flashy risks, but it does prove how much he’s perfected his sound.

The People's Champ - Album by Quinn XCII | Spotify
Album cover for “The People’s Champ,” Republic Records

On January 27th, Quinn XCII released his much anticipated fifth studio album, The People’s Champ. It screams cruising down the shore with the sunroof open, shades on, and a full car of friends screaming along. I can confidently say I’ll be doing exactly this when listening.

Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, Quinn XCII (aka Mikael Temrowski) has been a hustler all of his life. His moniker, Quinn, stands for “Quit Unless Your Instincts Are Never Neglected.” It is a testament to him always following his gut and pioneering his own sound, which he has been refining since 2011 back at Michigan State University. While he didn’t officially release any music at MSU, he still generated a cult-like following. Quinn XCII and his childhood friend/producer, Ayokay, pumped out mixtapes on campus in addition to a full-length album that is no longer available. His first studio-released album, The Story of Us, alongside his previous EP, Change of Scenery, garnered national attention; from there, his career took off.

Just as Quinn XCII claimed during the rollout for The People’s Champ, he completely hit the summer-album-in-the-middle-of-the-winter feel he was going for. Like many other pop musicians such as Surfaces or Calvin Harris, Quinn has his own trademark formula that tends to pump out the sounds of summer. The album has all of his signature aspects: flanks of trumpets, acoustic and electric guitar melodies, voice-modulated sound bites, and of course HEAVY kick drum usage. Rather than redefining his sound for this album, Quinn XCII doubled down on it. That being said, he also explored further aspects within his sound, using more grandiose piano segments and a larger dependence on acoustic guitars.

The best example of this exploration is in the track “Why Do You Talk To Me.” It is structured like his typical song, but he uses more acoustic guitar than ever before. It also marks what (as far as I know) is the first song he’s made about meeting his now wife. Quinn XCII raps and sings about how he felt he wasn’t up to his wife’s standards when they first met, gauging that she would never want a person like him even for a one-night stand.

I never thought that you were into me like that

Always figured tall and dark and handsome was your type

Wasn’t even bankin’ on a little one night stand

“Why Do You Talk to Me” – Quinn XCII

Generally, The People’s Champ deals with the struggle of insecurity that comes from Quinn XCII’s success and managing the process of self-growth. The four singles released – “Backpack,” “Common,” “Let Me Down,” and “The Lows” – during his five-month album rollout set high expectations by making clear the summer theme of the album while emphasizing the depths of his personal growth. Compared to his previous albums, The People’s Champ is more introspective: less about his friends and growing up, and more about his close family and self. It also features the likes of Big Sean, AJR, and Chelsea Cutler, by far the most prominent features on any of his albums.

Easing into the album with “Bartender” and “Common,” Quinn XCII gives us a taste of how he feels about his life on the surface. He talks about wishing he could drink away his problems, but still being happy that he has so much in ‘common’ with his wife Macy. He tackles some of the larger burdens in his life in “Black Porsche” and “FOMO.” The latter of the two is self-explanatory, and “Black Porsche” is about how Quinn XCII deals with his fame and money. He talks about not wanting to show off his money, but still letting those who supported him back home enjoy his luxuries. In the second half of the album, Quinn completely opens up about his relationship struggles and personal philosophies on life. In “Let Me Down,” he sings about consistently going back to a relationship where you expect to get hurt time and time again – a deeply reflective and relatable song in today’s day and age. In “The Lows” on the other hand, he sings about embracing all parts of your life even ‘the lows’ because without them, his highs mean nothing. Worrying about each of his lows only prevents him from living free and experiencing life to its fullest–a lesson we can all take to heart.

The People’s Champ has not been met with a standing ovation from Quinn XCII’s more dedicated fans, as many hoped he would further develop his own sound instead of embracing the larger pop genre more. Personally, I understand the purpose of the album and appreciate the direction he took. As a Quinn XCII fan since 2016, I have seen his sound develop leaps and bounds. Now that he’s finding his niche in the summer atmosphere of music, I see no reason for him to try and escape it. Quinn XCII has fully embraced the spotlights of popularity and has refined the sound he’s always been going for ever since he first shifted away from electronic pop. Just because Quinn XCII has begun to settle into pop more and more doesn’t mean he’s stopped innovating. All in all, Quinn XCII has once again produced a very well-rounded project, testing his boundaries with more intimate topics and honing his production and sound staging, all while still keeping many of his iconic elements.