Music

DC’s Forgotten Hip Hop Crew: Questionmark Asylum

by Yvette Travillian

OK, so DC artists like Wale and Tabi Bonney are slowly making the city become synonymous with hip hop, an accomplishment that has taken a long-ass time to reach and technically still isn’t quite there yet.  But DC’s striving to be known in the music industry for something other than go-go has been going on for longer than most people know.

Believe it or not once upon-a-time there was this crew called Questionmark Asylum, which consisted of four young dudes going by the names of  Digge Dom, Ding-Ding, Mistafiss and Rosta Swan; they had dope beats, ill rhymes and cool videos to complement their late 90’s style and East coast-ish swagger. But instead of solidifying their place in hip hop and becoming at least somewhat known in the game – they vanished into thin air and for the most part haven’t been heard from ever since.

The year was 1995 and I was one year away from moving from the Bay Area to DC. My opinion on its music scene was pretty much non-existent due to the fact that most people in Cali were only familiar with two artists and two songs out of the Nation’s Cap:  Nonchalant for her song “5 O’ Clock” and E.U for their song “Da Butt”.  But that summer my cousin put me on to “Hey, Look Away” and I was an instant fan.

My first assumption was that they were from Cali. They had a laid back flow about chicks and chillin that was similar to So-Cal and Nor-Cal artists The Pharcyde and Souls of Mischief. But they were DC  area boys and I was eager to see where they would be the following year. Unfortunately, by the time I made my way over to the East, I had pretty much forgotten about them and apparently so had the people of DC.

Interestingly enough, Questionmark Asylum was the first hip hop group out of to DC to be signed to a major label (RCA). Their debut album, called The Album received great reviews but it also came out during a time when hip hop was for the most part all about California or New York; if you were unluckily caught somewhere in the middle and your name wasn’t Outkast, your market was even smaller than most. They did however manage to squeeze out a couple of hits (“Hey, Look Awayand “Get With You“) that made its way across the country –  so on the hella underground I guess you could say Q.A established a little bit if credibility but above ground the schtick just couldn’t stick.

Fast forward to 2010 and the news on them is kind of bleak.  Sadly crew member Ding-Ding passed away and for the most part there is very little information out there about what they’re doing or if they are still together. There is no Wiki page for them but their Myspace is up and running and includes a “new song” that as you might expect (or at least I did) was somewhat on the lackluster side.

But hey, on the whole Questionmark Asylum was a very good look for DC back then and even now for that matter. There’s a stereotype that the music scene here is one-sided and they effortlessly illustrated that even 15 years ago there was more range and diversity in this city than most people were aware of. So check out their videos below and peep what the DMV had to offer way before you had Wale slappin’ in your headphones.