The spark of electricity needed to power a battery is all around, but in order for it to travel where it needs to and help who it’s intended to, it needs a conductor. In the middle of any grand movement on this planet, there’s been a person or people whose words, actions, and thoughts helped spark the movement and helped take it to the next level. Que` Pequeno, of Baltimore’s “Tew World Order,” is an example of just that. Ever since he began curating and orchestrating his “808s and Sadbois” shows for Baltimore’s music scene in 2017, he’s been a catalyst for change, guiding the careers of countless talents pursuing their dream. With momentum growing behind him and his label “Tew World Order,” he wants more than ever for his city to be seen in its proper light and he’ll stop at nothing to make this dream happen.
Que’s story begins in Northeast Baltimore in 1991, where he and his siblings were born and raised by their parents. His parents, both of whom came to America from Nigeria following the Biafra War, raised him in a strict Catholic household and instilled in him a strong sense of pride in his heritage. Identifying as a Biafran is important for Que, who views his lineage and story as a badge of honor.
“My father taught me at 7 that we were Biafran as opposed to calling ourselves Nigerian. If it wasn’t for that war, I wouldn’t be over here in this state. My father left Nigeria for the States because of it. The least I can do is carry that memory, says Que. For him, the need to preserve one’s lineage and connection to a place is key and serves as the anchor for his life. His identity as a Biafran man and a Baltimore citizen both intersect at his core and guide his actions.
Station North, an arts-driven neighborhood in Baltimore, served as an early artistic muse for Que who spent his formative years loving knowledge, but not always loving school. Que’s father served as a master of ceremonies in the community, but inevitably desired a different life for his son and other children. Que knew he wanted to have a career in the arts without school, but the pressure to conform to his parent’s expectations weighed on him. Because of that, he spent a few years attending college at Towson University, where he studied film. While there, Que began exploring the arts scene in the area, attending various musical and art shows. It was at one of these events where he found a local Black curator, Abdu Ali. The atmosphere of the show and its acts like Butch Dawson immediately drew in Que.
At that moment, he saw his destiny. “Seeing them got me like yo, I really think I can do something here, says Que. From 2014 to 2017, Que put the time in, learning how to DJ, and offer his services to Abdu as a videographer.
The experience served Que well. In April 2016, he shared his talents with the Baltimore music community when he began working at the Bell Foundry Building. There, he and other local musicians lived and worked, using their time and talents to enrich the community. On Sept 10, 2016, Que curated his first show, and at that moment made an intentional decision to add to the long list of creators uplifting Baltimore’s arts scene.
Unfortunately, in December 2016, the Bell Foundry Building was closed, and they evicted Que and his friends.
“There was a cease and desist and all of us were deemed homeless,” says Que.
Undeterred, he moved forward, landing a residency at The Crown, a Baltimore bar and a scene of who’s who in the Baltimore scene. The shows were successful, but they needed a name that encapsulated the energy they were channeling. Que named the shows “808s and Sadbois.” In June 2017, Mikey the Savage, a popular Baltimore rapper, headlined his show. The shows took on a life of their own, eventually attracting the city’s biggest and brightest from Tate Kobang, Deetranada, A1 Beam, and Miss Kam. Miss Kam, who burst on the scene in 2018, developed a creative bond with Que, who now serves as her DJ. Que’s hard work paid off when Miss Kam got the chance to perform at DMV music staple The Fillmore this year.
Que’s “808s” shows were the marquee event for artists in the city and through his efforts, he was seeing a coalition of creators all around him. Sensing the need for unity, he coined the phrase “Tew World Order” in 2020, as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the digs Baltimore residents receive because of their dialect.
“I like turning words that we consider slurs into words of endearment. We are wearing the city of Baltimore on our backs. We need people to know we are proud of where we are from.”
For Que, it’s easy to find motivation these days. The increasing attention from the music industry towards Baltimore and its artists is encouraging. When asked what his hope is for the city, he simply says, “We are very protective out of love. Love for the city, love for the people behind us, and love for the people no longer here. We don’t want to see all of this gone in an instant. We saw what happened with Baltimore club. It’s scary. So we have a right to gatekeep our culture. But we do it out of love.”