Former Arsenal attacker Quincy Owusu-Abeyie has opened up on his journey from growing up in a crime-riddled district of Amsterdam to transitioning from football into the rapper known as 'BLOW', with the ex-Ghana international admitting his life could have been very different if the Gunners hadn't signed him up as a teenager.
Originally a part of Ajax's famous youth ranks, Quincy was let go by the Dutch giants in his teens due to attitude problems and it seemed as though he was set for a tough life “on the streets”.
After four months away from football and spending his time with friends on the rough blocks of Bijlmermeer, however, Arsenal offered him a lifeline.
“If it wasn’t for Arsenal, maybe I would have led definitely a different life,” Quincy told The Athletic. “Maybe I would have just a normal nine to five, maybe I would have been a street guy, I don’t know… but fortunately I got that phone call.
“I was born and raised in Amsterdam. Bijlmermeer is the area — it’s basically the ‘hood. It wasn’t easy. Sometimes you might be on the block and you might hear a gunshot, or you might hear that someone got stabbed. When I got that phone call, I said ‘Arsenal? Who doesn’t want to play for Arsenal?!
“That moment when I met Arsene Wenger is when it sort of sank in, when I realised… It’s not on TV anymore. So I looked at my agent, and my agent looked at me, and it was like, ‘Boy… I gotta get the job done'.”
Quincy's skills on the pitch earned him a scholarship in 2002 and in his first full season with the Gunners' Under-17 side he went on to score 17 goals in just 20 games for his new club.
At a time when Arsenal's 'Invincibles' were tearing up the Premier League, Quincy could have been forgiven for feeling overawed by his older team-mates, but a mutual love of music allowed him to become friends with some of the best in the business.
“There was good music in the dressing room,” Quincy said. “Thierry Henry used to always be in charge of it. When I made my first Premier League start, against Portsmouth in 2005, I started that game with Thierry Henry up front.
“And I remember before the game Thierry was like, ‘Quincy, put your iPod on!’ – it was a good feeling, and nice that they allowed me to do that. I was just a kid, you know? He didn’t have to do that.
“I always say I played with the best of the best. I was on the training ground with Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Robin van Persie. Everyone who was part of the Invincibles - I was there. That was the best time and that’s when I learned the most about the game.”
Quincy went on to represent a further 10 clubs in his career before retiring at just 30 years old, but he had already been recording songs under the name 'BLOW' so as not to mix football with his aspiring rap career.
When he did eventually reveal his identity, however, it was a weight off his shoulders despite knowing there was plenty of graft ahead of him.
“It wasn’t easy to make that transition from football to music. But when I eventually revealed myself - when I told people that Quincy Owusu-Abeyie is now the rapper BLOW - it meant that I could just be myself,” he said.
“With music, it’s different: you can bring one banger, but then you’ve got to think about the next one you’re bringing. If you fall off, it’s done. With football, you’ve got 22 men on the pitch, you’re with your team-mates. In music, it’s all on you.
“I wanted to do something different. I’m happy. I’m doing something I love doing. Music is life to me, man. This is my job now. This is who I am.”