West side Chicago hip-hop crew Qualo formed on the campus of the city's Lane Tech High School. According to Bob Mehr's profile in the August 26, 2005, edition of the Chicago Reader, founders Chicago Shawn (born Shawndell Lewis), Shala Esquire (Olusola Akintunde), Preast G (Trevell Ruffer), and Optimyst (Kenneth Bayliss) were lifelong friends who spent their childhoods immersed in rap, honing their skills at local talent shows and street corner battles. After first appearing on a series of underground mixtapes, in 2000 Qualo issued its own compilation, Movementality, in addition to opening gigs in support of KRS-One and DMX. Their 2003 mix, Chi Bangin': The Movement Catalog, sold in excess of 10,000 copies, guaranteeing an installed fan base prior to the mid-2004 release of their debut LP, Believe. In the summer of 2005 Qualo signed to Universal, just prior to the release of Preast G's indie-label solo debut, Fear God, Tell the Truth and Make Money.
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