When Quik told me about the dude from Canada who asked him if he was on crack, I figured they must’ve been from up north... uh, Quebec. Crack never made it that far into the wild, hence the fascination. “You look more like Nick Cannon than Tyrone Biggums from Chappelle’s Show,” I informed him, trying to compensate for my compatriot’s ignorance. Quik dug the comparison, I think, and went on to rave about Chick-fil-A.
DJ Quik is a legend in Hip Hop, so much so that you may never have heard of him. He signed to Profile Records at the label’s inception, and after his debut effort, Quik Is the Name, went platinum, he became established as one of the driving forces behind the West Coast movement. DJ Quik’s history in Hip Hop is an important history, so we should all get familiar, and quick.
The Compton-born musician’s new album, The Book Of David, is out April 19th, something he compared to Prince’s scene in Purple Rain when he slam dunks the ball over Charlie Murphy’s head -- no, wait, that’s Chappelle’s Show again. My apologies!
Can you introduce yourself? Who is DJ Quik?
I’m a Hip Hop entrepreneur, philanthropist, and midnight disk jockey.
You’ve worked alongside some of the greatest like Tupac, Nate Dogg, and Snoop. Can you give us a little background on your career?
I got into the business after hearing the N.W.A. album Straight Outta Compton and Eazy-E’s Boyz-N-The-Hood. I lost my mind, I didn’t know that Compton was going to be the hotbed for talent. I thought that people were just sleeping on us, because I was just running around DJing and people were liking what I was doing but it didn’t really turn into real dollars. And so Eazy-E came along, and boy, life was not the same. So, I got into production roughly around 1986-87, around 1989 I was ready to release a record. I produced my own album, called Quik Is the Name. I got signed by Profile Records, after they heard my mixtape. You know, I was the first, I was the most expensive signee that Profile had ever acquired. I got a six figure deal at the age of 19, right to my bank account, how about that? So I guess I had the goods. The record came out, we went on tour, and then in the summer, my manager, he looked at me and said, “Just talked to Profile Records and your record is Gold.” I was like, “Are you shittin’ me?” I’m like, “So, we’re gonna buy every Nintendo game in the fuckin’ mall when we get there. Fuckin’ kidding me. Super NES all the way.” But that was it, I lost my mind, I was like, “Wow, this is crazy.” And then the album slowly crawled to Platinum in about a year and a half after it was released. It was certified Platinum. Great story, right?
Did you know Steve Plotnicki from Profile?
Yeah, I know Steve Plotnicki.
Yeah, I went to college with his sons.
Yeah, Plotnicki, man. He’s a tough guy, man. He’s a tough lawyer, you know?
Your new album, The Book Of David, is out April 19th. What can we expect to hear on the new LP?
Expect to hear the unexpected. You’ve never heard me in this form. You remember in that movie Purple Rain when Billy, the club owner, said, “Prince is in rare form tonight, the kid is in rare form tonight?” You know, and Prince came out with the mask of Zorro on... expect the unexpected with The Book Of David. It’s really candid, and really insightful. You know, and how else better to go through all that bullshit, like you know, being sued and losing your gig at Warner Bros. and going to prison, then do a record. You know, this ain’t gonna be no stupid shit. This is epic. I’ll put it to you like this, Peter. It’s a masterpiece. Oh boy.
I’m a big Hip Hop fan and they even teach Hip Hop classes in University now. So how’s it possible I wasn’t a DJ Quik fan before being assigned to do this interview? Do you ever feel you’ve been excluded from the history books somehow?
Do you feel like that, Peter? When you think about it, look back. Imagine how I feel, being one of the pioneers of sound. I inspired a lot of people. I inspired a lot of people to really pay attention to the sound, because records that sound great last a lot longer on the radio. I mean, I’ve got records that were produced in 1995 that still sound great on the radio right now to this date, and you get the same reaction from people of different generations. You know what I mean? So, you know, technologically speaking, I really put my nose to the grindstone. I really did that shit tough, you know, and I helped a lot of people. That’s all I want to say. Like the Truth Hurts record Addictive, c’mon man, I was sonically ahead of my time. But I started to realize that I shouldn’t be offended because five years later people go back and get the album I did five years ago and go, “Hey, that shit is hot!” I’m like, “It took you five years to figure that out, my god, we’re all in trouble.” [Laughs]
I listened to Quik Is The Name on YouTube because it’s not on iTunes. The album’s awesome -- I loved it. How would you describe your evolution as an artist from the early days to now, or since you put out Trauma in 2005?
A lot! You know, Trauma was kind of experimental. I was really trying to branch out and really hang out with the T.I.’s and the Wylcef’s, you know what I mean? Trying to make some legendary music.
What about production? You seem to have stayed true to the G-funk tradition of the West Coast. How would you say you’ve progressed or changed as a producer?
I don’t think it’s G-funk. I’ll tell you what it is, it’s “Rhythm-a-lism”. It’s a mixture of Hip Hop, a little classical and R&B. It’s “Rhythm-a-lism”. It’s what’s really solid about classic music. The bass and drum is where it’s at. And I just do bass and drum music. It’s like reggae. Reggae is all about the bass and the drums, that crazy 2/4 beat, and that’s where I’m going with it. That’s where I’ve been with it. You know, G-funk was invented by Nate Dogg. Nate Dogg invented that shit. He coined the phrase. Nate Dogg made it G-funk. It was P-funk music, because P-funk music is sing-song, and that’s what Nate brought to it. Nate put the ‘G’ in G-funk. And anybody that’s here that knows will tell you that. He and Warren G, and Above The Law, that’s G-funk, and Dr. Dre just ran with it and they killed it. Chronic was G-funk, you know, and even Safe & Sound was G-funk, because they use a lot of Moog Synthesizers, now we don’t use the Moog as much, because the Moog, that’s just a funk toy. Now, we’re back to bass and guitar, and real cool synths. You know, it’s really retro. Technically, Peter, I’m trying to bring the 80’s back. But not the 1980’s, I’m talking about bringing the 2080’s back, because we too far ahead.
On one track from Quik Is The Name, you sing part of the melody from Rose Royce’s Ooh Boy I Love You So. I’m assuming you didn’t ask permission for the melody. Did Biz Markie really take the heat for everyone with Alone Again in 1991? Can you tell us more about the whole sampling controversy, or how you were involved?
Yeah, from the In Full Bloom album. Back then there was a lot of ‘fair uses’ because there weren’t laws in place to stop you from re-interpolating somebody’s song. It was after that, yeah, Biz Markie got sued and after that we had to clear everything. That was landmark. I wasn’t involved at all in the case. We sampled. But it affected me. I had to pay for that shit. You know, you sell an album and you do it. You live and learn. And guess what, they ate off of it, so ultimately they ended up getting paid in the end. You can’t get away with it. And I’ll even volunteer this information. But believe me, I personally got the samples cleared for The Book Of David, how ‘bout that? Now you do know that.
I asked another West Coast producer, DJ Khalil, the same question, but what’s the West Coast music scene like these days?
It’s growing again. Like we’re watching all the kids come up. Like Dom Kennedy and Kendrick Lamar are making such noise. It makes us real proud. I mean, you got the Waka Flocka Flame’s, the Nipsey’s, and the Jay Rock’s, it’s a bubbling little thing, and they’re taking it out of the West Coast. Like I see these kids at SXSW in Austin, Texas, and I’m just proud of them for taking it out of their region, you know what I mean, and that’s what it is. The West Coast, we really did become just a regional sound, like people don’t wanna say that, but it is, that’s what we did. We kind of made a sound that made sense for where we lived, and described our region, you know what I mean? And I don’t think everybody can relate to the fun in the sun, the pretty girls, everybody can’t relate to the vacation-like place this is. It’s laid-back automatically. It describes our mentality, but at the same time we do grind, we do hustle. So it just looks like the West Coast scene is starting to get its hustle on again.
A little off-topic, but how’d you get Jay-Z on that funky West Coast beat for Justify My Thug?
[Laughs] Yeah, I asked him if he’d -- but, you know what? He did Change The Game and he rapped over that funky ass beat, him and Beanie Sigel, with a Rick Rock beat from the Bay Area. It was the same thing. Jay-Z is funky. Yeah, and he explored his dark side, because that’s kind of a dark, bizarre track, it was like some Scarface music. And Madonna was gonna sing on it, but you know, she’s a pussycat, she’s a diva, she shift on us, last minute. I was like, “Ah, she didn’t come through for Jigga. Oh well, next time.” [Laughs]
I read you are a real good cook.
Wow. Who told you that?
It’s all over the Internet.
I learned how to chef a little bit. There’s this guy named Guitano, I got to give him credit, at an Italian restaurant. He was really cool, like in my twenties, he told me about the origins of Mediterranean cooking. I learned how to cook Mediterranean. I learned how to cook, I learned how to grill, I learned how to pretty much do everything. Like, I’m a pretty sharp guy. I got great knowledge.
What are some essential Quik recipes?
Everything. I make great light breakfast, like not all heavy, bacon, sausage. Really fluffy eggs. I can make like souffle, if I want to. I can pouf an egg, all kind of shit, man. I make a really dope, we call it a ragu, after two hours of steeping tomatoes and basil and garlic and other secret little spices, thyme and rosemary and whatnot, you know, with stewed tomatoes, after a while you just make this really great sauce, a real dope Pomodoro red sauce for pasta.
What about fast food? I’m from Canada. They don’t have Chick-fil-A here. Where’s your favorite spot out in L.A.?
[Laughs] Chick-fil-A is the business. Yeah, Chick-fil-A is dope. And In-N-Out Burger down here is the best, Fat Burger’s still poppin’, we got this thing called Umami Burger, every time we go to rehearsal, when I go to rehearsal, man, we eat at Umami Burger, you know what I mean?
I hear you’re going on tour soon. What else can we expect from you after the release of The Book Of David?
I’m going to start putting out lots of artists. I’m going to start signing artists and pretty much make the business model for Mad Science the way I saw it, you know, a record company where an artist really has a say in his career, and his vision is taken seriously, and for lack of a better term, exploited for his benefit. I want to have the new Ruthless Records kind of records company.
Any regrets from the past or is it straight on to the future?
Hey man... no, not straight on to the future. I want to share this with you, even though you had nothing to do with it. When I was doing The Fixxers interview, you know it’s ironic that I’m doing an interview with a Canadian. I tried to get over there and I went to the Canadian Embassy out here and they gave me a bunch of grief. But it’s cool. I’m gonna get my visa to come back over there and work. But somebody really offended me when I was doing The Fixxers thing, like somebody from Canada, I don’t know what paper it was, but they pissed me off really bad. I would never disrespect anybody like that, but the muthafucka asked me, “So Quik, man, uh, were you on crack?” I was like, “Dude, seriously? Like really? Like, what would make you think that?” “Oh, because you were like really skinny.” “Oh, okay, you talkin’ about the time when I lost my best friend, when my homie died, okay.” I was like, “Okay, that’s a pretty fucked up question to ask anybody though.” Like ask what was wrong instead, like what did you go through. Like, there’s a way if you want to ask me about some personal medical shit, or any of that shit. There’s a way, there’s a proper protocol you could follow that it won’t be offensive. So for that reason I just never did any more interviews with Canadian press. I was done. I was like, “Now that was fucking wack.” So, not to take it out on you, you know, I couldn’t believe that that was the notion people in Canada had of me, and didn’t know I had just buried Mausberg and my best friend. Yeah, so that tripped me out. I was like, “Wow.” I actually stopped doing interviews after that. I was like, “Wow, that’s crazy.” So I figured this, I would just let people think what they wanted to think, and not give a fuck, either way.
Well, I just thought there was a Nick Cannon resemblance with your album cover for Quik Is the Name.
[Laughs] You are fuckin’ funny, man. My boy told me that one time. Yeah, Nick is a San Diego guy, you know, we hung out together, and it’s a little uncanny, but before that I used to look a lot like DJ Pooh.
He directed The Wash right?
Yeah, yeah, if you really looked at him it was funny. People thought we were related.
Well, thanks for taking the time to talk with Yo! Raps!
Do me a favor, Peter. Let your guys know, like if you know any other journalists or any other magazines, let them know that I am a legend, that I’m not hard to talk to, like I’m real easy going. I’m in a great place, you know, and I can’t wait for you to hear my album, The Book Of David. You know what it is, it really is just me showing all of the musical problems that I have as a professor. This is the first album I have ever done as a professor, and not a bitter artist that’s trying to hang on to the past glory of making another Platinum record like Quik Is the Name, so I can get the money and the bitches, not a muthafucka coming from a place where I got to do this or the record company’s not going to pay me or I gotta get all the guest artists on because I need to manipulate the time. This album is done from my point of view, with me being a professor. So you got to pay attention to this shit and I just proofed my vinyl album last night, my vinyl album came from Tennessee like the test version for The Book Of David, hold on, I’m gonna let my artist Gift Reynolds tell you...
[Gift Reynolds] What’s goin’ on?
Man, all I can tell you is, I can’t even lie, for it to be on vinyl, it sounds incredible, like incredible. Like I’m the newcomer, you know, I’m Quik’s new artist and the crazy thing is like to hear Quik at this point in time is incredible to know he still has it, and to hear his album. Like the funny thing is, I’m his artist and I thought about, like when I first heard the album, I was trying to listen to it to find one bad song, ‘cause we as people always try to find at least something wrong with something, so it doesn’t seem perfect, and it was kind of scary that every single song that I listened to, I found something that I liked about it, that made me like every single song. Every single song is unique in its own way. It honestly inspired me to become a better artist because he’s so musically inclined in what he’s doing. For him to be gone for six years and then come back with this album, that’s weird. You know, most artists, when they leave for a long time, and take a hiatus, then they come back, their music sounds outdated. It sounds like they’re trying too hard or it sounds like they’re doing too much. But this album is like Quik never left. I know for a fact you’re going to love this album, from beginning to end, because you’re going to hear the passion. You can tell he put his heart and soul into this. And I’m proud and blessed to say I’m part of the project and even on the album.
- By Peter Marrack