DJ Quik provided the music for my teenage years. Songs about drinking, smoking, gang banging, and girls were fortunately and unfortunately relatable for a young black man from Chicago. As time went on and I became more mature, Quik’s music also became more mature.
Quik was one of the first big name producers in Hip-Hop to eschew sampling in favor of live instrumentation. Not only was Quik responsible for crafting the sounds for artists like Hi-C, AMG, and 2nd II None, his production credits also include artists like 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Talib Kweli, and Jay-Z.
In 2011 Quik was promoting his eighth solo album, The Book of David, and I got the chance to chop it up with him. I was elated to talk to an artist that I held in such high regard. In my opinion, Quik is underrated both as a producer and as an emcee. We all know that DJ Quik is dope, but I’d argue that he’s much doper than you think he is.
TRHH: Tell me about your new album, The Book of David?
DJ Quik: It’s a 16-song banger. I went over my music with fine tooth comb. It’s bright, current sounding, and futuristic. It’s just funky, what can I say? I’m from the old school, so the shit is funky.
TRHH: It’s been six years since your last solo album, what took you so long to drop The Book of David?
DJ Quik: I was busy doing life stuff. I took a break to do life. Obviously, there were a lot of things going on in the industry—changes. I was trying to get my label upstart off the ground and flying. I ran into some bad luck. I had some family members try to sabotage my life. I had to take a break and reevaluate and get rid of all the dead weight. I shedded all the dead weight, got a new business management firm, got new management, a new booking agent, I just pretty much changed everything up. Also, the honest to God truth is I got custody of my 13-year old daughter. I really wanted to spend time with her and get to know her. That was more important than doing a beat.
TRHH: Definitely. The current single “Real Women” is unique to me. It seems like a throwback because the kicks are real hard and there’s scratching on the hook. Talk about how you put Real Women together.
DJ Quik: I guess I was feeling nostalgic when I did it. Me and Jon B were in the studio having fun. I grabbed a couple samples off some old vinyl records, a kick and a snare. Put ‘em in the MPC and started rocking them out and it reminded me of a Tribe Called Quest kinda beat. It was a real jazzy throwback. I figure if I go this way I don’t want to do it halfway and make it plain, so I broke out with the turntables and started scratching on it. Jon dug it and started writing the hook. He decided what the song should be because I was gonna make it something else. He started doing the, “Where are the real women,” and I never really made a song about women before in that respect so I followed Jon’s lead. I think we made a pretty good record. It’s a real good sounding song.
TRHH: You said you use the MPC but you also incorporate a lot of live instruments into your production, too…
DJ Quik: Yeah, Fender jazz basses, Stratocasters, and Dobro acoustic guitars. I try to have fun with the live instruments because they open tracks up and give them a little more staying power. Records that have live instrumentation seem to last longer than the synthesized records of today.
TRHH: Have you gotten into using software like a lot of people are now?
DJ Quik: Yeah. They are not all the same and they’re not all good, so I try to stay with the high-end stuff like Arturia, Native Instruments, stuff that you can really draw a sonic landscape with. I love sound architecture, that’s my thing. But there are still keyboards that you can’t put in a box like the Moog Voyager and some of the other classic stuff like Roland JX-8P’s. You can’t get that sound in a box so it’s always good to go to a pawn shop and get an old keyboard if that’s what you’re into and try to recreate some of that 80s love.
TRHH: What’s your beat making process like? Do you start with samples?
DJ Quik: No, believe or not. I used to start with a sample that I like and put the sample into the drum machine and groove to it for a while and then start putting in my own drums — like 808s and certain little esoteric kicks and snares that I’ve collected over the years. Now, since I’ve done film scores, now I write to a metronome. All I need is a tempo now. A four beat, four bar click. I can write anything to that. I can write a melody to that. Sometimes the drums even come last. I think people get it twisted, I’m not a beat maker, I’m a producer and I’m a songwriter. Beat making – I don’t think it describes me enough. For lack of a better term it seems like a really minuscule title. It’s such a small part of the songwriting process and I think I’m much more than that.
TRHH: Going back 19 years to “Jus Lyke Compton” you mentioned several cities in that song that were just as rough as Compton. Did fans in those cities take that as a diss or did they wear it like a badge of honor?
DJ Quik: I don’t really know. I was stating the obvious. In hindsight maybe, I shouldn’t have been so candid. I’m outspoken. I thought that’s what rap was. How do you censor a nigga from Compton? We’re really speaking on what we experience. I was really surprised that places like San Antonio, Texas and Denver had such a big gang population. I couldn’t believe it. I thought that was only prevalent in Los Angeles and neighboring cities. Obviously that notion spread and I was taken aback when we got to certain cities and got into skirmishes and gang fights and shit. It was really tumultuous back then, but I didn’t give a fuck. We were going out there to make our money and further our careers and if motherfuckers wanted to fight, we was used to that. I pretty much had a “fuck you” attitude. If you think about it, Jus Lyke Compton was introspective, more than being a diss. I was really talking about how over the top they were. It wasn’t a diss at all. It was actually putting light on those cities.
TRHH: You came out and said “U Ain’t Fresh” was about Dr. Dre. What was it like doing ‘Put It On Me’ and ‘Addictive’ with him later on?
DJ Quik: Dre dissed me first and I knew it was a diss because I had been mentioning an N.W.A reunion. Eazy had been dead for like five years and I thought if they would do an N.W.A reunion I would love to do a verse and mimic Eazy. I guess that fell on deaf ears. Dre wasn’t with it and did a song “What’s the Difference.” I took that as a direct diss ‘cause I knew he wasn’t talking about MC Ren or nobody else. The “I got these fake niggas I first grew with/Claiming they non-violent, talking like they ruthless/Spitting venom in interviews, speaking on reunions/Move units, then talk shit and we could do this/Until then I ain’t even speaking your name/Keep my name out of your mouth and we can keep it the same/ It ain’t that I’m too big to listen to the rumors/It’s just that I’m too fuckin’ big to pay attention to ‘em.” I automatically knew what that was. That was, “Shut up Quik. Fuck you. You ain’t gon’ be down with this N.W.A shit. You don’t have nothing to do with it.” So, I was like, “Okay cool. Since we’re throwing hot flaming spears, here I am.” We’re talking about 1998, well over 13 years ago now. I just shot back and I wasn’t the only one that was mad at that point at the good doctor. He was really selective in who he wanted to fuck with and if you didn’t fuck with Dr. Dre you couldn’t eat. You’re better off going and killing yourself. You’re threw. That’s the notion that everybody had, if you wasn’t with Dre your records wouldn’t sell. He used to revel in that energy because he knew that if didn’t nobody fuck with him they couldn’t really sell records. It made it a funny space.
My thing was, I’m self-made anyway from the beginning. I was on one, so I shot back. People knew that I dissed him and we swept it under the rug. I ended up talking to him afterwards and recanted all that shit. I said, “Let’s work. I always wanted to work with you.” Out of that you get records like “In Da Club” by 50 Cent and “I Think My Dad’s Gone Crazy” by Eminem and a bunch of other records that I helped with. Sometimes it takes you to get a little negative to get to the positive. It’s like fuck it, let’s get this established and get this off my chest. I hated that it went that way. I would rather it be some peaceful, normal shit like regular social things that human beings do where we get together and decide whether we gonna do something or not. I hate it had to go there, but that’s water under the bridge. It’s funny the dudes doing the mixtape wanted to bring that up again and it caused a stir. That shit got into the press. A diss from 13 years ago is fucking relevant now? I don’t get it. What do you guys want to do? Start it up again? You want to see me and Dre fight? Of course, that’s what you want. You guys are all about drama, so fuck you!
TRHH: Another member of N.W.A., Ice Cube, is on your new album on the song “Boogie Till You Conk Out.” I know you worked with him before, but what was it like recording that song Cube?
DJ Quik: We did a theme song for BET before for one of his TV shows. I did a beat for him and The Game once before. Cube is my favorite street rapper. I’ve never heard him do anything suspect. I’ve never heard him out of his lane. He always stayed true to that gangsta shit. You always felt like he was telling the truth about that shit. He’s hard. Who wouldn’t wanna work with Ice Cube? He invented gangsta rap. I reached out to him and asked him if he wanted to be down. I would definitely reciprocate by giving him one of my hot beats and he was with it.
It’s funny, when I work with people like Kurupt and Ice Cube I don’t wanna do a gangsta rap record because we been there and done that. It’s like beating a dead horse. I think producers are supposed to try some new shit. We’re supposed to take some risks and try to make records that haven’t been invented. We came across on the dance tip. It’s kind of a laid-back funky type beat. It’s a newer type beat where we’re talking about having fun and the club. We’re talking about doing shit adults do. I’m sure I speak for both of us, but I don’t think we’re looking for no drama in the club by doing a gangsta rap record that’s a little too real. It could happen.
TRHH: You seem to be in a different place…
DJ Quik: I am a blessed man these days. I’ll be quite honest with you, the last six years of my life have been going through that court shit and getting sued by my family and they’re trying to take me down and them bragging, “We’re going to take you down!” Why? I’m not trying to take you guys down. What are you doing? “We don’t wanna see you rich. We don’t wanna see you with Warner Bros. They gave you $20 million dollars, give us $2 million dollars.” What the hell are you guys talking about? Everybody was going crazy. I started to see the mental deterioration of my family. Then I found out that the sister that I was helping all this time was fucking schizophrenic. I talked to my mom and I’m like, “Mom, you had me taking care of this bitch all this time and this bitch is schizo and ain’t nobody giving her no meds?” Y’all fuckin’ up my business.
I’m a musician. There is no fucking room for mentally ill people in my camp, in my world, or around me and my babies. I was really disappointed in my mom for not letting me know that my older sister is a fucking schizo that don’t wanna take meds. She’s stealing my car. She stole my fucking Buick Regal and shit. I’m looking for the bitch now to put out a police report. I’m finna get this bitch put in jail. I was going through all that shit and that shit is not conducive to making a record. I kind of stopped because I was going to end up making records that I just didn’t like because of all the negativity that was going on around me. I stopped and made everybody think the show was over. Motherfuckers stopped knocking on my door, stopped begging me for money, and stopped asking me for shit. The party is over. The fucking treasure chest is empty! It’s a wrap! As soon as I cleared out all them fucking suckers I went right back and bought me some new equipment and went right back to work.
TRHH: What’s your opinion on the resurgence of West Coast Hip-Hop?
DJ Quik: I didn’t think it was gonna happen. I started to lose faith two years ago. Outside of not getting the respect for a music genre that we helped to develop that a bunch of people ate off of, but to not get respected personally for being a part of the West Coast movement was disheartening. It really made me wanna sock some niggas in their motherfuckin’ mouth just to keep it all the way Compton. How the fuck do you disrespect me for a whole genre of music? I’ve always been in it, but a little bit different because I come from a lot of music inspirations. I’m inspired by a lot of music than just a 808 beat. I fuck with Curtis Mayfield and all that heavy orchestrated beautiful minor ninth shit – music that evokes feelings. I can’t get with the microwave shit. I waited it out. I honestly didn’t wanna produce any records during that period because it just didn’t make sense. People was telling me, “Man that shit is too musical! We don’t wanna hear that shit!” What the fuck do you mean it’s too musical? We’re musicians, bitch!
These were the conversations that were going on with all the vulgarity as well. It got crazy. Hip-Hop drove some motherfuckers crazy! Especially the fans of it. When people revolt they revolt. That’s been going on since the medieval times. Motherfuckers started revolting against Hip-Hop I guess, it was overdone. Now that they see that people’s lifestyles have changed and we’ve been losing our legendary artists, it’s like it’s only right to pay attention and to pay homage to a musical genre that is the number one musical region in the world – the West Coast. After Nate Dogg died and shit got real serious it just made sense for people to be like, “You know what, we been sleeping on this shit. Let’s respect our legends while they’re here.” You goddamn right. Tomorrow ain’t promised to none of us. I respect East Coast artists, I respect Southern artists, I respect the Northwest, the Yay area, down south, matter of fact, Bun B is on my album. I love that shit. That shit is coming from a hip place. It just made sense and there should be a resurgence and attention placed back on this place because we had a billion-dollar push. You can’t sneeze at no billion dollars.
TRHH: You mentioned Nate Dogg. You did a lot of songs with him and we just lost him. What was it like working with Nate and how will his loss affect Hip-Hop?
DJ Quik: It was too easy working with Nate because Nate was a built-in hook master. He came with something musical that was crazy. It’s almost like he was some kin to Lou Rawls or somebody. He just had this innate sense to make the perfect chorus for any track. His voice was like cocaine. It was truly too addictive and too good. I think I took it for granted. Maybe I should have made way more records with Nate had I known that he was headed for a stroke. I kick myself in the ass about that because I don’t think I really exploited all of his talents. He was real smooth, super smart, quicker than me on the fucking lyrics, and an all-around good dude. You kind of stayed at the studio an extra 30 minutes after the session was over just to chop it up with my nigga and drink a glass of Hennessy. What a beautiful dude, man. To see him in that coffin, that shit let me know that time ain’t fuckin’ around.
TRHH: On the production side you’ve worked with Pac, Snoop, Jay-Z, Whitney Houston, and Janet Jackson among others. Is there any artist that you haven’t worked with that you would like to?
DJ Quik: It’s a crazy question because the artists that I would love to with aren’t here anymore. I would love to work with Aaliyah and give her one of them funky, crazy beats and have her beautiful, perfect voice singing on it. I always wanted to make beats with J Dilla. I got a chance to work with Static Major before he died on the Addictive record with Truth Hurts and Dr. Dre. These are great, great songwriters. I like Tyga from Cash Money – I like where he’s coming from. I like Wayne, Drake, and the whole Young Money push. I like Wale, Waka Flocka, Kendrick Lamar, I’m digging a lot of these young dudes. I might shoot ‘em some music if they’re with it.
TRHH: Regarding MC Eiht, it seems like you guys just deaded the beef, but I don’t remember hearing if you guys were cool or what. Did it just kind of die out?
DJ Quik: No, it didn’t die out. It came to a head when I did Dollaz + Sense because we were feuding for three years before I did Dollaz + Sense. I was just making an angry record that was more about my surroundings. I started to get too many yes men and too many hangers on and leeches around me. To be in this diss world with another well-known artist – a movie star and shit — it was just too much. We’re talking about 1994 and I’m with Death Row, I couldn’t take it. I thought I had to defend my pride with a shield and sword. I was just on one. After that record people were like, “The war is over Quik, you won.” After a while I started to think that I didn’t even want to have a war with this guy. The bottom line is, I actually loved this nigga’s voice. I actually would have wanted to work with him.
It’s funny, in 1998 I did get a chance to work with him. We recorded some music that ended up in a tape vault in this recording studio called Enterprise. I don’t know what happened to them. The studio went out of business and I think my tapes went with them. The beats were okay, and the rhymes were okay, but I would love to work with him now. He’s out on tour with Kurupt and they’re doing the 1st Generation thing. I recently hung out with him at Snoop’s wedding when he renewed his vows to his wife. We were out there chopping it up, smoking, and talking. We buried the hatchet because when it all comes down to it, we’re two brothers from Compton. That’s really where it ends, but more honest than that, that’s really where it began.
TRHH: I’ve interviewed a lot of emcees from New York recently like N.O.R.E, Sheek Louch, and Saigon. They all told me, “We stopped beefing because it’s really not profitable.”
DJ Quik: It’s no profit in it. That’s funny that Sheek Louch and them would say that. If anything, it hinders the productivity and creativity. If you’re coming from a place like that it bleeds over. There is no way to compartmentalize anger. It’s like bleach, once it’s out, it’s going to stain whatever the fuck it’s going to stain while it’s around. It’s permeable and anything that’s permeable is going to be affected. That anger is ultimately going to get into the music.
I saw and heard myself doing angry music at one point. At first that used to be cool because I was thinking the angst helped. But angst in music was only good back in the 80s and early 90s when we were being fucked over by the police in Compton. That’s why the Fuck tha Police records worked because that’s how everybody felt – the collective of people from the hood. Ultimately after about 95-96 that shit was kind of done and here I am still low-key doing angry music. I felt it, that’s why I shut it down.
TRHH: A lot of people may not know about Quik’s Groove, talk a little about that.
DJ Quik: Quik’s Groove is a concert series that I invented. It’s really a play on my instrumental music that I always put on my albums. It became sort of like a showcase for new talent. A lot of new talent and classic artists have graced the stage with me. I got a really dope band that I put together. A lot of classic well-known, well-respected musicians in the industry come out and jam with me on that night. We rehearse the night before. We put Faith Evans on, Talib Kweli, Eric Benet, it’s like introducing them to a younger audience. For some reason the audience is pretty young. It went from that to putting on a lot of new artists and giving everybody a look like Kendrick Lamar, Dom Kennedy, Jay Rock, and Problem.
It actually helped them and it helps me to stay sharp because I can reinvent myself each month. I can try other things that are within my borders of music. I ain’t trying to be Prince up there, I ain’t wearing chiffon, being weird, or playing the guitar backwards. It lets me stretch out a little bit. That’s what we call it. We call it stretching. I can play the piano a little bit, I can sing a little bit. I’ll get up there and do “Easy like Sunday Morning” by Lionel Richie and the Commodores and the audience joins in. It’s really kind of virtuoso, lovely, fun, loud, clear, brilliant music with good guest artists. It’s a great concert thing. I hope I can continue to do it because it’s almost like Soul Train in a sense. It’s organic and people are starting to bubble from that shit. It’s successful and people are trying to pattern their shows after it and do their own Quik’s Groove.
TRHH: Do you see yourself taking it on the road?
DJ Quik: Yeah, actually we are. We’re on the road in one week. April 20 we’re gonna do Ruby Skye up in San Francisco. Talk about stretching out, we’re gonna clown. I even may sneak around and jump on stage with Dwayne Wiggins from “Tony! Toni! Tone!.” We’re going to the Bay area because they respect music up there. They love that real shit.
TRHH: Speaking of the Bay area, what’s your opinion of Lil’ B?
DJ Quik: Lil’ B?
DJ Quik: Who is Lil’ B?
TRHH: Lil’ B the Based God.
DJ Quik: Lil’ B the Based God? I might be sleeping. Is he a musician?
TRHH: He’s a rapper from Berkeley.
DJ Quik: I don’t think I’ve heard of him. Is there a project that I should be looking out for?
TRHH: I don’t even know. In my opinion he’s wack, but he’s really hot and people like it. A lot of his rhymes don’t even rhyme to me, but people like him and he’s bubbling right now. I would say just YouTube Lil’ B and you’ll see.
DJ Quik: Lil’ B, and he’s from Berkeley?
DJ Quik: Okay.
TRHH: What’s your goal with The Book of David album?
DJ Quik: My overall goal is to honestly throw my hat back into the Hip-Hop ring. I think I still have something to offer. I’m a chronological kind of guy. I believe that when you’re a trailblazer like me, sometimes you don’t get the glory that comes with it. It’s almost like Jim Morrison and The Doors didn’t really win no awards, but if Jim was still alive they’d be touring like The Rolling Stones and making the same amount of money the rest of their lives. I figure The Book of David helps me to be cathartic and get some things off my chest psychologically that would bother me otherwise. And it gives my fans reassurance that I can take a break and come back and slap everybody over their ears with some hot shit! With friends of mine that came to help like Bun B, Dwele, Bizzy, and Suga Free. I hope to sell a ton of records with it and pretty much have the business model of my record company be that of a Ruthless Records or Loud Records. I want that. I want to sign some artists and build a label that’s synonymous with Avant Garde hot records.
Purchase DJ Quik’s Solo Discography: