DJ Quik - Biography
By Paul Glanting
Arguably the most recognizable sounding era in Hip Hop’s short history, was the West Coast’s early '90's G-Funk. Powered by sweating keyboards and thumping bass-lines, as well as a massive amount of soul influence, Dr. Dre was the catalyzing audio architect of this era. However, Dre’s fellow Compton native , DJ Quick also help construct the thumping soundtrack to the West Coast’s sticky funk-saturated Hip Hop.
It has become somewhat of a reoccurring theme within the genre: the object of a young Hip Hop prodigy’s affection isn’t a bike or a ‘68 mustang, rather a turntable. Young David Blake received the target of his lust once he graduated from high school and immediately began performing as a DJ around Southern California. However, as is endemic to Compton, Blake found himself affiliated with the Bloods street-gang. Luckily, Blake’s bent for music outweighed his stint as a gang-member and he took the name DJ Quik. Perhaps a commitment to his abandonment of his gang affiliation, Quik dropped the “c” from “quick”, for the combination of “c” and “k” would have stood for "Crip Killer."
Through his rigorous hustle as a DJ, DJ Quik became a mainstay in the mixtape world, utilizing the talents of rappers he’d befriended such as AMG, Hi-C. These mixtapes would propel Quik into a deal with Profile Records, with whom he released his debut Quik Is the Name (Profile-1991). While certainly inline with the head-nodding rap music of his West-Coast peers, DJ Quik’s sound teetered more in the realm of rhythm and blues, rather than straight-away Hip Hop. Quik Is the Name was significantly successful, yielding two top singles ot the R&B charts, with the bird’s-eye-view look at Quik’s neighborhood “Tonite” and the self-explanatory “Born and Raised In Compton.” Quik’s circle of collaborators remained tight as the album features joint-efforts with AMG, Hi-C and 2nd II None, all of whom had made their name on DJ Quik’s heavily circulated mixtapes. Guest appearances aside, a significant aspect of the album was DJ Quik’s ability to remain autonomous, as he produced every track on the album, as well as laid his rhymes down on each of them.
In between albums, DJ Quik justified the DJ in his moniker by contributing heavily to the production of albums for several of his protégées such as AMG’s sexually-charged, yet influential, Bitch Betta Have My Money (Select-1992) and Hi-C’s Skanless (Hollywood-1992).
DJ Quick followed the success of Quik Is the Name with Way 2 Fonky (Profile-1992). His sophomore album would become his second album blessed with Gold status and would also extend Quik’s genius for constructing complex gangsta rap productions. “Jus Lyke Compton” simultaneously gave DJ Quik an opportunity to brag about the immense influence he and Compton had on Hip Hop culture, but also, on a more progressive level, the song hears DJ Quik commenting on the epidemic of gang-culture, which spread rapidly throughout poorer areas in the country, during the early ‘90's.
As the popularity of West Coast Hip Hop began to balloon, Los Angeles-based artists like N.W.A., Ice Cube and DJ Quik began to receive a hefty amount of exposure from Hip Hop publications like The Source. However, many East Coast-based rap artists grew hostile towards the massive amount of coverage the West Coast was receiving. One such artist was Bronx-rapper, Tim Dog, whose first single “Fuck Compton” viscously berated a slew of Los Angeles-based rappers. The song, which has since become of of Hip Hop’s canonized diss-songs, sparked several retorts from L.A.-based rappers, several of which came on Quik's Way 2 Fonky, with “The Last Word” and “Way Too Fonky.” This war of words would foreshadow a nasty verbal (and later physical) back-and-forth dispute between the two coasts, peaking with deaths of several of the genre’s most gifted artists
DJ Quik would continue his streak of lyrical feuding on his third album Safe & Sound (Profile-1995). However, this time, the battle was somewhat of a civil dispute, as DJ Quik grew at odds with another Compton rapper named MC Eiht. The origins of the hostility between the two is chalked up to several factors, first and perhaps foremost, the two had affiliations with rival gangs. A more direct factor is believed to be a physical altercation that broke out between the two camps at a nightclub. “Dollaz & Sense” was the first of many tracks where the two Compton-based rappers would consistently tear into each other. While this dispute has since been extinguished, MC Eiht responded to Quik’s disparaging remarks with several remarkably violent tracks such as “We Come Strapped” and “Def Wish III” from MC Eiht’s albumWe Come Strapped (Epic-1994), which, was released at the zenith of their feud.
Safe & Sound was also released at the pinnacle of West Coast rap’s prime. Leading this charge was Death Row Records and its ubiquitous roster of artists like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and 2Pac. The founder of Death Row was Suge Knight, whose infamous reputation was well-earned for his often malevolent managment tactics. While not on Death Row Records, the production of Quik’s third album was overseen by Knight. Knight’s oversight is perhaps responsible for the album’s further delve into the funk-heavy sound, often called G-Funk. Despite Knight’s involvement with the Compton rapper, DJ Quik would later harshly denounce Knight for the often aggressive methods he employed for the management of his record label.
During the next three years, DJ Quik remained occupied by contributing his soulful G-funk productions to albums for big-name rappers such as 2Pac’s All Eyez On Me (Deathrow-1996) and Jermaine Dupri’s Life In 1472 (So So Def-1998). DJ Quik also gave a nod to his R&B roots, producing for crooners like Tony! Toni! Tone! on their album House Of Music (Mercury-1996) and Deborah Cox’s soulful One Wish (Arista-1998).
DJ Quik’s next album Rhythm-al-ism (Profile-1998) would be Quik’s fourth album to reach Gold status. The album features collaborations with several of Quik’s longtime collaborators and protégées, such as 2nd II None, AMG and Hi-C. Rhythm-al-ism also features several appearances from a new rapper whom Quik had taken under his wing, a quick-tongued and well-dressed rapper name named Suga Free, whose rapid-fire flow, didactically explained the ins and outs of being a pimp. Quik’s fourth album also contains several sex-inspired songs, which feature prolific soul-singer El Debarge.
The twenty-first century began rather bumpy for the G-funk producer, as DJ Quik began to work with a young rapper dubbed Mausberg, who was also from Compton. The two began to lay the groundwork for Mausberg’s debut, Non-Fiction (Ark 21-2000). However, in the Summer or 2000, Mausberg was tragically robbed and killed. Quik was deeply affected by the murder of his friend. Faced with tragedy, matters didn't become much more agreeable for Quik. By the time his fifth album, Balance & Options (Arista-2000) was released, his longtime record label, Profile, had been bought by Arista. Despite the album’s wider reaching guest appearances (Digital Underground, Erick Sermon, etc), Balance & Options would be the Compton born artist’s first album to not attain Gold status. Despite a fairly good response from critics, the commercial mediocrity garnered by Balance & Options, led to Arista exiling DJ Quik from the label.
Despite lacking a major label deal, DJ Quik’s status as one of Hip Hop’s blue-chip producers remained unaffected, as evidence by the vast amount of work he produced after Balance & Options, including works for: Xzibit, Talib Kweli, Kurupt, 8-Ball & MJG etc. DJ Quik was also the architect behind a track called “Addictive” by R&B singer Truth Hurts, an artist working under the tutelage of Dr. Dre. However, Quik’s innovative use of a Hindi music sample on “Addictive”, sparked a massive $500 million lawsuit against Truth Hurts’ label Aftermath.
Soon, DJ Quik decided to venture down the independent path, releasing his next album Under Tha Influence (Ark 21-2002) on Ark 21 Records. Throughout his label difficulties, DJ Quik remained loyal to the artists whose careers he helped launch. Under Tha Influence features appearances by Suga Free, Hi-C and most notably, AMG on the bouncy single “Trouble.” Unfortunately for DJ Quik, Under Tha Influence also sold fairly poorly.
Understandably frusterated with all that he had been through, DJ Quik broke free of both major and independent labels, to form his own label, Mad Science Records. On his new label, he released the appropriately titled Trauma (Mad Science-2005). DJ Quik’s seventh album featured guest spots from a slew of A-list Hip Hop artists such as T.I., Ludacris, Wyclef Jean and soulful group Jodeci. The album was also largely an outlet for Quik to vent about tumult he had endured.
DJ Quik’s production resume continues to expand, working with Snoop Dogg, Ludacris and has even taken a stab at scoring, laying down music with a full orchestra for the Chris Rock Film Head Of State.
Despite launching his career at the peak of West Coast G-Funk, DJ Quik refuses to be pigeon-holed and has continued to innovate his music and ascend the genre. It’s also notable that he crafts meticulous Hip Hop compostions, while simultaneously rapping at an equal level of difficulty. Through and through DJ Quik remains one of the West Coast’s innovators.