"Now everybody wants to know the truth about a brother named Quik/I come from the school of the sly, wicked and the slick . . ." And with that very verse, David Blake introduced himself to the world as DJ Quik.
Just as Eazy-E and his jheri curl wearing, 8-ball guzzling cohorts vocalized dope-deals gone bad, and stances against police brutality was beginning to fall apart, barely out of his teen years at the time, DJ Quik picked up the ball at half court where his NWA predecessors left off. After the disbanding of N.W.A., Quik's 1991 debut, Quik Is The Name, continued the legacy by telling street synopses of parties and sexual escapades, while simultaneously exposing the harsh realities of his hometown, Compton, California - a city where in 2002, the median annual income is still under $25k. Along with the parties and escapades; Bloods, Crips and turf-wars furnished Quik's story lines, as he established himself as one of the first artists to openly represent a specific gang-affiliation - hence "Quik" being spelled without the letter "c."
Now, more than ten years and two labels later, Quik has matured artistically, and is elated in anticipation of the June 4th release of his sixth album, Under Tha Influence, on his own Euponic (definition: good music; ear candy)/Bungalo Records. Distributed exclusively through Universal Music and Video Distribution, Quik is adamant that this release will take him to the next plateau.
An extremely intelligent man, Quik is soft-spoken and speaks poetically. Amusingly, he seems to fall in and out of character from David Blake in normal tone, to speaking as DJ Quik - sounding as though he's rapping - when he's excited or angry, as he chronicles the peaks and the valleys of his career.
"I was the eyes of the world to the West Coast..."
Quik came out as a hard hitter in the early 90's with back-to-back hits, such as the classic "Tonite" and the infamous, "Black P*ssy" (from Quik Is The Name), and "Jus' Lyke Compton" (from Way 2 Fonky). But as it seems common with many artists, he got caught up in a devastating battle with Profile Records. Due to withheld royalties and other issues, Quik rebelled against the label and refused to support his third release, Safe & Sound. "I was the eyes of the world to the West Coast, but then, my third album I released out of anger. Actually, I went over there with Suge like, 'Suge help me man cus Profile ain't paying me, man. And I ain't got no drug problems, so I don't need $2,000 here and $100,000 there - I just need you to pay me for what I'm worth'," he explains of his encounter with Suge.
"So he helped bankroll Safe & Sound, and everything was cool. The record sold a whole hell of a lot of units, then I still didn't get paid. It was like, 'Whoa, artists don't get paid, do they?' I fought with Profile some more, wouldn't do no supportin', no video, no nothin'. So they fought back by not lettin' me guest star on anybody's sh*t. The whole '95 -'96 thing, I couldn't do no guest stars with nobody. I was on suspension. They be playin' stupid f*cken games. The only thing they did let me do was when I hooked up with Raphael Saadiq. I produced a record for him called 'Let's Get Down.' Then, since people liked 'Let's Get Down,' I wanted to keep mixin' r&b and hip-hop, but not blatantly. So, I kicked it at home. Bought a nice little studio and a nice home and recorded what was to become Rhythm-al-ism (which was the first release under the Arista catalogue after taking over Profile)."
Rhythm-al-ism, which did well commercially, did not go over well with Quik's followers. Quik's hard-core audience followed by those closest to him quickly lost interest in his newfound sound, and labeled Quik a traitor. "It was a different kind of music, so people was like - my 'true' homies - was like, 'F*ck Quik, he sellin' out. That's some r&b sh*t,' and they was all hittin' me with that sh*t. Puttin' little subliminal messages in they records, 'You never catch me lookin' r&b/You might see me in a 3-piece suit, lookin' way o.g.'" he recites, perfectly imitating Snoop on "G'd Up."
"All of them was hittin' me. As much as I helped them, they was all stickin' me, like, 'N*gga that's crossover sh*t.' But, thank God, I'm one of the only mothaf*ckas that got away with doin' that. I'm one of the only muthaf*ckas that had success with being a hard-core street, straight gang-bangin' type n*gga, to flippin' the whole script, open my mothaf*cken shirt, let my hair down and do an r&b record that f*cken went platinum..."
After reciting a few classic old school verses with Quik, he reminds me, "A lot of people accused me of fallin' off, bless y'all hearts. I fell off, but come on mothaf*ckas, I invented this sound, you mothaf*ckas. I invented this whole musical [r&b]/hip-hop sh*t. Wasn't nobody doin' it before 'Tonite' and 'Black P*ssy' - I don't wanna hear it. Not to be conceited or anything, but if I don't say it, who will?"
"But when you start to bubble/Then your friends, they spite you/And if you go to church/Then hip-hop won't like you . . ." - DJ Quik, "50 Ways"
As with any artists, when the format gets tired, the format gets fired. Quik's scenario was no different. From a career crippling battle with the now defunct Profile Records, to being released of his obligations to Arista Records, Quik has been forced to reevaluate and recreate his creative image. After a short bout with finding his creative identity - deciding whether to be DJ Quik the ghetto superstar, or DJ Quik the r&b thug - Quik is now insistent on taking it back to the streets and giving his long-time followers what they have come to expect of him.
"I've been accused of sellin' out but it's because people didn't understand what I was going through with Arista, and it kind of affected my head. I don't hate them though, it's cool - it was business. But during that transition, after Clive (Davis) left, and L.A. Reid came in, it was just like I was fish out of water. The only corresponding I was doin' was with Clive. I didn't have a relationship with L.A. Reid, and I couldn't get in touch with him and just talk, so I asked him to let me go and they did, and I thank them for that. Unfortunately [in the process] I had to make a record that suffered a little," he states matter-of-factly in reference to his fifth release, Balance & Options, which sold less than 500,000 copies.
"After Rhythm-al-ism, I went back into the studio and did Balance & Options. I wanted to do half of what I do r&b-wise and half of what I do hip-hop-wise. I wanted to see what people chose. That's why it was called Balance & Options - I knew I had to pick one of those directions, and it was like my fork in the road," he continues to explain, defending his experience. "Either I was gonna be this fly r&b wanna-be, little skinny R.L. type lookin' n*gga, and have people like, 'what the hell is Quik doin'?'. Or, I was gon' go all the way back to the streets with a vengeance and I'ma light this mothf*cka up . . . Ultimately, the last opinion was mine, and after I did Balance & Options, I realized that I didn't wanna go r&b. That ain't who I am. I'm a gangsta. I was torn between being positive and being a thug. That was the "Options," with "Balance" being - 'I'm in balance right now and everything is honky-dory, and no more violence y'all, let's have peace. No more gang-bangin'. We gotta stop [this] gang-bangin' bullsh*t. N*ggas will kill me for sayin' that, you know what I mean? So I give them a real record. I give 'em what the f*ck they been waitin' on - Under Tha Influence."
" . . . Sock the PD/Haters R.I.P. /Very sincerely yours, Quik/Peace/When I bubble it's trouble/Gettin' big money on the double . . ." Quik & AMG, "Trouble"
"Under Tha Influence - man, once you hear it, you'll be under the influence. It's just that kind of music. It's my feel. It's a continental movement on mine. I didn't want to just make a regional record. I seek a whole greater success this time, especially now that it's my label, and I can do exactly what I wanna do, when I wanna do it, how I wanna do it. I'm just gettin' in gear to become one of the tightest mothaf*ckaz ever, ya know?"
The first single, "Trouble" (featuring longtime comrade AMG), which is currently receiving plenty of radio play and was recently added to BET's rotation, is Quik's answer to all who abandoned ship when they thought he would sink. Also acknowledged in the songs response, are The Source Magazine, the Pasadena Police Department with whom Quik and Hi-C were involved in a scuffle at the 2000 Source Awards.
"First of all," he interjects, "the police didn't have no right puttin' they hands on me at that f*cken Source Awards. Some sh*t broke out, I tried to break up a fight, and the police tried to throw my thin ass down in front of the whole world - tried to throw me on the ground! Now, when you wrong, you give in, but when you right you fight. So I didn't let 'em take me to the ground. In a white suit?!" He then seriously asks, "Why was they trynna throw me on the ground in a white suit? How am I gon' lay down on the ground? F*ck that, y'all ain't strong enough for that. So, I had to hit 'em back, and that's where 'Trouble' came from.
"That's me on the whole N.W.A., f*ck the police vibe. I can't take that sh*t now. Start sockin' y'all (the police) mothf*ckaz, f*ck the police. I had a bad vibe about that Source sh*t anyway. They couldn't take me down, so then, the little f*cker came up behind me and he's puttin' me in a choke hold, and I'm like, 'Wow!' And if you noticed (referencing to the video tape of the scuffle) - I just smiled . . . So they just drove me around the block. Then they got a call to bring me back and let me go. They didn't arrest me, charge me with nothin' or read me no rights - all that sh*t. And that sh*t was everywhere, you know what I'm sayin'? I got so disrespected by that. Muthaf*ckaz was talkin' 'bout, 'The most embarrassing moment was seeing Quik get slapped around like a little b*tch by the police.'
"Unfortunately, The Source had me pegged out as some f*cken fickle, temperamental artist that can't control his emotions and I'm always depressed, and when I'm depressed, I go do music. What kind of bullsh*t is that?" he exclaims transforming back to DJ Quik. "What kind of bullsh*t - if that's the case you mothaf*ckaz, I'd take ten Viacodins and beat it if I can't deal with the pressure. No, I do music because music keeps me out of trouble. I'm human too. So, what did I do, I filed a lawsuit against The Source Magazine and the police - f*ck 'em all - you ain't gon' disrespect me." Ironically, Under Tha Influence received an honorable four mics in the "Record Review" in the May 2002 issue of The Source. In the review there was also mention of Quik battling with depression.
In speaking with Quik, I'm reminded that we only see the bling on the outside, but never truly know what's going on inside. With so much longevity in the game and a sixth release, Quik is ready to let us in. Under Tha Influence takes us back to Quik's original formula. "Life is about wins and losses, pluses and minuses. Life is all the extremes . . ." he reflects. "The only thing I'm trynna do with Under Tha Influence is break the repetitiveness of the west coast and try to do a more continental record. I'm not doin' regional sh*t no more. If you listen to the Truth Hurts record, that "Addictive, - that single is doin' such crazy things on the charts right now. It's just crazy how it's jumpin' like ten, fifteen, twenty spaces at a time. It means that the world is ready for something different," explains Quik.
"Should it [something different] come from the west coast, that's a beautiful thing because we need to be defined as more than just mundane, redundant, just f*cken gangsta music. We really need another light. And it's so hard to be the leader but I'ma try. I'm gonna try to put my hat on, just put my four stars on my shoulder and bounce with a new sound." In case you forgot, Quik is the name.
By Courtney M. Walton