DJ Quik Tells All: The Stories Behind his Classic Records

DJ Quik f/ El DeBarge "El's Interlude" (1998)

Producer: DJ Quik
Album: Rhythm-al-ism
Label: Profile

DJ Quik: “God as my witness, I was driving my Corvette up the hill today thinking about El's lyrics. Yesterday was Marvin Gaye's birthday, and because Marvin Gaye and El Debarge used to hang out, whenever Marvin Gaye's birthday comes around I think of El really strongly.

"I was thinking about how that was such a multi-arranged record. Back then, people weren't even doing breakdowns and changes. That record had three totally different energies in it. Three totally different breakdowns. What a fucking awesome record. And he nailed that shit in one take. Just to see him croon—that's what a fuckin crooner does!

 

I used to cry to y'all records when I was little, when a bitch broke my heart. To be in a studio with him, watching him get down, it was phenomenal. What can I say?

 

"And here I am, for the first time in my life, working with a crooner! I was over the moon. I was elated! This is the shit! This is what the fuck I'm supposed to be doing, working with this motherfucker and potentially his brothers. Like, let me do a Debarge album! I know how to write that shit!

"I used to cry to y'all records when I was little, when a bitch broke my heart. To be in a studio with him, watching him get down, it was fucking phenomenal. What can I say? I smiled all the time, I stayed high off the best motherfucking weed, and drank the best alcohol and swam in the pool and threw parties.

“With the Rhythmalism album, even though it didn't have a home because Profile was going through something and I was fighting them for back royalties and they had me on suspension because they didn't want to pay me. I understood, those were some big checks, I wouldn't want to pay DJ Quik either.

"I was in a comfortable place because I was producing records for Suge, who was taking care of me. I'm producing records for other motherfuckers. So I had a production life outside of my artist life that was actually more fruitful than me being an artist.

"So as that record sat in limbo, I start throwing parties. I had Digital Underground over, we throwing these crazy-ass pimp-of-the-year parties and shit. Bitches running all through the house naked and shit. It was just debauchery! I had the time of my life working on Rhythmalism.

“And I hope it came through on that record. Rhythmalism is a little bit blue, a little bit hypersexual, and I can see how—because I started fucking with my androgyny a little bit. Because hanging out with El, and hanging out with the people he had around him, like the bitches—they made me feel not so rough-around-the-edges.

"I think that's when I lost my rough edges, I lost the gangster shit and became like an R&B pretty boy, and almost gay. Motherfuckers was like, 'Man, you look kind of gay on that cover.' And I was like, Fuck you—I'll kill you. This is musical expression, bitch! Fuck off and die. But looking back it wasn't real blue.

"The name Rhythmalism alone tells you what I was doing. I was mixing up rhythms. I was meshing R&B with hip-hop and jazz. And a little bit of comedy. I love the intro on Rhythmalism. The Rhythmalism intro is funny as shit. I'm trying to do rock and roll-grunge-metal and end up dying at the end of the song, hyperventilating, passing out.

“El Debarge, that record was really about him. I was going for Q4, I was going to do 'Safe & Sound 2,' after 'Safe & Sound.' But when I met him—I met him at the House of Blues. He was everything that I thought he was, just seeing him on TV and listening to him on the radio.

"He showed me what I was doing wrong. He would stop me like, 'Naw, man you're fucking up.' I needed that. He taught me how to be a better producer. How to be more multi-faceted. Taught me arrangement and shit. Right now I'm a beast!

"Even though our music is passe. Right now, if this was still the gangster rap era, I could produce a record that's so fucking awesome it'll rival all the big hip-hop records. And it's just because of some of the techniques that El Debarge taught me.

"Songwriting, basically, him and Clive Davis taught me songwriting. That's me listening to Clive Davis, my boss, El Debarge my fucking homie, and listening to Top Dog who gave me that hit 'Dollaz and Sense.' Unfortunately he got murdered when we was recording it, but Rhythmalism is all that. Rhythmalism is pretty much my favorite album, because it's all over the place with arrangement but still constitutes one sound.”

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