Compton-born DJ Quik has been a force in hip-hop since the late 1980s. While he may not be the platinum hitmaker he was during the 1990s, he’s still a passionate sonic artist who's blazed a creative path that allowed his music to evolve into a very personal sound. Quik’s gone through several distinct phases, working both in the spotlight and behind the scenes, and Complex caught up with him last week to speak about all of it in detail.
“I don’t even talk to my mom this long,” Quik quipped as he went deep, connecting what he was doing musically to some of the key moments in his own remarkable biography, going into detail about what equipment and techniques he used, and speaking on all the people, places, and especially his own mindset during each recording session. Quik broke down everything from his sudden superstardom with the song “Tonite” to his mid-career collaborations with artists ranging from 2Pac to El Debarge, and even some of his little-known contributions to massive hits by the likes of 50 Cent and Rakim.
Quik even spoke on the money, the girls, and the street drama that surrounded him throughout his music career, and how his work with Dr. Dre helped him deal with some of the tragedies he’s witnessed over the years. After this epic interview, two things become quite clear: First, Quik is an open book with a very precise memory. And second, his impact on hip-hop history is both truly profound and largely unappreciated. Until now, that is...
As told to David Drake (@somanyshrimp)
DJ Quik "Born & Raised in Compton" (1991)
Producer: DJ Quik
Album: Quik Is The Name
DJ Quik: “I got an SP1200 drum machine and a 4-track Tascam recorder, a little cassette recorder. I went from making mixtapes to getting a drum machine and producing my own songs. After about a year on the SP1200, going through different tape formulations. Just listening to the way frequencies in my voice respond to certain tapes, I figured I was in there.
"I've got a good formula that my people close to me like—because I didn't have a big fanbase, it was just me, Playa Hamm and Tweed Cadillac, who was my rap group homies. And this one other guy named Theron. He used to give me old records to sample, old James Brown and the JB's soul records. So I fell in love with that record my mom used to play, Isaac Hayes “Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic,” and I never forgot it.
I bought the N.W.A. Straight Outta Compton album and just scratched 'Born and Raised in Compton' because I felt entitled to use it. And Eazy E and them didn't have a problem with it; they never sued me.
"So when sampling became all the rage, even before Biz Markie got sued for it, we just sampled everything we could. And it wasn't even thinking about commercial success or nothing. We just sampled all the records that we liked. And that track in particular, it just made me feel like a god. Like on top of the world. It just sounded big. Even though it wasn't on the radio, even though I didn't have a record deal. It was just something about that track that moved me.
“So I went on ahead, and even though I'd already moved out of Compton by 1987—I was living in Los Angeles, South Central as they used to call it—I wrote it in 1988 and 1989, I was just depicting what I remembered from Compton. And at the same time I was watching N.W.A. blow up.
"So I bought the N.W.A. Straight Outta Compton album and just scratched 'Born and Raised in Compton' because I felt entitled to use it. And Eazy E and them didn't have a problem with it; they never sued me. Dr. Dre and Ren they never got on me about it. They actually liked the record.
“'Born and Raised in Compton,' it was cool to be able to vent because the reality was, when we moved out of my mom's house in Compton I had left some equipment there, and my records there, and I was trying to find a place to live. We were getting shuffled around. I was like 16, 17 years old.
"This motherfucker named Leroy—we used to call him Skillet, Barbecue, because he was so black and ugly. This motherfucker broke in my mama's house and stole my equipment. So when I go in there and see my equipment gone and our house had been ransacked—what kind of shit?! When you've got bars on the window, how do motherfuckers still get in your house and steal your shit?
"I had worked hard to buy that equipment. I worked odd jobs, I sold crack, weed. I did everything I could to get that equipment so I wouldn't have to keep doing that shit. And for this motherfucking ingrate, this motherfucking hoodlum, to break in my mom's house, to desecrate my home, step on my fucking records. It was the ultimate disrespect to me.
I worked odd jobs, I sold crack, weed. I did everything I could to get that equipment so I wouldn't have to keep doing that shit. And for this ingrate, this hoodlum, to break in my mom's house, to desecrate my home, step on my records. It was the ultimate disrespect to me.
"And I'll go as far as to say this too because can't nobody touch me: after he did that shit, he motivated me to write that record. And he, being the idiot that he was, he kind of gloated about it. He had this sense of almost pride that in some kind of dark twisted way, he helped to propel me into stardom. But as the streets would have it, everybody hates a thief, and everybody hates a snitch. I got news that he got shot and ran over by a car. And I was very happy to hear that.”
DJ Quik "Tonite" (1991)
Producer: DJ Quik
Album: Quik Is The Name
DJ Quik: “That's the biggest hit I've had, chart-wise, in my career. That was my second record that impacted at radio. And it was a quick record— we threw a house party, and I woke up throwing up bile. Like I drank that much. We drank vodka straight. I didn't really know how to drink back then. I was what they called a lightweight.
"I used to drink Old English 800, half a 40 and I was cool. But when we started making a little money, doing little DJ gigs, I was DJing, selling beats for $200 apiece. I was hanging out with motherfuckers like John Boylan, who produced Boston, that 'More than a Feeling' record. I went to his house in Beverly Hills to hang out with him.
When we started making a little money, doing little DJ gigs, I was DJing, selling beats for $200 apiece.
"He taught me, he showed me how to have a home studio and make it work. He showed me all these hundreds of millions of record sales and plaques, and he had them all on the floor, they were in the closet. It was like no big deal to him.
"I kind of adopted that style, after I sold my hundred million records—I just put the plaques on the floor, like 'I don't feel like hanging that shit up' Mission accomplished. I did what I was supposed to do.
“I have a different writing style than other people. I write from the total experience. I try to get my fans to look at it from my point of view. I almost talk; I don't even rap. I felt that I wanted people to relate to me and I wanted to relate to people. Through all the records that people like from me—even as simple as they might be—some people was like 'Quik can't rap,' or this or that and the other. I always felt that I was making a connection. I can feel good if I listen back to my record and understand where I was coming from.
“[I was] Hanging out with motherfuckers like Suge Knight, when he was Marion, before they started Death Row, hanging out with D.O.C. And some of the people that he brought from Texas out here. There was a cool little movement of music going on back in 1988 or '89, where you could be up in the studio with Mario 'Chocolate' who ended up producing 'Ice Ice Baby' for Vanilla Ice.
I'm hanging out with all these OG-ass gangbangin'-ass drug dealer fly-ass rich motherfuckers. And I ended up just being like one of them. And I made 'Tonite' gloating about that.
"I'm hanging out with this motherfucker, I'm hanging out with all these OG-ass gangbangin'-ass drug dealer fly-ass rich motherfuckers. And I ended up just being like one of them. And I made 'Tonite' gloating about that shit. I'm having money—you know, I ain't got no job, but I'm having money—and I'm honing in my rap style. You know what I mean?
"I'm pretty lucky in a lot of senses. Because I could have gotten killed living the lifestyle I was living. But the shit turned into money. And 'Tonite' is the coming-of-age song. And everybody reaches that plateau when they get their proverbial cherry popped. Alcohol, growing up, bitches and shit. It was a great time. Debauchery at its finest.”
DJ Quik "Jus Lyke Compton" (1992)
Producer: DJ Quik, Rob "Fonksta" Bacon
Album: Way 2 Fonky
DJ Quik: “Now fast-forward from the time my first album hits the streets and started to propel and sell. I'm on a tour bus, I'm being told 'Congratulations!' I'm like, Why? They're like, 'Your record just hit gold this week, so they're going to have a party for you.' Here I am, all I really cared about was getting back home to get to my equipment.
"Back then, I couldn't afford to have a studio on the bus. So I was homesick for my music. Because I just wanted to make more music. I wanted to make another whole album. Like, why are we still touring? They're like, 'Your record is still sellin.' I'm like, I want to go start on Way 2 Fonky.
I was representing the B card pretty tough. Like, I wasn't a super-banged out gangbanger, but some of the Crips in some of the places I was going kind of wasn't having it.
"During the time I started the record, at the end of that tour, some crazy shit started happening on the road. I was representing the B card pretty tough. Like, I wasn't a super-banged out gangbanger.
"I was letting it be known, I was wearing Chicago White Sox hats with the little red in them, Chicago Bulls gear. That was about the time Michael Jordan and them started to come into prominence, so it was just an all-around good time to rock red.
"But some of the Crips in some of the places I was going kind of wasn't having it. Me being as naïve as I was to the fact that gangbanging did just go a little bit farther than California. And to go out of town and see that motherfuckers really didn't have nothing to lose, and to witness these crazy riots at the end of our shows.
"I'm thinking, I'm not invoking all of this violence, it ain't me, this is a movement bigger than me. Because they're like, 'Quik started a riot last night.' How did Quik start a riot when all I did was get on stage and rapped? I didn't even say 'blood.' It was my cousins and the fucking idiots that I had with me on stage. I'm not gonna say their names, but these motherfuckers was real gangbangers.
"I'm trying to get them record deals and get them out of this shit. But they want to sit on stage and fuck my shit up, throw glass bottles into the audience—you know, real irresponsible shit. Getting me sued, getting me arrested. I gotta fight lawsuits and shit.
“For $81,000 in 1991 I had to pay this lawyer in Denver as a retainer fee for a misdemeanor. They were just using me because I was a celebrity. It was all blown up because I was popular. If I had been a Joe Schmoe little ignorant motherfucker from the hood, they would have thrown that shit out of court. Just some mayhem or whatever and it would have been done.
"But because it was me, they made a big fuss out of it. And the motherfuckers that I had with me, these bastards didn't even come back to court out there in Denver with me to go support me even though I gave them a lifestyle, these ungrateful sunofabitches didn't even represent.
"So 'Jus Lyke Compton,' I wrote that because of the shit that I experienced, the murder of somebody outside of one of my concerts at a club in San Antonio, Texas, which—by the way—Shaquille O'Neal was present at, before he got signed.
“And primarily it was just me giving a very visual assessment of the year prior. And regretfully so, too. When I listen back to that record now I don't think I had any choice but to do that record.
"If there was anything I could change, I probably would have added more stories to it. But it was already four minutes long. I mean, I rapped so long on that record that I would have to take the hooks out. And I shortened the hooks!
"The hooks are not the normal eight bars, like most choruses are eight bars. Those choruses are four bars because I had so much to talk about, and there was some shit I left out. But again, it was my naïvete. You are who you associate yourself with, and motherfuckers next to you can truly sink your battleship, literally.”
DJ Quik "Way 2 Fonky" (1992)
Producer: DJ Quik
Album: Way 2 Fonky
DJ Quik: “I wrote that honoring Roger Troutman. At that point, we still loved 'More Bounce to the Ounce' so that was kind of a bite. I started to be vocal in my diss war—that I reluctantly got dragged into—with MC Eiht. I didn't diss him, and I never wanted to diss him, but I guess when you become popular like that, you become a target.
I started to be vocal in my diss war—that I reluctantly got dragged into—with MC Eiht. I didn't diss him, and I never wanted to diss him, but I guess when you become popular like that, you become a target.
"That was the beginning of me shouting at him: stay off my dick, leave me alone, I'm balling. I've got two records that just went gold, one of them on its way to platinum. And here I come just last year, a year and a half ago, I didn't know where my next Happy Meal was coming from.
"I wrote the music all by myself. I was doing a lot of that back then. I was a songwriter, I didn't even realize that till now, with the publishing checks that I get now.
"I was just a songwriter, I was pretty much writing songs that would pay my way for the rest of my life. 'Way 2 Fonky,' I'm proud to admit, was the beginning of my funk music ambitions.”
Penthouse Players Clique f/ AMG, DJ Quik & Eazy-E "Trust No Bitch" (1992)
Producer: DJ Quik
Album: Paid The Cost
Label: Ruthless Records/Priority
DJ Quik: “Imagine being in the studio with Eric Wright at his prime, when money didn't matter. Where it was like, you know, you've got this guy—I was a little bit star-struck. Like, this guy likes me? This motherfucker sells a million records a year, probably more than that. He's grossing a little over a million dollars a month. And he's hanging out with me!
"He's coming to the studio, we're smoking weed together, we're talking about the bitches we hate—bitches that we really love, but they don't respect who the fuck we are, so we're putting them all in records and shit. And hanging out.
The Penthouse Players Clique thing got a little bit messy because they brought ... killers, dope dealers, robbers into the fold. And it made for a pretty uncomfortable recording environment.
“I really wanted that to be more than just their album. The Penthouse Players Clique was my first group that I was in. They're actually the ones that told me I should do something with 2nd II None. I really didn't want to work with 2nd II None because they were stupid. KK was cool, but Dion was a hot-head.
"My thing was, I don't want to bring them too close to me because they've got issues. Every time they come to the studio they've got bullet holes in their car. We fly. I'm a fly motherfucker. I don't get shot at because I don't do anything for motherfuckers to shoot at me. But these motherfuckers is coming to the studio with bullet holes in the car and crazy stories, and when you're with them you get shot at because they have that ignorant thing about them. Player Hamm told me I should go ahead and sign them!
“I did that for them because I went solo after I started getting into it with Playa Hamm and Tweed Cadillac, I started growing, and I felt like I was growing at a faster pace than everybody else, but I wanted to bring them along with me because these are my homeboys, but they just weren't delivering what I thought everybody wanted to hear.
"The Penthouse Players Clique thing got a little bit messy because they brought what would ultimately be the protocol; you bring niggas from the hood into your business.
"These are pretty unsavory people. So Player Hamm and them are bringing some killers, dope dealers, robbers into the fold. And it made for a pretty uncomfortable recording environment.
“And me, in my heart, I believe that there could have been more songs on the Penthouse Players Clique album, I think that Eazy was just hot on me and signed them because of me. I'm just being real—I know that's what it was. Because he figured, Quik's got the midas touch, just let Quik do it or whatever.
"It ended up being a classic album, but as far as my standards, I think if there could have been a more comfortable work environment, not so much tension, not too much personal nigga shit.
"I think that could have been a much bigger record, a much brighter record, and a better-mixed record overall. But the experience, with fucking with Eazy-E? I'll be smiling in my coffin when I die. That was one of the nicest, smartest, most brilliant, most bright individuals I've ever come across.”
DJ Quik "Summer Breeze" (1995)/DJ Quik "Summer Breeze (Remix)" (1995)
Producer: DJ Quik
Album: Safe + Sound
DJ Quik "Summer Breeze" (1995)
DJ Quik "Summer Breeze (Remix)" (1995)
DJ Quik: “I was a big fan of Philadelphia International. One of my boys had this guy who sang like Teddy a little bit—not really, nobody could sing like Teddy—but one of them churchy voices.
"I figured, if we can get away with the sample—if we can clear it or whatever—let's sample it, freak it, give it that thing. Because before that, the only other thing that got sampled by Teddy was 'Love TKO' with Ahmad, 'Back in the Day,' released on Jive Records.
I saw so much death I ended up drinking to suppress that shit. It was just too much. I figured, hell, I wasn't the only one who grew up in a neighborhood where that sh*t was prominent.
“That was back when Profile Records gave me a lot of leeway to experiment. But I prefer the original with the Jermaine Jackson drums and my boy Robert Bacon on the guitar. If you notice, all my records—even from the beginning—are tinged with death. I saw a lot of death.
"As a matter of fact, I saw so much death I ended up drinking to suppress that shit. It was just too much. I figured, hell, I wasn't the only one who grew up in a neighborhood where that shit was prominent. Not so much in L.A., as it was in Compton. But it was what it was.
"'Summer Breeze' was like an obituary. It was dark, it was sullen. And kind of, in a sense, melancholy. But I always kept a bright-side kind of attitude when I did records like that. Obviously, I don't do records like that anymore, because they're passe. Everybody's dying. Even I'm gonna die. I don't give a fuck no more. We can talk about the next record.”
DJ Quik "Quik's Groove III" (1995)
Danny Boy "Steppin'" (1996)
DJ Quik "Dollaz + Sense" (1995)
Producer: DJ Quik
Album: Safe + Sound
DJ Quik: “In hindsight, I was really angry at that point. I started to get a little bit bitter. I started to feel like I was being taken for granted by the people around me. I started losing things. I was getting into unnecessary fist fights with these idiots in the hood. I'm pistol-whipping niggas now. I'm really out of my mind with anger.
I used to be in the studio recording that record with pistols around me. I'd have them up on the podium where the lyrics were. I'd have a Glock up there, or a .380, my little Taurus PT92, my nine millimeters. I was just on one, because of all the bullsh*t that my celebrity brought with it.
"But these niggas deserved it. Bitch-ass niggas trying to steal from me, trying to punk me and shit. I don't take that punk shit too well. I'd just whip out my pistol, and it's like, 'What you really want to do motherfucker? If you want to die, we can arrange that.'
"I used to be in the studio recording that record with pistols around me. I'd have them up on the podium where the lyrics were. I'd have a Glock up there, or a .380, my little Taurus PT92, my nine millimeters. I was just on one, because of all the bullshit that my celebrity brought with it.
“The reality was, I was getting off on a lot of niggas. Not just MC Eiht. I was getting off on my fake security motherfuckers, just the way the shit was going. The unsavory people that certain people in my camp was bringing around.
"I had good people in my camp like Top Dog Daryl Reed, who actually helped me write 'Dollaz and Sense.' Daryl is a co-writer, his name is Top Dog. He's like my personal assistant, personal manager. Just like my brother. He wrote the hook. He gave me the whole concept for it, and he listened to a couple beats and he picked the 'Dollaz and Sense' beat, he was like, 'This gonna be a hot record Quik. Trust me, this is gonna make some noise.'
"He was a player, he was one of them fly guys. He actually looked like Sean 'Puffy' Combs. He was one of them goateed...he used to hang out with Ice T, they was running buddies in the early '80s. He sat there with me. He watched how long it went.
“At the same time I'm writing that record, I've got people in my personal life I'm trying to help get on, and they're not helping me. We were just watching people use my situation. 'Dollaz and Sense' wasn't just about MC Eiht, it was about a whole bunch of people around that time. I was really on one.
"That was the time when road rage was popping real big. Whenever I was rollin' in the Benz or rolling in my Lexus or in my trucks—whatever. I always kept the pistol because motherfuckers would shoot you back then, just because they saw you. It was a real weird, dark time.
"I was just feeling all the angst of all of that aggression. That record still has all that aggression in it too. When I perform it today it doesn't hit as hard, because obviously I'm not that angry any more. But it's still a hit record. Point taken, fuckin' point taken. Long live 'Dollaz and Sense.'”
Tony! Toni! Tone! f/ DJ Quik "Let's Get Down" (1996)
Producer: Raphael Saadiq, DJ Quik, G-One
Album: House Of Music
DJ Quik: “If you listen, 'Let's Get Down' is a complete drum rip-off of 'Dollaz and Sense.” Because 'Dollaz and Sense' had blew up, I used the drums again on 'Let's Get Down,' and hit No. 12 on the nationwide Top 100 charts.
"That breakbeat is one of the breakbeats that I invented that I used on a 2nd II None 12” back on Profile for their song 'Be True To Yourself.' I used it on this European remix that I did. This long-form, long-edited—where I was in the studio splicing tape—one of them long breakdown edits. I fucked around, broke that beat down.
This is my drum break—back then I cared about my drum breaks. It was my sh*t. I invented it. I wrote it.
"Simon Harris, who had an independent label back then reissuing breakbeats, sampled my shit and put it on that breakbeat. I bought the album and he named it after one of KK's lyrics on there, 'Keep cool little girl.' The 'keep cool little girl' break. It ended up being on Mr. Grimm's 'Indo Smoke.' This is my drum break—back then I cared about my drum breaks. It was my shit. I invented it. I wrote it.
“Just to see how much it got used, and I never got—nobody ever came to me. Warren G never came to me like, 'Man, that was the shit.' He probably didn't even know where he got it from. It was used for 'Black Superman' by Above the Law. It was used on 'Shackles on my Feet' for Mary Mary, from my young producing protege Warren Campbell, Baby Dub.
"And it was also used in 'Home Alone' for R. Kelly, which is another record that I had something to do with that I didn't get credit for because I had some slimeballs in the game that were trying to capitalize on my sound and suspiciously left my name off of the credits.
"That's me playing percussion on the 'Home Alone' record—that's my bass sound, that's my synthesizer, which was a Roland JD800. That's my drum break, the 'keep cool little girl' break. It is what it is.
“But 'Let's Get Down' was fun in that after I heard the Sons of Soul album, by Tony Toni Tone, I knew I wanted to work with them. I wanted to give them a dance record, something funky and grimy. Right around 1994–1995 was the perfect time for something that was amalgamated like that. That kind of record where you've got this beloved R&B group and this fucking hated gangster rapper or party rapper.
"It made for a cool, not-so-aggressive, one of them let-your-hair-down, let's-party-till-we-get-drunk, bring-all-the-bitches-none-of-these-niggas, ladies-leave-your-children-at-the-nursery-so-we-can-slow-wine.
"Three men, nine women, that's how we used to like it back then. That was that kind of record. It was more for ladies. And if you listen to 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' by Nirvana, you can kind of hear some similarities. Don't tell anybody that though. Long live Kurt Cobain.”
2Pac f/ DJ Quik "Heartz Of Men" (1996)
Producer: DJ Quik
Album: All Eyez On Me
Label: Death Row/Interscope
DJ Quik: “That was the stomp-down funky track—I'll put it to you like this. When I first did that track, I bought a little house in San Bernadino County. Just to get away from L.A., the spot was too hot. I moved away so I could write because my spot was getting blown up in L.A., Compton.
"I shook out there, built a little studio. Started making beats in there. That was one of the beats that would have been on Safe + Sound, but Safe + Sound was already pretty much done, so it was kind of hangover beat, just sitting there. I offered it to 2nd II None, because I knew it was hot.
The outfits we were wearing, the jewelry we chose, the way we felt when we went into the studio. That shit was such a lifestyle, man. It was incredible. And the 'Heartz of Men,' let that be an indicator of just how we was feeling. I felt like nothing could stop us now—only death.
"I hate to admit this, but 2nd II None either they were retarded or bourgie. They was like, 'We don't like it. We ain't feeling it.' I was like, Really? 'Yeah, we don't like that one. Make something else.' This is the same group that, when I look at interviews now, these motherfuckers tell everybody that they made the beats!
"Them and AMG. That's cool. If that's what it is, whatever it takes for y'all to get y'alls celebrity or fame, go ahead, I wish you luck. But they turned it down, declined that track, and I was like, so y'all don't mind if I sell it? They was like, 'Shit, go ahead.'
“So I packed up my MPC, my keyboards. Drove my happy ass to Can-Am studios and recorded it in Studio B with Dr. Dre in the back in Studio A. Motherfuckers heard that track, they was like, 'Damn, Quik funky.' Dre left for a little while so Studio A opened up. Studio A was the big room.
"My friend Warren came through, and an in-house producer over at Death Row Records who played the synthesizers on that record. Warren played piano on it. I played bass. We pretty much freaked the track and made it big. Put a two-track of it up.
"When Tupac got out of jail days later, we didn't even know he was getting out of jail, because Suge did that shit in private. He didn't even tell anybody that he was in New York so we just had the studio running.
"The fuckin' door flies open, we're in the kitchen playing Mortal Kombat, it's Tupac Shakur, hooked up. Fresh outfit and shit. I'm like, 'What the fuck? Nigga you're supposed to be in jail.' Who gets out of jail? That's what let me know that Death Row shit was powerful.
The door flies open, we're in the kitchen playing Mortal Kombat, it's Tupac Shakur, hooked up. Fresh outfit and shit. I'm like, 'What the...? You're supposed to be in jail.' Who gets out of jail? That's what let me know that Death Row sh*t was powerful.
“So I'm like, well, since you're here, I've got something I want you to hear. I played one for him. He's like, Alright, whatever. I play 'Heartz of Men' second. He grabbed a notepad, he's like, 'Quik, let me go back and fuck with Daz. I'll be right back.' An hour later, he finished the song in the back—by this time I switched back to B since Dre came back.
"He came in B, sat down with a legal pad, a fuckin' ink pen, a blunt, lit up. Wrote that motherfucking song right in front of me. This is where I blew it. I didn't have a video camera. I blew it. I took it for granted. I figured, we're going to live forever—who cares? It just doesn't sound as sweet coming from my mouth as it did the experience of seeing him go in there and obliterate that fucking track like he did. You know?
"The outfits we were wearing, the jewelry we chose, the way we felt when we went into the studio. That shit was such a lifestyle, man. It was incredible. And the 'Heartz of Men,' let that be an indicator of just how we was feeling. I felt like nothing could stop us now—only death. I was really wound up into the production back then. I was fucking wound up. I was going for it.
“As fate would have it, I recently went and visited 2nd II None and visited them in their little situation, wherever they're living. No cars; these guys pretty much fucked off their celebrity. I added insult to injury by telling them just a few days prior, my lawyer emailed me and told me his favorite song of the week was 'Heartz of Men.'
'You guys turned down some serious records. And right now, you guys don't look like you're in the position to turn down your collars.'
"So I opened up the email, and he said because it just netted you blank-blank-blank-blank-blank in residual royalties. So I look at this big-ass royalty check, and the first person I think of is Tupac. The second person I think of is 2nd II None. I just tell them, 'You guys turned down some serious records. And right now, you guys don't look like you're in the position to turn down your fucking collars. Y'all should have took all that shit, took everybody's money, and laughed all the way to the bank.'
"Let some of these hip-hop artists who have fallen on hard times, let them serve as a lesson or an indicator or how not to do hip-hop. Whether it's gangster rap, pop, swag, whatever it is.
"Let some of these people be a testament of when keeping it real goes wrong, like David Chapelle says. Them keeping it real just cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties that I collect. I hope you print all this shit.”
DJ Quik f/ El DeBarge "El's Interlude" (1998)
Producer: DJ Quik
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.”