America’z Most Complete Artist: A Guide to DJ Quik

The only guide to the music of DJ Quik that you'll ever need.
By    October 16, 2014


Almost a quarter century ago, David Blake first steered the Caddy down Spruce St., the funky player smooth as a prism, in possession of a semi-automatic and the swagger of James Bond disguised as a jheri-curled Tree Top Piru. Quik was the name. Likes: Bombudd, Givenchy, Old English. Dislikes: cunnilingus, suckers in Denver trying to flex, hangovers. No need for a shaken martini when there’s 8-Ball in abundance.

He emerged in the wake of the original attitudinal Compton rappers and by default, got lumped in with the rest of the second wave. To elitist East Coast sensibilities, he was little different than Above the Law, South Central Cartel, or Compton’s Most Wanted—just another gangsta rapper riding low and resuscitating Roger Troutman.

But time has a funny way of shaking out the geniuses from the jokers. In the light of two decades distance, you can see what Southern Californians always knew: Quik was the region’s wildest, most infamous and finest mad scientist since Jack Parsons. And his local popularity was supreme enough to start a religion like L. Ron.

If you need the saga repeated, there’s my LA Weekly feature from 2011.  More testament exists on our Best Producer’s of All-Time list, where Quik finished 8th and it’s argued that he’s the greatest West Coast producer of all-time. With the release of his 9th solo album this week, it feels only right to look back at the legacy, evolution, and longevity of America’s most complete artist.

DJ Quik “Real Doe” ft. 2nd II None & AMG from The Red Tape (89-90)

From the widely bootlegged $10 RED tape that got Quik his deal at Profile Records. Sold at swap meets and mom and pop record shops from Compton to Salt Lake City, it’s one of the greatest demos of all-time and early evidence of Quik’s ability to bridge funk, soul and hip-hop.

Informed by East Coast production, Quik infused the funk mutations of EPMD with his own West Coast swing. The drums were hard, the horn stabs sharp, the tone loose, raw, and playful. Rhythmalism was always present

The kid playing vinyl records in his diapers, Quik grew up betting money with his older sister’s boyfriends that he could play whatever they requested, before he was old enough to read the labels. He grew up bumping Diana Ross, the Supremes, and the Ohio Players, listening to legendary mobile DJ crew Uncle Jamms’ Army on KDAY, and even tried to run with them before being kicked out for being too young. By Junior High, he was making mixtapes on Memorex cassettes, playing synthesizers in an R&B band called Starfire, and selling dope to buy turntables and an SP-1200.

After high school, he and KK from 2nd II None and Playa Hamm from Penthouse Players Clique started making cassette mixtapes. The most popular of the bunch, The Red Tape eventually made its way to Profile Records, who offered a $125,000 advance, and so it began.

2nd II None — “If You Want It” (produced by Quik) from 2nd II None (1991)

When Southern California natives hear the guitar line lifted from Isaac Hayes’ “Hung Up On My Baby,” the Geto Boys are the second thing that comes to mind. The first is what Quik laced that same year for his Compton a-alikes, 2nd II None.

What the Geto Boys turned into a sinister psychotic break, Quik used it to supply the loop for one of West Coast gangsta rap’s nastiest but oddly-safe-for-radio sex raps. There’s no calculus for measuring the morbid embarrassment you felt when your parents were driving and “If you need it, baby I’ll feed it. If you love it, come and rub it,” came on Power 106.

DJ Quik – “Tonite” from Quik is the Name (1991)

Quik’s debut could double as a greatest hits collection. What was later refined was immediately apparent on the Sunday Crenshaw cruise of “Quik’s Groove” and the funkadelic Rose Royce interpolations of “Sweet Black Pussy.” Profile selected “Born and Raised in Compton” as the first single because this was 1991 and N.W.A. still enjoyed the lingering infamy of its F.B.I. letter apex. Claiming Compton meant unassailable street cred. But it was Quik’s decision to sample New York disco-funk quartet, Kleer, that yielded his highest charting single.

The psychedelic filter looks like it could’ve came straight from (or inspired) a Hieroglyphics video. The 40s and flowers are purple and Quik’s activator curl is worthy of Eric Wright—who caught wind of the latest star from Compton and offered him a million bucks to leave Profile. He was contractually bound, so Eazy instead scooped up his close friends, the Penthouse Players Clique. In the meantime, there was “Tonite,” which remains a linchpin of any West Coast gangsta rap weekend playlist. It’s the smoothest ode to early 20s alcoholism that you’ll ever hear—invincibility in four minute form when anything can be dodged but a next-day headache.

Hi-C — “Funky Rap Singa” from Skanless (1991)

From Skanless, the oft forgotten minor classic from Quik’s neighborhood homie, Hi-C. The doo-wop oldies infused singles “I’m Not Your Puppet” and “Sitting in the Park,” still get KDAY love, but Quik proved that his sampling ear was always supreme, flipping “The New Birth” years before “Ya Playin’ Yaself” and “Players Anthem.”

DJ Quik – “Just Lyke Compton” from Way 2 Fonky (1992)

In which our hero takes his first tour around the United States to find out that the Bloods and Crips have been franchised. It’s the CPT version of “Mo Money, Mo Problems,” in which a hit single has spawned a whole new set of tensions, with every low-level local gangsta trying to test their mettle. Save for the Denver brawl, there’s respect for each city, with Quik shouting out Oakland, San Antonio, St. Louis, and Gus—the merchant galore hawking herring bone chains. Shaq was at this particular San Antonio show and even got an autograph afterwards.

Beneath the bravado, there’s a social message in which Quik blames Colors and Boyz in the Hood for fueling the flames and causing Middle America to claim the Rolling 60s Crips when they’d never even seen the ‘Shaw. It ends with a brawl in Denver at a roller rink party thrown by a rookie promoter—a reminder that gangsta rap not only reflected the conditions of the streets, it doubled as a recruitment tool.

Penthouse Players Clique ft. DJ Quik, Eazy E, & AMG – “Trust No Bitch” from Paid The Cost (1992)

Dre usually gets sole credit for pioneering G-Funk, but the reality is murkier. Above the Law and Quik certainly had a hand in making it Southern California’s biggest export since aerospace. The snake-like synths on “Trust No Bitch,” predate The Chronic (but follow “Alwayz into Somethin’”). It explains why Eazy was eager to lure Quik to Ruthless: if you couldn’t keep Dre, Quik was the only legitimate alternative.

Candyman – “Do Me Right” (produced by Quik) from I Thought U Knew (1993)

Years after “Knockin’ Boots,” Quik produced a lead single from a forgotten Candyman record. It was ignored at the time, but 21 years later, it’s an enjoyable curio revealing Quik’s evolution from the hard funk inspired by EPMD, Zapp, and Digital Underground into the more orchestral grooves of Safe + Sound and Rhythmalism.

DJ Quik ft. KK & JFN “Can’t Fuck With a Nigga” from the Menace II Society Soundtrack  (1993)

Never forget the time that Quik beefed with Everlast from House of Pain.

Shello – Good Thang (prod. by DJ Quik) from The Homegirl (1994)

During the mid-90s, Giant Records tried to capitalize on the popularity of Adina Howard, Zhane, and Mary J. Blige with their own version: Shello, an R&B singer from Compton. The album never earned much airplay, but this Quik-produced track remains an airy swoon with a premier Doctor’s Office sax solo.

DJ Quik – “Dollaz + Sense” from Safe + Sound (1995)

The savage character assassination of MC Eiht—easily one of the greatest disses of all-time. There are too many great lines, but the fatality came when Quik sneered that they call you, “E-I-H-T…left out the G, because the G ain’t in you.”

DJ Quik – “Safe + Sound” from Safe + Sound (1995)

The education of a hustler, a Compton childhood condensed into three vocoder-glazed stanzas, how Quik went from a seen-it-all teenage dope boy to a star—beat-up khakis to Sergio Tacchini. 2001 Browning should have a bronze Quik statue built out front.

DJ Quik – “Quik’s Groove III” from Safe + Sound (1995)

The Quik’s Groove series reveals a virtuosity that exceeds arguably all of his peers. Aided by long-time collaborator, guitarist Robert Bacon, the third installment of the now nine-part series, might be my favorite. It plays out like Roy Ayers and Bobbi Humphreys if they’d come up in the CPT at the dawn of the G-Funk era. It’s one of the most gorgeous pure instrumentals in the genre, more evidence that Quik’s compositional ingenuity extends well beyond rap beats.

2Pac – “Heartz Of Men” (prod. by DJ Quik) from All Eyez On Me (1996)

Quik passed the binoculars to 2Pac and laced him with some Hip-Hop-Harley Davidson-in-Hell music. These drums are tougher than the leather he wore. The beat was made in San Bernardino at a safe house Quik rented to escape the internecine violence of LA. Somehow 2nd II None passed on this production. When 2Pac came home from jail and interrupted Quik’s game of Mortal Kombat at Can-Am studios, the fix was in. He wrote to the beat blunted, completing it within the hour. Thus, we get one of the most essential cuts from one of rap’s most essential records.

No pair better understood how to convert hate towards enemies into haunting anguished music. Most striking is the balance of rugged percussion and beautiful piano keys (played by Quik’s friend Warren, Quik played bass). When I interviewed Quik a few years ago, he had a baby grand in the living room and apropos to nothing delivered five minutes of dazzling flourishes. We were taping the whole thing, but it mysteriously didn’t save to the hard drive because Quik is probably a sorcerer and didn’t want it to see the light of Vimeo.

Shaquille O Neal – “Strait Playin” (prod. by DJ Quik) from You Can’t Stop the Reign (1996)

It’s almost impossible to understate the excitement that Los Angeles felt when they stole Shaq from Orlando. Few transplants have grasped the quirks of the city so quickly. The one-time true Fu Schnick invented the alter ego Enrico Gates and got down with the Quikster, who laced him with the best robotic rocketship that Roger Troutman never constructed (the Walt Whitman of funk actually taught Quik how to use the vocoder). This beat was so hard and hydraulic that even Wilt Chamberlain could’ve made it a hit.

Tony! Toni! Tone! ft. DJ Quik– “Let’s Get Down” (prod. by Quik) from House of Music (1996)

So inspired by the refurbished soul of Tony! Toni! Tone!, Quik went out and bought a Wurlitzer for Safe + Sound. When he finally met Raphael Saadiq, they immediately booked time at Westlake Studios. David Blake and frequent collaborator, George “G-1” Archie hashed out a bottom beat, took the bass line and turned it into a rap & R&B hybrid that sounds made for people who only receive champagne, velour, and diamonds for Christmas.

Whereas most collaborations feel like forced fusion, this miraculously fuses a Nirvana guitar lick to a Quik-created drum break, and video game power-up noises. Something for the dance floor and to soundtrack old USA channel re-runs of Silk Stalkings. This is the highest charting song to ever feature Quik. Classic soul given a turbo-charged V12 motor and a black Escalade—windows limo-tinted to hide the vice.

Suga Free – Why U Bullshittin’ (prod. by Quik) from Street Gospel (1997)

Too hard for the radio, Suga Free became an LA street rap legend by the time he claimed his perm was silkier than Charlotte’s Web with waves deeper than Redondo Beach. Rocking all white linen, the Pomona pimp rapper surfs a Quik sitar sample, doling out open-handed slaps every 2 bars. Recorded in a Compton garage, Street Gospel lives up to its lofty title. Pomona was on the set for the first time since Above the Law and Quik brought Bollywood to rap before almost any of his colleagues.

Suga Free Ft. DJ Quik & Playa Hamm – “If U Stay Ready” (Remix) (prod. by Quik) from Street Gospel (1997)

Things learned: Suga Free has visions of Bloody Mary’s with AIDS trying to give him the Nana, he’s a Capricorn so he’s stubborn like you, Suga Free should probably host a dating show sponsored by Tinder.

Wisdom learned: If you stay ready, you ain’t got to be ready.

DJ Quik ft. Mausberg, Suga Free & AMG– “Down Down Down” from Rhythm-Al-Ism (1998)

The brand new sound wasn’t mere boasting, Quik’s orchestration had become as sumptuous as his follicular gusto. Gone were the recognizable samples and straightforward drum patterns of the early experiments — he’d mastered minimalism and the percussive bounce. While his peers refined the art of menacing minor piano chords, Quik operates in fluorescent colors and funk progressions that always felt preordained. This is also a raw posse cut that would be remembered like “John Blaze” or “Banned From TV” if it had come out of the East Coast.

DJ Quik ft. 2nd II None & Debarge – “Hand In Hand” from Rhythm-al-ism (1998)

And the lord said, let there be El Debarge.

Snoop Dogg ft. Warren G, Nate Dogg & Mausberg – “Don’t Tell” (prod. by Quik) from No Limit Top Dogg (1999)

Snoop’s second album for No Limit probably deserves a critical re-evaluation. Mostly produced by Dre, Quik, and KLC from Beats by the Pound, it even includes a cut from Ant Banks. This is Quik at the height of the Rhythm-al-ism era, beats to match 10,000 thread count hair, Italian import shirts, and endless debauchery. There’s something louche but smooth to all these beats—almost Caligulan in their excess, which makes it perfect for 213 and Mausberg to unfurl their freaky tales. Then there’s Nate Dogg with the half-angel, half-assassin baritone. Glorious.

8Ball & MJG ft. DJ Quik — “Buck Bounce” (prod. by DJ Quik) from Space Age 4 Eva (2000)

Re-invention isn’t necessary to be considered one of the greatest producers. Premier and Pete Rock spent two decades offering different permutations and refinements of the same idea. But Quik’s run is marked by epochal shifts. In the aftermath of the (mostly) maximal sybarite style of the late 90s, he shifted to a minimal canvas for “Buck Bounce,” in which the Suave House swing was hover-converted, stripped down, and made to swerve into the 21st century.

Quik nearly jettisoned the “Buck Bounce” beat before 8Ball & MJG insisted it was the one. It’s almost astonishing to pick apart what’s going on—almost entirely drums, a radical break from almost everything going on the West Coast—far closer to the bizarre space age beeps and honks of Timbaland. Influence is often a speculative thing, but if you listen close enough, you can detect elements that would be incorporated into crunk, the Neptunes in the “Drop It Like It’s Hot”/”Grindin” era, and eventually the spread of DJ Mustard

DJ Quik ft. Suga Free — “Do I Love Her?” from Balance & Options (2000)

The West Coast version of the “Whisper Song,” but years before that happened and with Quik and Suga Free—so 15 times better. The cover of Balance and Options has Quik back in braids, so the music is naturally more rugged and stripped down. But when the chorus kicks in, it’s glued to your brain and you cannot choose to sleep on them. Also, evidence that Suga Free needs a column in Car & Driver magazine.

DJ Quik — “Pitch in ona Party” – from Balance & Options (2000)

The platonic ideal for the Southern California summer day BBQ. The beat sounds like potato salad, baked beans and slabs of beef ribs, chronic smoke and sun grilling the asphalt, the splash of the backyard swimming pool. It channels the LA of the imagination, but Quik’s lyrics offer the noirish underbelly always around. He wanders through the party, bemused and adrift, hiding the expensive champagne, warning thieves, and eventually kicking everyone out of the house. This is the inherent contradiction of Quik that makes him so interesting. He’s both the generous host inviting everyone to come kick it, but unafraid to speak his mind and give them the boot.

DJ Quik ft. Mausberg – “Change Da Game” from Balance & Options (2000)

Thug motivation 101.

Erick Sermon ft. DJ Quik & Xzibit – “Focus”  (prod. by DJ Quik) from Def Squad Presents: Erick Onassis (2000)

Yes, that is Erick Sermon, the Green-Eyed Bandit in an emerald durag. From the forgetten Erick Onassis album, which featured a few gems—none brighter than this Quik  zapped-out laser jam, which raised the bar and opened it at the same time.

Xzbit ft. DJ Quik & Suga Free — “Sorry, I’m Away Too Much from Restless (2000)

Melancholy piano lines and synthesizers distorted to sound like flutes. When Quik schooling his son on Playstation codes fades into Suga Free scatting, it’s one of the most beautiful, weird and mournful moments I have ever heard.

DJ Quik ft. Dr. Dre – “Put It On Me” from Under tha Influence (2002)

A Quik Vs. Dre rivalry would’ve been natural. They’re both perfectionist geniuses from Compton who ran in the same circles and are local deities. But Quik never translated to East Coast sensibilities and gatekeepers, while Dre is Dre and it seems ridiculous to even search for an analogy at this point.

Tensions eventually mounted after Quik heard “What’s the Difference” and interpreted it as a tacit shot in his direction. The response came on “U Ain’t Fresh.”  After brokering a peace a couple years later, the two finally collaborated for “Put It On Me,” in which Dre awkwardly marvels at how much Asian women seem to like him. While Quik redefines the meaning of “she’s in good hands.”

Talib Kweli ft. DJ Quik – “Put It in the Air” from Quality (2002)

After Quik heard Slum Village, it changed his entire approach to music, which eventually led led to him getting into Kweli and Hi-Tek. In an interview, he once told me: “I went deep cover and felt a movement happened that was underground. It made me want to stick my head down underground like an ostrich.”

The result is almost funky enough not make Kweli force too many words into every bar.

Truth Hurts ft. Rakim – “So Addictive” (prod. by Quik) from Truthfully Speaking (2002)

In which Quik samples a loop from an Indian public access television channel, gives it to MC Lyte, who demoes it as a rap song. Several days later, his friend Shari comes over. As a birthday present, Quik bestows “So Addictive” to her.” She takes it to Dre. He flips, and summons Quik to Larabee Studios.

In an interview with David Drake, Quik described what happened next: “So I did this trick that I have that I invented called interior dynamics, some shit that I made up—Patent Pending. But I cleaned the fucking break up and layered that Indian girl over it and blew my own mind. That record still to this day makes me feel the same exact way. I recorded it old-fashioned on tape. I want to say it was 499 Ampex.

“Rolled the reels off, took that shit to Dr. Dre, and left. Dr. Dre called me about four, five days later. Says ‘I want you to come check the shit out.’ I went up in the studio, and before I knew it, he had Rakim rap on it and Static Major wrote the lyrics. The song was done.

“When he turned it on in the studio—I can always tell a hit record if I get the chill bumps, the goose pimples. As soon as that shit came on and her voice hit, I got goose pimples, like, ‘Oh boy.’ Then when I heard Rakim rap it was like, ‘Drink time.”

Jay-Z – “Justify My Thug” (prod. by DJ Quik) – From The Black Album (2003)

Instrumental only for a reason.

Rappin 4-Tay ft. Suga Free & Nate Dogg (prod. by DJ Quik) from Gangsta Gumbo – “If It Wasn’t for You” (2003)

When I die, please play this at my funeral.

DJ Quik ft. Nate Dogg– “Black Mercedes” from Trauma (2005)

In my dreams, Nate Dogg never has that stroke and sometime in the last few years, he and Quik fulfill their destiny and make a full album together. The result is magical. Ebola is cured. Income equality becomes nonexistent and everyone above the age of 16 gets a Black Mercedes and this is always the first song that plays when you turn the key in the ignition.

DJ Quik ft. B Real- “Fandango” from Trauma (2005)

Merging a French horn sample with 808 drums, Quik’s musicianship continued expanding. The symphonic flourishes fuse with Southern drums and B-Real. RIP to the Century Club. Bonus points to Quik for being the first to seriously assess the ever-expanding world of ass implants.

The Fixxers  — “Can U Werk Wit Dat” (2007)

It’s almost inconceivable for two veteran rappers to suddenly re-emerge for a radio smash that sounds more futuristic than anything made by producers half their age. To top it off, this is what Quik conceived after spending most of the previous year in jail.

Formed with long-time collaborator, AMG, The Fixxers became Quik’s first hit to ever earn airplay on Hot 97 at a time when no West Coast rapper could break out of the region. It eventually become a fixture (sorry, I had to) at strip clubs all across the country. It reveals again that no one is a quicker study (sorry, I again had to). This is a variation on snap music and ringtone rap, but more musical and a precursor to jerkin’ and Mustard-wave.

It landed Quik and AMG a deal with Interscope, but rumor has it that the label executives told AMG to lose some weight. He flipped on them, and it became an unofficial release that someone leaked to Myspace. This is a classic that will be the unspoken cause for many ex-exotic dancers needing hip replacements in the year 2050.

DJ Quik & Kurupt – “9 Times Outta 10 from BlaQKout (2009)

Rare motion. They will figure out how Quik made these drums so hard when they figure out who built the pyramids, the crop circles, and where that Malaysian plane is.

DJ Quik ft. Suga Free – “Nobody” from Book of David (2011)

What can I say that this video can’t? The reunion of Quik and Suga Free in 2011 was one of the best moments of this decade. When they do the Mt. Rushmore of all-time great LA rap duos, it will be Dre and Snoop, Daz and Kurupt, YG and Mustard, and Quik and Suga Free. Picking the best one among them is a fool’s errand, but my personal favorite wins by several immaculate hairs.

DJ Quik – The Midnight Life – (2014)

A record that somehow manages to distill the manic, far-flung ideas of a 20-plus year career. By now, that isn’t a surprise. Only Quik would open up an album with a banjo sample and Debarge and pull if off effortlessly.

Stream Spotify — Passion of the Weiss Guide to DJ Quik


Watch: DJ Quik: Compton Alumni (prod. by Jeff Weiss)


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