DJ Quik: Justify My Thug

As the precursor for his long awaited and highly anticipated next release, Trauma serves as an ample title for the soon to be released mixtape from one of the West coasts most enigmatic pioneers. Typically trauma is a catalyst for some type of change, and with hip-hop arguably in a state of emergency, Quik aims […]

As the precursor for his long awaited and highly anticipated next release, Trauma serves as an ample title for the soon to be released mixtape from one of the West coasts most enigmatic pioneers. Typically trauma is a catalyst for some type of change, and with hip-hop arguably in a state of emergency, Quik aims to bring about a dramatic change. Since 1991 when he introduced himself with Quik is the Name, DJ Quik’s albums have been the soundtracks to the trauma being played out in his personal life. After an auspicious entry, the Compton born entertainer quickly found out what strange bedfellows the business of being gangsta played in music. From poorly negotiated contracts, street rivalries, internal conflict and personal and professional betrayals, the trauma of it all is enough to drive anyone to the brink of insanity; instead DJ Quik got mad, mad science to be more precise. As one who has had a roller coaster ride of a career, the peaks and the valleys of Quik’s career have played an integral part in the fabric of west coast hip-hop, but for the musician who believes what he does so much deeper than what people see on the surface, Trauma is the next chapter. Two traumatic experiences in particular played major roles in a change of perspective on his role in music and life in general and how he deals with people and music.

Fifteen years later, get to know an often misconstrued DJ Quik, and read about his appreciation for New York, to his skepticism for Snoop’s Peace Treaty, and his view on The Black Album. As one of the West Coast pioneers, I have to ask you about your feelings on the Peace Conference held by Snoop a while back…

DJ Quik: I didn’t go. I was locked into a three-day studio session, so I just sent my regards through my folks. Anytime people are trying to get together to settle differences though, it’s always alright with me. That will always get my blessings and my energy toward it. But it seemed kinda weird to me that Suge wasn’t there. Like, if it was a real treaty and Suge was in agreement, and he would’ve been there, then that would’ve impressed me. But wasn’t the invitation extended?

DJ Quik: Well I’m hearing mixed things. Like I read The Source article and I’ve heard things from people who were there, and he didn’t show. But supposedly, he called and was on speakerphone. It just seems from some of the things that Snoopy was saying on these mixtapes about Suge, I don’t really understand how Suge can just be like, “Okay, cool,” and let everything go and come up there and be all a part of it, unless there’s something about Snoop and Suge’s relationship that I don’t know. Do you think that Suge and Snoop can ever be amicable? I’m sure they could but the fact that Suge didn’t go makes me think, you know. I don’t know because all eyes are still on Suge and it just didn’t seem real to me, sorry for saying that. I’m not one to cast judgment or throw stones, because I’ve always been a team-player only to turn around and get s**t kicked back in my face and get mud slung on me but from being a team-player and a loyal but neutral player who doesn’t try to pick sides, I call a s#### a s####, but it just seems to me like the agenda for the whole meeting was kinda unclear, especially considering who was there. Like Suga Free and Xzibit, and no disrespect to either of them but in the big scheme of things who are they when it comes down to Snoop and Suge? If you wanna impress me bring Dr. Dre to that [meeting] bring the greats like Ice-T, King T, all the OG’s. Now, as a legendary producer, why were you DJ’ing for Game?

DJ Quik: Because they asked me to. Kevin Black asked me to and I said yes. I want to see him win. To see somebody for Compton, I cheer for the home-team because Compton opens up the local news here for real. It’s like if there’s not a story on Compton, people just aren’t inclined to watch. First thing you see is Compton at the bottom of the screen and the White guy with his hair blowing looking all pensive. That makes for good TV watching, so it’s good to see something exciting coming from Compton as opposed to seeing Blacks and Mexicans killing each other or somebody smoking sherm sticks and getting shot at 100 times by the police. I’m tired of that, so I championed Game, I love to see him reppin’ Compton. “Dollaz + Sense” was one of the first records to use your Blood affiliation in terms of bragging what you could do to somebody [then, MC Eiht]. Do you assume responsibility for the way artists like The Game are using it as a tool today?

DJ Quik: I’ll tell you like this: if I brag about being in a gang, if I say Blood on a record, if you see me throwing up gang signs on stage, then I’m going to jail for four years. I’m a convicted gang member and it’s so ironic because I never really ever joined a gang, I just happened to grow up in a neighborhood called Tree Top [home of the Tree Top Piru Gang] and being from there, you become a product of your environment and for that that’s the one I gave up. Because up until two years ago, I had a flawless criminal record and I got in trouble behind trying to keep gangs from infiltrating [me] and to me that was worth it, and I’d do it again. Okay, let’s talk about your music, first do you think you’ve received your just due as a producer?

DJ Quik: No, I don’t ever feel like I’ve gotten the recognition I deserve as a trendsetter or a pioneer but it’s still hard to stay ahead of the curve it’s crazy hard. You’ve written your own lyrics, why don’t you think your held in the same regard as Dre for instance?

DJ Quik: To tell the truth when I first got into the business I was green and I signed a deal that was a kin to signing my soul away and I had to fight for years to get my soul back, so to speak. But it seemed like when things got really violent here, I felt like there was really nothing I could do about it and it also seemed like it just didn’t feel right and I just started to drop outta the light you know? I started going thru my own personal stuff with my family and stuff because outside of my career I have a personal life too. Now it’s easier for me to balance them ‘cause I’m focused and awake. Back then when I was trying to be a star and ready to ride for why people didn’t like me I New York or why people didn’t like me abroad, I was young and hot headed and wild and I didn’t approach that situation right I lashed out and took the crazy approach you know the keep it hood approach and that ended up coming back to bite me in the ass and I don’t like being bit in the ass, know what I mean? Since we’re on the topic of different music, I heard you don’t like Crunk music, why’s that?

DJ Quik: What! Who said I don’t like Crunk music? Before you moved to Capitol, Warner Brothers issued a song, “What They Think About You” with Nate Dogg. I thought it was criticizing the music from the South…

DJ Quik: That’s Hatin! Man I’m always getting misquoted, it’s like DJ Quik is always the scapegoat. No, I love Crunk music. Crunk music reminds me of the music we used to listen to back in the day that we grew up with like Rodney-O and Joe Cooley and early N.W.A. stuff. I even did a remix on a Lil Scrappy record with Lil Jon, and I rapped on it. I understand Crunk music, I understand all music but for someone to say that, “DJ Quik doesn’t like Crunk,” is setting himself up for failure. I love all music. If we can’t dance together, if music isn’t all one music then what am I doing this for? I guess we should talk about what you are doing right now in the studio…

DJ Quik: I’ve been in the studio with Jodeci helping them on their new sounds. I understand Devante. He’s a wizard. Battlecat recently told us that Jay-Z brought you out perfectly on “Justify My Thug.” How do you feel about that statement and where do you draw from when your creating?

DJ Quik: Battlecat is right in a sense, because that was something that was totally different for me and not to just throw him a back a bone, but ‘Cat is one of the people who inspired me to go more toward the midi-made sound like even way back in the day. He was a gadget boy, [and] one of the best DJ’s ever. I would just be sitting there looking at the s**t, marveling. “Justify My Thug” was not funky like in the sense of DJ Quik West Coast melodic funky, it wasn’t like that it was just like a crazy driving kind of track that was mixed to sound like a Rock & Roll track. When I used to listen to it in comparison to records on the album like “Encore” and that, it was kinda like a square peg in a round hole kind of a record. But then when you listen to the whole Black Album, from beginning to end, it does make sense – because Jay-Z was cathartic on it. Jay-Z did bring something out of me for even appreciating that track and it motivated me to go in another direction. How so?

DJ Quik: Because it was weird that it’s not something that I groove to, and I did it for the sport more-so than for Jay-Z, or anything else. I did it because it seemed like it mad sense like it was the right thing to do. I’ve heard you’re spending more time in New York…

DJ Quik: I’ve actually been spending a lot more time in New York than I’ve ever spent, and I’ve been getting a New York education. New York to m,e is like the center of the earth from from fashion to everything, and I was going up there when it really mattered. F**k music, I was there on some humanitarian type mission like after the [twin] towers fell and that right there will let you know what your purpose is or if you have one at all. That was a defining for me to see those towers like that and smell that smell.