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DJ Quik is his a.k.a., but David Blake's 32nd birthday was in January, and he has spent almost half that lifetime as a hip-hop musician. There's nothing quick about that, especially in a genre known for short careers—and shortened lives. And the Compton native has just about lived to see the day when he'll get to unwrap his rhymes outside Disneyland.
As usual, Quik is touring behind a new album, Unda Tha Influence, and atop a big hit, "Trouble." Since he emerged from West Coast rap's bangin'-on-wax underground 15 years ago, Quik's flow and tell has never been out of earshot. This is his sixth solo release since he debuted with gold albums in 1991 and 1992—Quik Is the Name and Way 2 Fonky. And as the lyrics of "Trouble" proclaim, Quik is the first to tell you that he's still the same, although a few things have changed.
"I'm not ya one-hit wonder/And when you see me on the streets in a black Jeep/Know I got the heat up under," he begins, then, "Not up under the seat, up under my cheek/Like so close to me that when I move, it squeaks."
Quik's verses are characteristically snug, and their attitude is usually smug. But something in his translation—maybe it's his youthful voice, or it could be his gymnastic delivery—sweetens the heavy words with a smidgen of whimsy. Consequently, Quik doesn't provoke knee-jerk reactions. You may want to argue with him, but only after you've listened and considered him.
And consider this: DJ Quik may be the most accomplished and underrated all-around hip-hop star that the West Coast has produced. He has made a contribution at every meaningful juncture.
After rising from homemade tapes to major-label solo success, Quik did a stint as a staff producer for Death Row, where he embraced the gangsta-rap posture—claiming affiliation with the Treetop Piru Bloods and devastatingly dissing MC Eiht on the soundtrack to Snoop Dogg's mini-movie Murder Was the Case. But he soon renounced and apologized for those recordings.
"I was very confused when I was doing gangsta rap music," Quik told me five years ago. "I really didn't have a feel for what I wanted to do in this business, what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So I was swayed, and I took on a destructive attitude. I was a foot soldier for a bad cause. Now I see the mistakes I made spiritually—they came back to haunt me in fights and whatnot and getting tied into other dumb things—and I will never make those spiritual mistakes again."
Quik got off into positivity through the writings of Iyanla Vanzant before her ill-fated TV talk show. From there, Quik got all over the map—and the radio—in collaborations ranging from 2Pac's "Hearts of Men" to Tony! Toni! Tone's "Let's Get Down" to Shaquille O'Neal's "Strait Playin'." He helped funkmeister Rick James mount a comeback and produced speed-dial-delivery rapper Suga Free's coming-out album.
Last year, Quik worked with Dr. Dre—considered the king of hip-hop production—on a cut for the Training Daymovie soundtrack; the result was "Put It On Me," a single that got so much radio play it practically became a soundtrack for real life.
Still, Quik can slip into the House of Blues without much hoopla. He's still underrated. And he has always insisted he doesn't mind.
"I love it! That's what keeps me hungry," Quik said. "I'm not overexposed. Instead, it's just a steady flow, but my whole little rep still ascends."DJ Quik performs at the House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-2583. Fri., 8 p.m. $20-$22.50. All ages (kids under 16 must be accompanied by an adult).