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Weird. Strange. A gangster. According to West Coast veteran DJ Quik, he has been tagged with every label in the book except the one he wants most: musician. However, if things go his way, that will change soon.
This past August, the beat-maker hosted a listening party for his upcoming LP, The Book of David, at Wavaflow Studios in Los Feliz. In typical Quik fashion, he nonchalantly opened the session with the flippant announcement he really doesn’t “like hip-hop music anymore.” He went on to explain to the silenced room that he likes doing music for film. “I’m going to be a music-score guy in a few minutes, and that’s what it’s gonna be forever,” he said.
Although it was disheartening to hear the legendary producer/rapper threaten to leave his devoted fans hanging, the 40-year-old’s candor offered interesting insight; Quik has never been one to reveal his thoughts easily. Besides, as he explained in a later conversation, it’s not that he’s necessarily over the genre; he’s just beyond it. “Hip-hop, to me, is just one genre of music,” he says. “And there are so many other genres of music.”
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A classically trained musician, Quik is equally adept behind the boards as he is behind the mic or with instrument in hand. And now, he’s more focused on showcasing his fluidity. Although he rarely grants interviews, Quik spoke with enthusiasm about his plans for the future.
“Lately, I’ve been really studying a lot of piano under one of my composer friends. So I’m taking it somewhere else,” he says. “I really don’t want to have to compete with the jerk genre and the bubble-gum, pump-your-fist music. That’s not what I do.”
Like many other artists, Quik is taking his career into his own hands, by focusing not only on sales, but also the legacy he’s creating. “I would rather be considered closer to people like Curtis Mayfield than Kurtis Blow,” he says. “Even though I’m overlooked, if you look at my résumé in aggregate sales with Universal through the Universal video-distribution channel, I’ve already sold 100 million records. . . . I don’t want to sound pompous, but I was here before hip-hop. I was producing music before hip-hop. Hip-hop started in 1979, and I was playing musical instruments when I was 8 and 9 years old—before I even heard of hip-hop.”
With seven released albums of his own and a laundry list of production credits that includes tracks on everything from 2Pac’s All Eyez On Me, Talib Kweli’s Quality, Jay-Z’s The Black Album and Ludacris’ Red Light District, Quik has sold more than 3 million albums on his own (the albums he has produced on account for the other 97 million). The view from 20 years down the line has Quik seeing things in a new light, valuing quality over quantity. “Before, I didn’t take making music seriously,” he says. “I didn’t see the end coming. But you know when you start getting up in age, some things just tickle your fancy more than sitting up in a room, smoking a blunt and making a fucking beat.”
While Quik claims he produced The Book of David out of a distaste for hip-hop, at the end of the day, it’s still the heavy-hitting, hard-spitting Quik we know and love. “I’m rhyming like hell right now,” he says about the upcoming set. “It’s almost like my autobiography, in a sense. I’ve never been candid because I never thought that people would take the former Jheri-curl-wearing, Puerto Rican-looking rapper seriously, but now, to me, it’s really all about the spit. It’s about how I really feel. I’m just being really insightful on this record because I’m here basically to leave my musical legacy now. That’s where I’m at.”
For Quik, writing theme music is his way of transcending his reputation. “I’m going to where Barry White was conducting orchestras,” he says.
After all, DJ Quik emphasizes, “I’m way bigger than hip-hop. . . . Hip-hop is menial to me, and it’s not as fun as it used to be.”
This article appeared in print as "Quik Stop: DJ Quik says he’s bigger than hip-hop."