Photo by Gregory BojorquezDJ Quik storms into the game room of his condo complex, and passes me up.
Every other word is fuck. His DJ and band are hours late for rehearsal;
on top of that, some neighbor stubbed out a Newport on the seat of his brand-new
Corvette. It’s not a good day.
“Everything that could go wrong today did, and it don’t help that the shit was compounded by this fuckin’ heat!” Quik rants. “I’m so fuckin’ pissed!”Quik — one of the most respected rapper/producers in hip-hop and emblem of the laid-back Cali sound — then takes a moment. He seems to mellow out, and we sit down to talk. Quik’s chart-topping new LP, Trauma — his first solo effort in nearly four years — is a bumpin’-down-the-101, get-the-party-crackin’-on-a-Friday-afternoon kind of album, but with a bittersweet undercurrent. As the title suggests, these songs capture something essential about West Coast reality. Despite success as a performer and producer — working with everyone from Jay-Z to Whitney — Quik has had a pretty harrowing life. I ask him about his childhood days growing up on Spruce Street in Compton. “It’s funny, I remember Spruce Street being real big when I was growing up. But then when I became a man and drove back over there, I realized that that fuckin’ street is puny, fuckin’ super-tiny. It’s just a narrow-ass street, and I can understand why motherfuckers be stressin’, because they all on top of each other, ain’t no breathin’ room. I hated the sound of them stupid gunshots until I got a gun and started shootin’ up in the air myself so I didn’t feel left out. Becoming a little fuckin’ Compton thug just like everybody else.” He’s started off cool enough; then he snaps. “As a matter of fact, it fuckin’ sucks living in Compton, that’s the fuckin’ truth. Fuckin’ cursed-ass land. Muthafuckers killing each other all goddamn day long. The murder capital of world, that’s the fuckin’ dubious honor that Compton has. What the fuck pride can you take in that shit?”Silence. Quik disappears.I was tipped off that Quik was weird, that he might bust some “trippy” shit. But then he comes back, sits down, looks at me.“I’m tired of fucking feeling like this,” he says. “I got tired of being the black sheep of the family of 10 people and not eating, fuckin’ grown-ups eating all the food from everybody, getting high, trippin’ and fighting and shit and getting the house shot up. So I escaped into the music. It was either that or go out and fully gangbang and get killed.”Music has become Quik’s way of healing. He takes me into his living room and plays the Magic Disco Machine’s “Scratchin’,” a 1975 cut that was sampled on Run-DMC’s “Jam-Master Jay.” Along the way, Quik lays out some real-life shit, like the story of how he used herbs to help cure a good friend who was dying of cervical cancer. Quik breaks down the medicinal values of various plants for me — he might pass out bottles of Hennessy at his concerts, but when alone he prefers shots of wheatgrass. Deep down, this dude really wants to help others; he’s what you call an expediter. David Blake was born in St. Francis Medical Center in the City of Lynwood.
He grew up with a brother and eight sisters, but he never really knew his dad.
“I saw my father, like, once or twice in my lifetime. I don’t hold that against him. … He just kept it moving! He taught me how to make a paper airplane, one of which got lost in the clouds … but not too much more.“I had a couple of father figures, and I appreciate them all.”David grew up in the territory of the Tree Top Pirus, a notorious set of the Bloods gang. He bonded with the guys from the neighborhood, because he got tired of living in fear. And “I got tired of being hungry. Hanging out with them, at least they bought some fuckin’ food.”From the time he was in diapers, David listened to the same things as his family: soul, funk, rock, the Doors, the Stones, Marley. Without being taught, he learned to play Ohio Players and Gil Scott-Heron records on his family’s old console with its turntable and 8-track. He started making home demo tapes at age 9, then got into breakdancing. At 14, while attending Davis Jr. High, he deejayed his school dances. “Technically, I was still a nerd,” he says. A straight-A student, he loved math and excelled in science.“My science teacher was named Ms. Dye. She made me the most popular student in Davis, because she let me bring my pet snake, Cruiser, a Burmese python, for show-and-tell, and she let me keep the snake in the science class.”David got bored with school easily. “Even if I ditched school, I still aced whatever it was, finals or pop quizzes — it was nothing.” Known as “Devastating D,” David started deejaying parties, including block parties in rival Crips territory. “I had to call my family to get me, ’cause Crips wanted to kill me, but I still wanted to just DJ, I didn’t care.” He got the name idea while looking at a Nestlé Quik box: “I thought I was quick at doing things — how fast I learned and how much I read.” He became DJ Quik Mix, then dropped the “Mix.” From 1984 to 1990, Quik deejayed, then started making underground tapes with his friends, the 2nd II None rap crew. He met AMG, who introduced him to the L.A. Dream Team producers; impressed with his studio skills, they shopped his demos around, and a bidding war erupted between Select Records and Profile Records.In 1990, at the age of 20, DJ Quik signed with Profile; less than a year later he dropped the platinum-selling Quik Is the Name, which included the adolescent-freedom hit “Tonite.” The West Coast rap game would never be the same — but neither would Quik. Although four of his six albums went gold or platinum, Quik wasn’t getting any money from Profile and couldn’t get out of a 10-year contract, though Clive Davis and Arista bought out the label. Even Compton CEOs Eazy-E and Suge Knight tried and failed to extricate him.Money, though, was the least of Quik’s problems. His affiliation with the Bloods got him into fights while performing. His tour bus was shot up. And he lost friends to gun violence. 2Pac was killed after working with Quik on “the perfect album,” All Eyez on Me. The loss of good friend Top Dog in 1998 led Quik to a nearly fatal spiral of alcoholism. And just as he was recovering, a friend and protegé, rapper Mausberg, was murdered in 2000.“I’ve seen the worst of everything,” Quik says. Quik released Trauma on his own Mad Science label; the record debuted
mid-September at No. 1 on Billboard’s independent-album chart. Making the
album was therapeutic for Quik — and you can hear it. “It’s like taking a visit
to the psychiatrist,” he says — in fact, on the first cut, “Doctor’s Office,”
he does just that.
The first single, “Fandango,” featuring B-Real of Cypress Hill, is a bona fide hit on the street. And the record is packed with special guests, including Nate Dogg, T.I., Wyclef Jean, Ludacris, the Game, Chingy — even a reunited Jodeci makes an appearance. Put on some headphones and really listen. Listen to the layers of sounds, the hooks, the beats, the funky grooves: in place of simplistic 808s and samples, live instrumentals. Listen to his words’ maturity: in place of street clichés, real-life autobiographies like “Til Jesus Comes” and “Jet Set.”“This album is personal,” Quik says — and he means it. The dude is letting you into his world. Listen to this music, and you’re listening to a man healing.DJ Quik performs at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills on Friday, September 30, and at the Vault 350 in Long Beach on Saturday, October 1.DJ QUIK | Trauma (Mad Science)

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