DJ Quik & Kurupt: Big Bang Theory

posted May 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM CDT | 20 comments

Jadakiss once rhymed, Gangstas dont die, they get chubby and move to Miami. As it concerns West Coast gang culture, that humorous yet partially true line by Kiss points to the very real image of minorities killing each other for control of drug territories and street gang affiliations long before retirement age. Its a world artists like DJ Quik and Kurupt have been providing an insight into for years, despite some of its members being reduced to caricatures in the tradition of the Bangin On Wax participants.

Kurupt and Quik have reached the point where even those not familiar with Hip Hop or Southern California gang culture know who they are. All of which creates an interesting debate, because there isnt exactly a retirement program for Gs.

Revisiting a friendship 17 years in the making finds both men evolving beyond something more revered than OG status. These days youre more likely to find them being inspired by Morocco than Crenshaw and Slauson. And the venom and drama of Dollaz N Sense and Callin Out Names is all but gone. None of which means you should expect them to get lazy, pack on the pounds and relocate to the Sunshine State. Musically theyre more active than ever. Darwin would be proud.

HipHopDX: You guys made this record about a year ago. Now that its about to come out, have you had a chance to reflect on it?
DJ Quik:
When we listen to it now, its almost like the first time. When the record starts over again, it feels cyclical. Its a record that I can personally listen to over and over again, like [Stevie Wonder's] Songs In The Key Of Life. And its not that Im comparing it to Stevie, but its just a smart Hip Hop record. Its not threatening anybody, its music the way we do it and its our sound. We created a new sound. Its not really a Kurupt sound, and its not really a DJ Quik sound. We took some of both of those and managed to create something else. Its almost like when you meld chemicals or colors together. We made a new hue in a sense.
Kurupt: Im very proud of the album, because its a step in a different direction for me and for Quik. We didnt come in to make a record that we thought people wanted to hear from us. We didnt make a record to try and be better than other records out. We just came in to have a good time and make a record that we enjoy. When we put it out there, hopefully it will gain new fans; hopefully our original fans will grow with us, because this album is growth. Mentally, lyrically and musically we went in different directions with the music that Quik did. Then we took the lyrics we delivered and tried to create a whole different sound and a whole different vibe.

From my years making records, we had a signature sound where you could say, Hey thats a Dogg Pound [click to read] record, and Quik had his own signature sound. From Snoop Dogg [click to read], N.W.A. [click to read], Dr. Dreand the list goes on and oneverybody had a signature sound. And on this one right here, we created the DJ Quik and Kurupt signature sound. Thats whats gonna be so exciting about it. In music, you have to wear many hats. From the executive chair to being in the studio, you have the choice to go in so many directions. Right now, it feels good to know I have different choices of what sound to go to. I can go to a Dogg Pound sound, a Kurupt solo sound and now I can go to the DJ Quik and Kurupt sound. The same thing applies to my friend Terrace Martin [click to read]. Me and Terrace created a whole different sound for Kurupt as a solo artist.

DX: Lets backtrack for a second. You guys are just now doing an album together, but between all the work with Death Row, youve crossed paths a lot right?
DJ Quik:
The first time I ran into him, was when Dr. Dre was working on The Chronic. He invited me to Larrabee [Studios], and Daz was under a speaker. I dont know if Snoop was there at that point or not. Kurupt, you was huddled over there under the speaker, and I figured out why. Dr. Dre listens to music so loud that when I stood in front of the board, whoo! When he pushed play[Laughs]

See, Dr. Dre has this thing. Hes quiet, and he dont talk about the music. He wont say nothing, and then all of a sudden hell go, Yo, tell me what you think. And he pushed play on the tape machine and The Chronic comes on. And I just see this whole new movement of music. I see Daz and Kurupt just groovinnot too hardbut just groovin. The music was puppeteering yall almost. And I felt like, Why did I miss rehearsal? I see this thing is going down. I caught the vapors. Fuck it.

And then to see how cool they was, cause I had heard some of the records beforehand. I thought that they was unapproachable. But we passed a joint and been friends ever since. I came through and scratched on the Dogg Food [album]. I just snuck in the studio and did a couple cuts and a little drum here and there. It was great, and I always wanted to work with Kurupt. It just seemed like the time and opportunity lent itself to us, and we didnt have any negative influences in our lives. Even before we worked together, I did a beat on you [hums the melody to a Kurupt song]. When I heard how he served the beat, and then Daz came in and served it too, thats when it came to me.

DX: And that led to you guys collaborating again for this project?
DJ Quik:
We had a little downtime while doing Ego Trippin [click to read] where we still had the studio. And thats where we started. We were testing out mics, and Kurupt came through on that intro. We had two sides of the studio poppin at once. Mind you this is 2008, and we had already partied together back in 1992. I was on the piano, and we crossed paths because Im stressful sometimes in the studio. I make sure the session is being pushed along so we can get out with a complete project that everybody likes. When I passed Kurupt in the hallway, we looked at each other and it dawned on both of us at the same time. What we had done was recreate that energy from The Chronic, Doggystyle and Dogg Food. I got chills like, This is crazy.

And it was all Snoop; Snoop took us back to what we love and put us back on track. He brought me out of retirement, so to speak. I wasnt really fuckin with nothing after Trauma [click to read] and Greatest Hits. I was like, This aint working for me. Its making money, but Im not having no fun at all. Im in the wrong circles. My life is all stress, and my family is on my back. I really started going through it like that. When I got in the room with Kurupt and Snoop it was like, What are you doing, Unc? I started chillin with them and knocking out tracks. Weve been done with Blaqkout. It wouldve been out this January, but we couldnt get the samples cleared in time. We just got the samples cleared less than 45 days ago.

DX: With such a large body of work, do you ever get caught up comparing this collaboration to what you guys did before?
DJ Quik:
We take up where our The Chronics, our Quik is The Names and our Dogg Foods left off. We never forgot where we came from, but at the same time, were experimenting with new and different ways to do things. I was just listening to some Dr. Dre music recently. It hit me so hard that I got emotional about it. Then I had to think to myself, Well what else would I expect from Dr. Dre? So it reminded me of how Dre used to say, Man, fuck the critics and fuck the politics. Buy it and bang it. Just rock out.

DX: Some of your best individual works have been really angry. How do you take the anger from a cut like Dollaz N Sense or Callin' Out Names and refocus that into something that is less angry but still sounds good?
Im 36-years-old now, so I have no time for any of the games. I dont stay in environments that get me upset anymore. I stay around positive people and people in my age group who care about things that I do. All of us go through a period in our life where we have these Callin' Out Names phases. Those situations were very real to us at the time. But Im a little more seasoned and grown now.
DJ Quik: You know the anger never ends. Theres still people that make you mad for whatever reason. Now I channel it by not giving it any energy. I dont even let it in anymore, and that comes from me being in my high thirties. Im getting up in age and I wanna grow old gracefully; its not worth a platinum record. Its like smoking cigarettes. If youre going to smoke cigarettes, you might as well accept the fact that youre taking six or seven years off of your life. Its the same as doing angry, gangster rap.

And, if youre not angry no more, its kinda hard to promote records like Dollaz N Sense or Callin Out Names. Its kinda back there. I chalk mine up to, no matter how good a record it was, when I listen to it now it brings back those old energies. Its just like how when I listen to those old Biggie and 2Pac records. That energy is never gonna go away. For the sake of being nostalgic, Ill listen to Dollaz N Sense when its a partycause it was originally intended to be a party recordbut when I listen to how mad I wasI was pissed!

DX: Really?
DJ Quik:
Yeah. I got into a fight in the studio with somebody that night. My MPC 3000 got broken. A SSL G with 100 inputs got the whole center computer section smashed out of it because a idiot threw a drum machine at me. It was almost like devil time, and I was just feeding the anger. I didnt realize that I was the hater.

DX: For better or worse, there are certain west coast artists who use those records as a blueprint
DJ Quik:
Well, if I can add to that, I always get nervous when I see diss wars building. I hate that shit. Its kind of annoying and scary to know what that shit can lead up to. Its kind of not worth it. I aint saying that people shouldnt disagree. I just dont think people should attack each others character on records unless its forits kind of a contradictory thing. Hip Hop is the only music that disses people. I dont think theres any other kind of music that just blatantly disrespects people.

DX: You two started out in somewhat opposite sets, so hypothetically it could have gone there. Can you talk about how music transcends being a Blood or a Crip?
DJ Quik:
We sold underground tapes in Crip neighborhoods as Bloods; we wasnt trippin. The cool thing about this is that were so far removed from the gang life that now were just musicians. We got that element away from it because it doesnt benefit us. Its actually dangerouswe could get killedreal talk. It is what it is. At this point, were more family oriented and we do music that I wouldnt be ashamed to play around my kids.

Busta Rhymes [click to read] was telling me, If my daughter aint liking this shit, then what the fuck is it? I want my kids to put my songs in their iPod too. And then when I put on their iPod and listen to my songs, I like what I hear.
Kurupt: Exactly. Growth is a very distinct word, but it has a very simple definition to it. It means that youve stepped away from something and moved on.
DJ Quik: Every year we graduated to another grade in school. I dont think that mentality should stop when youre out of school or college. Every year you should still strive for something else.
Kurupt: And I still stay current with folks from my neighborhood. Quik still stays current with his folks too
DJ Quik: And when our neighborhood folks come to kick it, we introduce them to people like Ricky Bell. We bring them into our world. Some of my homies have lived in Compton their whole life, and to them the Beverly Center on San Vicente and La Cienega is halfway around the world. Thats their realitytheyve never been there.
Kurupt: Thats real talk though. You know thats all some people have. So it is good when different people from different neighborhoods get together and do something positive like feed their families, play some basketball or make these records together. Look at Snoops football league. Youve got neighborhoods from all overLos Angeles, Watts, Carsoncoming together in unison for the children. Thats a big thing, man. Its always good when the positivity outweighs the negativity, and you get people who could be sworn enemies getting together and doing something positive. Me and Quik are a prime example of that. Were both students of Hip Hop, and, it just never was there. Even during the Death Row [click to read] days, we didnt look at each other like that.
DJ Quik: And its more than a set. Like, I never looked at you as a Crip. I was always amazed that I could kick it with these dudes and like them, because Im one of them Compton kids that I just spoke of. I hadnt been to the Beverly Center for a long time either. It was crazy to be in a room with Kurupt, Daz and Snoop watching them with all that success and knowing I had success a year or two before that made me feel like, Wow! I love these guys. Theyre my kind of people. I wanna tour with these dudes.
Kurupt: And normally with music, everything else is irrelevant. The music is what the key is, and the music is the set. So were all from the same set as far as this music game goes. Its just like Jay Rock and Nipsey Hussle [click to read]. Nipsey Hussle is from my neighborhood and Jay Rock is from the Nickersons. It just shows that me and Quik aint the only ones doing this. The youngsters is doing the same thing, and theyre pushing the same line. Nipsey and Jay Rock genuinely got love for each other, and it just goes to show that the neighborhood youre from is not controlling your individuality. The love you have for someone can outweigh your neighborhood politics and all the rest of that. Youre gonna see more of that, just to let you know that its not just us older cats doin it.

DX: Speaking of older cats, theres a rumor that you two are looking to work with Rakim. Are we going to see him on this album?
DJ Quik:
Damn, you heard? Ah, it made it to the streets. Ra is
Kurupt: The God!
DJ Quik: There you go. Hes the God emcee. He also keeps to himself a lot, and he doesnt party out like that. When he writes, he writes seriously. I got a chance to listen to his new stuff recently, and he still sounds like Rakim. Hes still that guy with or without a new record. So, Im giving him his time, and when he wanna fuck with me Ima be ready. Just know when he calls, sergeant is gone be ready.

DX: Hey Playa was the first track to leak. When you think about that sample or the one you used for Addicted, how does that cultural exchange from hitting different countries influence your sound?
DJ Quik:
I move the way the music moves me. So when I hear something I know my Hip Hop fans havent heard, I want to take the sample and just put a crazy drum beat and some crazy music around it. Its like how Addicted came to be. It started from me hearing it on the TV, taking it to the studio and writing around it. The beat, lyrics and all that stuff eventually came. But its still based on Lata Mangeshkars record, Thoda Resham Lagta Hai. And thats how I felt when I heard the Hey Playa sample. Even though we got clearance for it, I dont know the name of the song.

DX: All samples cleared though right?
DJ Quik:
And thats the one good thing too, Im not getting sued anymore. That right there will make your hair fall out and make you drink your liver into paralysis. So we did the business first, and Im glad to say Andrew Zimmern and the Travel Channel cleared the sample for me. Now we can hopefully use it to our advantage to turn other people on to delving into different music. Its time to grow up and expand.

DX: I want to flip that question for Kurupt. Weve seen you overseas since you and Daz were in The Show. How do you see your past and current music influence people when youre overseas?
Man, yesterday we was rockin with hundreds and hundreds of people, and everybody was just lovin it. When we rocked our original records, they lost their marbles to it. Its a part of their growing up. Certain records come on and you start thinking of what you were doing at that time. A lot of people were really experiencing certain things in life when those records dropped. Quik did Born and Raised in Compton, and it took people back to what they were doing when it dropped. I was like, I was just a baby when that record dropped. My folks were banging to it! When I dropped We Can Freak It, it was like [Quik in the background, Hey!], it just takes them back. And when we transitioned into the new music, it just made sense and the party kept rockin.
DJ Quik: And thats always risky, because if the music wasnt good, they wouldve let us know. You cant pay somebody to cheer for you.
Kurupt: You cant go from a classic, hit to something theyve never heard and they like it
DJ Quik: And they were impressed. It was like, Oh we just heard this for the first time, and this is great. Fuck you guysyall on one! But more like, Fuck yall in a good way or Yall niggas is crazy. Yall high. They were bouncing out to Moroccan Blues like they had been hearing it their whole life, and it was the first time we ever did it.
Kurupt: Yeah. When I did Aint No Fun" [click to read], and then we went into a song off the new album called Do You Know, they was still partying like it was Aint No Fun or one of Quiks classics. That made both of us feel very good for them to enjoy that new music we had. It lets us think, You know what? Maybe we are on the right page. And its good to see people grow with us.
DJ Quik: We couldve easily made a regular, gangster rap record. I think weve got one song on Blaqout that sounds remotely like something we would do, and thats Fuck Yall. Its just a street record to let our gangster rap fans know that we havent just totally turned our back. But at the same time, its not for them either. We made a statement as opposed to a diss record. Its all strung outits got strings and guitar on it, and the guitar is kind of intense. Its based on a Curtis Mayfield type of thing. Everyone sampled Curtis, but this time I didnt sample. I just kind of played like he would play and capture that era. Thats about the only time that we stepped back and did something were familiar with. Everything else is futuristic. Ive got a Techno record on there called Jupiters Critic in the Mind of Mars, where Im rapping in a ring modulator. Jimi Hendrix, rest his soul, didnt even think to do that. Its real cutting-edge, and as a matter of fact, its one of my favorite records.

DX: This is kind of off topic. But since you both spent so much time in and around Death Row Records, whats your favorite respective memories of 2Pac?
DJ Quik:
There was a night he got released from prison, right after he got bailed out. And we was up at Can-Am Studios in the kitchen taking a break from doing music. At that point I think we were working on Danny Boy and Jewell. Daz was doing the beat to Ambitionz Az A Ridah [click to read]. Yall was in somebodys project studio recording Method Man [click to read], and I telephoned your voice out so it sounded like you called in and did your verse.

So, in comes Tupac, while we in there playing Mortal Kombat on Playstation. And when I seen him, I just gave him a big ass hug. I was like, You went to jail. You did it all the hard way, and now you back here? Oh, Im not gone waste this opportunity to work with you. I used to marvel at these dudes doing The Humpty Dance onstage at the Indianapolis Sports Arena where they were having the Indy 500. I was on tour with them, and Digital Underground tore the arena a new asshole. Im watching these dudes break Same Song [click to read] out and Tupac is doing the Humpty Dance in slow motion! I was like, This dude is hot. I knew it. I just knew it.

So when we got to the studio, he was real mature. He had his real bright eyes onhe had his Muslim on almost. He was sharp, and he was ready to write his epithet. All we did was record it. He was knocking the songs out so fast like, Cant we do another one? Then he would go to the next studio, back in the back, and knock another one out. Then he goes back to Can-Am, in the big room, knocks out California Love [click to read] and Cant C Me [click to read]. Then he gets back with Daz, and theyWhat was that other one they did?
Kurupt: Nah, Ambitionz Az A Ridah was the one Daz did when Pac first got out of jail. Suge called Daz, and Daz was already up there at the studio. That was the first song he did for the album. Then after that, Dr. Dre got a hold of him and they did California Love. Dre already had that first verse ready, and Pac laid his verse down within 30 minutes of walking in the room. Then he did Cant C Me, rolled in the other studio and did another one. He was just going back and forth. Really, he showed us a whole different work ethic.

DX: So many people say that, and even to hear you guys talk about it, it almost seems unreal.
DJ Quik:
I had never seen that before in any artist, because we used to space it out. Youd do vocals one day, and then the next day do the music, the mix or whatever. He whipped us into shape as far as cranking it out and getting it over with. There was no more of that lingering. It used to take me like two years to do a album. I would spend so much time mixing, remixing and not being sure of it. All of that fixing and trying to make it perfect would ultimately not make sense financially. If it takes you $750,000 to do a record, and the record only sells 200 or 300,000 units, then youre upside down. So Pac showed me how to pick up the pace.

DX: Was your experience the same Kurupt?
This is how we used to do studio sessions. Wed get in there, knock out a record, and then wed just smoke for like two hours. You know, wed smoke, kick it, invite some bitches over, chill and relax. Whoever was working on the music would do their thing. Daz might be in there on the boards, smokin and chillin, and we could work on music for like 10 hours. It was a party. When Pac came out, he was knocking out maybe five records a day. Before that, we were knocking out onemaybe one-and-a-half.

We just watched him. Right after you laid a verse, hed be like, Alright, cool. Now put another beat up. And then he would leave for a couple hours. Hed come back at 2:00 in the morning after a club. So he would work from 2:00 all the way until 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning. And the five records he could knock when he came from the club would all be party records, because he was bringing the bitches and the environment from the club back to the studio.
DJ Quik: And hed be coming in with his stoagie and that nasty ass bottle of Cristal. [Laughs]
Kurupt: [Laughs] Or some Henn. And Pac was also the one to bring Hennessy to the table for the entire camp. So he stepped us up all the way, cause we was drinkin gin and juice at first. So everything was party and uptempo like, Bang. From 11:00 to noon, hed go chill, get some sleep and eat good. Then hed relax until about 6:00 [p.m.]. Now from 6:00 until about 11:00, he could knock out another three records back-to-back until it was time to go to the club.

DX: Wow.
He was doing this for the whole year, and thats why you got so many different Pac records. Everybody saw that, and if you hang around the best youll eventually become like the best. We always thought we were the best, and we were the best. But, work ethic wise, Pac was the future. He put the grind in all of us. He made us step our game up and realize that being in the studio is a privilege. Niggas would die to be in this type of environment with this class of equipment, so Pac made us appreciate what we actually had right in front of our face.

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