DJ Quik Reveals The Secret To Working With Dr. Dre
Exclusive: DJ Quik explains how Jimi Hendrix, Teddy Riley and others influenced his eclectic sound and addresses his previous statements about retiring.
His Thanksgiving Eve performance during the second annual installment of the “West Coast Feast” may have been billed as a concert, but for all intents and purposes DJ Quik threw a party onstage. You instantly remember he’s a world class engineer, as he calms down an antsy crowd while adjusting the EQ levels of his microphone and turntables. And then you remember he’s the guy who made “Tonight” and co-created “Let’s Get Down” when he holds the orange, neoprene zip-up ice jacket to his bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne on stage the way a placekicker holds a football. On cue, Quik’s cohort for the night, Sugafree, boots it five rows deep into the crowd.
“I already came here sober,” Quik says. “I was bored to death until I got onstage with Sugafree. And when he was drunk, I was like, ‘I guess it’s okay.’ I hate getting drunk now. I’d rather just smoke some weed, nigga.”
Lost in the Cliquot field goal, crowd surfing and some brief commentary about President Obama and 50 years of change is a show executed with pinpoint precision. It doesn’t so much end, as it just overflows and reconvenes backstage. Quik is holding court with adult actor Mr. Marcus (he jokingly asks for half of his black book), discussing the downside of edible marijuana with Flesh-n-Bone (they last too long) and grabbing my digital recorder to escape never-ending requests for pictures.
In addition to his thoughts about the origins of his own eclectic tastes are Quik’s theories about Jimi Hendrix being electric (not the adverb, but rather Hendrix as the human personification of electricity) and how to train your engineering ear to be more like Dr. Dre’s. Is Quik really, officially retired? It seems hard to believe anyone who appears to be having this much fun onstage could just voluntarily walk away from it all.
DJ Quik Explains His Eclectic Musical Tastes
HipHopDX: When is the book coming out?
DX: Well before all this retirement talk, you were the original polymath working, producing and engineering with everyone from Dr. Dre to El DeBarge. How much did that open the door for all these young, eclectic guys when someone from the hyper masculine era does that?
DJ Quik: Well from my era, these were my motivations: I was listening to X-Clan and Tone Loc. I know this is weird and random, but I was also listening to Eazy-E, Young MC, Candyman and a lot of Johnny J production. I was with the Penthouse Players Clique, who were also some eclectic mothafuckas. My group was eclectic before Eazy-E signed them, and he only signed eclectic mothafuckas. He signed them and then signed Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. If Penthouse Players Clique rehearsed more, they probably would’ve been just as big.
I think the shit that blew me up was “Eric B Is President”—the first 12-inch on 4th & Broadway—when they were talking about RushTown management. I was a big Russell Simmons fan from [Jimmy Spicer’s] “Dolla Bill Y’all” when he was producing shit. I’m a student of real Hip Hop, and I’m from the West Coast struggle…the ball and chain era. We had to break that stigma and stop getting our heads pounded into the concrete by the Compton Police Department. We broke through that, and we made it.
DJ Quik Compares Teddy Riley To Albert Einstein
DX: There are a lot of artists patting themselves on the back for mixing Hip Hop and R&B, but you were one of the early pioneers as far as…
DJ Quik: I stole that from Teddy Riley. When I saw Teddy Riley doing his thing on Ventertainment… When the nigga did “It Takes Two,” I knew something was up. When the mothafucka did “Wild, Wild West,” it was over. When he was on Jive producing Kool Moe Dee, I was like, “Man!” We all bought the Keith Sweat album, Make It Last Forever. What was that? We bought that, people stole it and we bought it again. If somebody stole it, we was like, “We’ll give this to you if you give us something…like some pussy or some weed.” Back then, Keith Sweat’s Make It Last Forever album was worth some head, some weed, some pussy or a ride in your Nissan truck on Enkis.
DX: [Laughs] He didn’t say it on those exact words, but we talked to Terrace Martin and he pretty much cosigned that.
DJ Quik: Yeah, that was our shit. Me and Terrace worked with Teddy! I’m a Teddy student, and I’m watching Terrace. It was like taking your homeboy to go meet your professor Albert Einstein. But you gotta tell your homeboy, “Just relax. Don’t be hyper and turn down a little bit. Keep your composure.” That’s how Terrace was. Teddy Riley is fuckin’ dope.
But yeah, I’m a student of all this shit. If I had never heard Dre’s production, I wouldn’t have known how loud to have my hi-hats. See, Dre tells you where to put shit at in the mix. It’s not an easy code, and to be a Dr. Dre clone, you have to understand the laws of music, moving air and speakers, depth and emotion. Dre knows how to make music move on people’s skin. I’m getting off track, because we were talking about Teddy Riley. But them niggas got together and did “No Diggity” right? What the fuck is wrong with these cocky mothafuckas? Are they bored when Dr. Dre and Teddy Riley got to get together and do something?
So, long story short, that’s where I come from. I went in my lonely-ass, four-cornered room and I deejayed. Just when I was getting comfortable, I heard the Geto Boys and thought, “What is this shit? What is this Rap-A-Lot Shit?” I was listening to Too Short on Dangerous Music, and all these records were coming into my room because I bought the album covers based on how beautiful they were. Well, not beautiful, but fly. It was like artwork. You could pen that on your wall. A Cadillac? Who wouldn’t want to be like Too Short posing in the back of a Cadillac? You play the record, and then you go, “Whoa, this is some good ass music!” And then you’d buy his next record. Ever since I bought Born To Mack, I bought all Too Short’s records after that. I even bought his early shit…
DX: So you went back to the 75 Girls stuff?
DJ Quik: Yeah, 75 Girls was the underground shit. We used to buy the 75 Girls cassettes. That was his first label of that out the trunk shit. Too Short was a millionaire because of the 75 Girls situation.
DX: Well, you messed up and mentioned Dr. Dre’s hi-hats. And we know…
DJ Quik: Yeah, Dr. Dre knows how to mix, and he’s one of the most dangerous engineers ever. He knows how to blend music to make people emotive. He makes people move, and it freaks you out.
Why DJ Quik Says Jimi Hendrix’s Whole Body Was Electric
DX: But you snuck in and did some mixing too on Encore…
DJ Quik: No, no, no, no. That wasn’t Encore, that was record one. See, Dr. Dre will tell you, and I don’t wanna keep talking too much about it. But those were my drum sounds on [50 Cent’s] “If I Can’t.” That’s Dre having fun, man.
If you want to do something with Dr. Dre, go record shopping around the world. Use your passport, and go buy a bunch of crazy records he’s never heard. Then give those to him in this big-ass Virgin America bag. That’s how you get to his heart. Buy Dr. Dre records. If you ever wanna be a great producer, buy that nigga bout $10,000 worth of records. You might be the next Dre. If not, kill yourself, get out of the game and sell all your equipment.
DX: Alright, we won’t dwell on Dre. But, I brought up the eclecticism, because it seems like there are times when people only want one thing from you, even if you’d rather experiment and go into Jimi Hendrix mode with the ring modulator. How do you bring people with you?
DJ Quik: Dude, you don’t. Jimi Hendrix was electric, and this is why Jimi Hendrix is hot. It wasn’t just because he played electric guitar left-handed, and he played it well. It was because he was an electric person. His whole sound was based on his body, and that’s why he plays guitar like nobody else. That’s why everybody else can do his finger movements, but they don’t feel a sound like him. His whole body was electric.
He and the guitar were one thing. He was a part of the sound. He could put himself in front of the speakers a certain way… That’s why he wore all that shiny stuff—shiny stuff reflects sound. He was wearing these fuckin’ brass belt buckles, bright clothes and a do-rag. He had acid in his headband. He’d pop a fuckin’ thizz. Well, it was the equivalent of doing LSD, and turn around and become one with the guitar. He’d be getting shocked at the same time.
Guitars float, and they pick up static electricity. If you put them into a circuit, it’s just like a microphone. Have you ever been in the rain and touched a microphone? You’ll get electrocuted. He was getting electrocuted all the time, but he was electric. That’s why his album was called Electric Ladyland! Do you hear me? Rest in peace, James Hendrix.
DJ Quik Confirms Reports Of His Retirement
DX: And there it is.
DJ Quik: We can end it. What else do you need from Quik? I’m not writing no book, but I’m doing an “Unsung” you mothafuckas. I’m gonna be on TV One laughing my way all the way to the bank. I don’t give a fuck about this music business no more, and it ain’t fun like it was ‘cause you killed my best friend. And you killed his nemesis, who was really his best friend. When Biggie and Tupac gotta die, fuck the whole world. This is all some bullshit, and then nobody goes to jail? It’s bullshit, ‘cause it’s no fun. Let’s just be real, it’s no fun and you can’t bring them back.
With that said, the truth is that there is only one truth. There are billions of lies, but there’s only one truth. When you get down to it, it’s gonna hurt you, but you gotta accept it. It’s like a shot at the doctor’s office. It might sting for the moment, but it’ll help you in the long run. That’s what the truth is. We love you ‘Pac, and we love you Biggie. That’s why I don’t care about it no more.
DX: So it sounds like all the retirement talk was true.
DJ Quik: I told ‘em I was gonna do one more year. My voice is going out. This is my last year. I’ve toured for three…four years straight to get to this point. And now I got my son here, and that mothafucka gonna take over. I don’t need no Grammy. I don’t need no American Music Award, because I helped invent that shit. If anything, when I die, posthumously raise $30,000 and pay for the mothafuckas to vote to get me a key and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I’m good, and I don’t need nothing else. DJ Quik is a beast. I’m the best. I’m smart, I’m fly, and I’m cute. I wear Yves Saint Laurent cologne and shit that people can’t even pronounce. I don’t play with these mothafuckas.