When the history of West Coast hip-hop is written, some names will immediately make the list. You won’t be able to mention rap in California without hearing the names Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Ice-T and Snoop Dogg. However, the West Coast’s secret weapon, one of the most successful but most underrated entities in the state of California, hell, in all hip-hop, is DJ Quik. For over a decade and a half, the man born David Blake has served as MC, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist, making him one of the genre’s most well-rounded talents.
Over the course of a career that began in 1990, when he was a teenager, Quik has become a Gold and Platinum artist, with a slew of well-received albums, as well as outside productions and remixes for everyone from Tony Toni Tone to Talib Kweli to Whitney Houston. His smooth, synthesizer-based sound was a precursor to the “G-Funk” that Dr. Dre popularized in the mid-‘90s. It could be argued that Quik is as responsible for the signature West Coast hip-hop sound as Dre (widely regarded as the greatest rap producer ever) is. The budget-priced Born & Raised in Compton is one of several Quik compilations flooding the market (I can think of at least three others), but it’s the most succinct, capturing all the hit singles with no filler in the bunch.
Although he repped L.A.‘s notorious Bloods set (reportedly, the “C” was left out of his stage name to avoid any kind of affiliation with the rival Crips), Quik’s endorsement of set-tripping was minimal, and there is little to none of the violence we normally associate with gangsta rap in his lyrics. Much like NWA’s landmark “Straight Outta Compton”, Quik took more of the “street reporter” approach. “Born & Raised in Compton”, Quik’s first single, is indicative of this. It was like a guided tour for those who didn’t have access to Cali’s mean streets.
Quik knew about at least two things more important to him: partying and booty. “Tonite” was the track that really set it off for Quik (it was the first song I, as a New Yorker, ever remember hearing of his). As a keyboard and vocoder-enhanced tale of a night in which Quik partied just a little too hard, this set the tone for much of his work. The lyrics were hard enough for the thugs, but the grooves were smooth enough that even your Blue Magic-loving grandma could groove to the beat—as long as she could stand the swearing. This was the track that propelled Quik to the A-list and set the tone for mean muggin’ West Coast MCs to smile once in a while (see: Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day”).
While he wasn’t an animal on the mic (vocally as well as visually, he initially resembled Eazy-E), Quik stood apart from most rappers on either coast because he was an accomplished musician who usually produced his own records and usually played the instruments on them as well. He made sure there was at least one instrumental joint on each of his albums (although, sadly, none appear here). His sound was clearly based on the old-school soul and funk of the ‘70s and ‘80s, as evidenced by the hard-charging Cameo sample on “Quik is the Name” and the butter-smooth tones of “Hand in Hand”, where Quik gets an assist from the always fly El DeBarge.
While Quik didn’t vary his subject matter much, his subject matter underwent something of a maturation. “Jus Lyke Compton” finds Quik slowly coming to the realization that his hood wasn’t the only place where there were gang angers and shootouts (and unwittingly, it explains why gangsta rap is so relatable and popular), while “You’z a Ganxta” finds him shunning gangsta life completely. On this song, not only does he extend an olive branch to longtime rival MC Eiht, but he also refutes rumors that he had anything to do with the murder of The Notorious B.I.G. (rumors had long suggested Quik’s involvement due to his brief dalliance with Suge Knight’s Death Row label as well as eyewitnesses who allegedly viewed Quik throwing gang signs at the party that B.I.G. was leaving as he was murdered). Quik would soon experience tragedy of his own when his protégé Mausberg (who appears on one cut on this compilation) was murdered.
While DJ Quik isn’t the first name you think of when you hear West Coast rap, he’s certainly one of the subgenre’s longest running artists, releasing albums at a steady pace since 1991. Each one individually is of a certain quality, but if you don’t have the bank to stock up on the entire DJ Quik discography, check this compilation out. With smooth grooves and a casual flow, Quik is one of the more underrated hip-hop artists in the game, and Born & Raised in Compton goes a long way to correcting that problem.