Mount Rushmore is the thing now. In various fields, you’ll find folks placing who they deem to be the four immortals.
In hip-hop, for the most part, the focal point has been the emcee. But if such a monument were erected for producers, what four names come to mind? Actually, Dr. Dre and DJ Premiere are probably as close to a lock as possible, thus leaving the field competing for two spots.
The popular names that come to the fore are Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, RZA, Pharell, Timbaland, Pete Rock, Rick Rubin and Just Blaze. If you notice, 10 names are suggested, and for some that’s a problem.
Humbly, yet honestly, the brother DJ Quik—who musically aspires to “emulate Quincy Jones with Doctor Dre’s ears”—presents a strong case for inclusion by offering, “I should be included in that conversation, but when people put together these lists and I don’t end up in at least their top 10, then it makes me feel a certain kind of way. It’s kind of disrespectful.”
He continues, “What was it? The jheri curl? The gang affiliation? I didn’t just do hip-hop. I did R&B that hit the top of the charts. Not too many had that range and could wear both those hats. I made an impact with my body of work and I think I put a brick in this wall called hip-hop.”
Bolstering his claims of having an impact on the culture is a quote from the Top Dawg emcee in the game, Kendrick Lamar, who says, “It’s not just a West Coast sound with Quik. It’s experimental as well. He’s a genius at exploring new sounds. He and Dre are neck and neck when it comes to how a beat and vocal are supposed to lay on a track.”
Despite what for 2015 is the ultimate co-sign, Quik is an artist who is, well, “Unsung.” Wednesday, June 17, TV One made it official with its airing of the DJ Quik episode of the acclaimed series. When approached with the idea of an “Unsung” appearance, Quik offered resistance. “I was worried about it at first,” he reveals. “I thought of it as having a negative connotation. I love the show, but I was thinking, ‘I ain’t unsung.’ I had a dope career, I just dropped a new album (‘The Midnight Life’) and I’m on tour. But after thinking about it, I realized there are generations of people who don’t know who I am. So this is a platform to get people to understand what I really did.”
As mentioned, Quik has his ninth studio album in stores and it continues a hip-hop path laid by a seasoned, serious musician. “After I listened to my first recordings on the radio, I noticed I used samples heavy,” he says. “How was that going to give me a legacy if all I did was sample? So I tried to break down the mechanics on how the records I chose moved me and people around me and tried to incorporate that into original pieces, and it took some time to do that. I had great musicians around me, and they were willing to teach.”
The moment of clarity set in, as he recalls, in 1995. Explains Quik, “I was afraid to play the piano in front of people, because I didn’t want to hit a bad note. I was pecking away and making chords and Rob ‘Fonksta’ Bacon taught me a trick called counterpoint while playing a Miles Davis song. When I broke that barrier and learned how chords worked, I became super-musical. I didn’t have to sample or use interpolations of songs. I was able to create.”
Quik sees no end to his creative process coming soon, and maybe in another two decades, people will laugh at the notion he was once considered “Unsung.”
Over and out. Holla next week. Until then, enjoy the nightlife.