Today, we celebrate the West Coast hip-hop legend David Martin Blake aka DJ Quik.
Born in Pomona, California and relocating to Compton shortly after, Quik’s love for music started at a young age. By age 12, he was already proficient in various instruments, and he started making mixtapes with a turntable he received while in school. Eventually, he created his moniker which derived from his ability to produce records in a short period of time. He started selling the mixtapes and when his stock rose throughout Southern California, he started hosting events and DJing.
Foreshadowing his own success, Quik dropped out of school in the 11th grade. But after his mother lost her home to foreclosure, he ended up homeless for almost three years. During this time, Quik was garnering such a buzz on the streets from his appearances and selling mixtapes that local record labels Profile Records and Ruthless Records started calling. Rapper Eazy-E, CEO of Ruthless Records, offered Quik a one million dollar deal, but Priority sent a cease and desist letters to protect Quik, who eventually chose Profile. On February 12, 1991, DJ Quik released his debut album, Quik is the Name, which sold 50,000 in its first week and peaked at 29 on the Billboard 200 chart. Four years later, the album would go platinum, making it Quik’s first and only platinum release.
Since then, DJ Quik has released over 13 albums, including BlaQKout – a collab project with Kurupt – and a House of Blues live album. They haven’t seen much commercial success, but they’ve all been critically lauded from good to great. For much of his career, Quik has been an overlooked hip-hop pioneer, cast in the shadow of more prominent producers such as Dr. Dre. But while Dre is wide-scope and universal, Quik is the champion of the region. He bleeds L.A., whether it’s funk, soul, or gangsta rap. He produced the entirety of Suga Free’s underground classic Street Gospel, and gave Shaquille O’Neal a hit with Strait Playin’. He briefly turned unknown guys like Hi-C and AMG into stars. He produces, engineers, raps and plays guitar and keyboards. What he lacks in national exposure, he’s compensated for with continued creativity and longevity. He took Los Angeles’ funk and turn it upside down, creating weird, inventive and unorthodox soundscapes that no one thought was possible. Not to mention, his fashion sense was impeccable: the Starter Jackets, Compton hats, and Jheri curls. If Dr. Dre is the worldly doctor, DJ Quik is the mad scientist. He’s inarguably the best producer/rapper to ever do it.
At age 47, his musical output has yet to falter. In fact, he’s arguably gotten better with age. 2011’s The Book of David and 2014’s The Midnight Life – his only albums this decade – were amazing projects that he’s still capable of creating distinct, original records. And last year’s Rosecrans EP – a collaboration album with Compton rapper Problem – is another strong showing, and hopefully hints at Quik dropping another album soon. I’ve included a few of my favorite Quik records.
Take a listen below and show love to one of hip-hop’s essential musicians.