DJ Quik & Kurupt talk Tupac and 'BlaQKout'
Non-Angelenos rarely invoke Kurupt and DJ Quik without using the word “underrated.” But to anyone weaned within the 310, 213, 323 and 818 area codes, their legendary status has long been secure and their influence inescapable. One of the progenitors of the G-Funk sound, the Compton-bred Quik is usually regarded alongside Dr. Dre as one of Los Angeles’ two greatest producers. In addition to introducing the world to new talents such as Suga Free, AMG and the late Mausberg, the man born David Blake has always been a highly sought after collaborator, working with acts as diverse as underground nabobs Murs and Talib Kweli, country rap legends 8ball & MJG, and Tony Toni Tone, not to mention the good doctor himself.
Philly-born, Hawthorne-raised Kurupt earned a chapter in the history books long ago with his performances on “The Chronic,” “Doggystyle” and his Dogg Pound collaborations with Daz. Regarded as one of the finest lyrical rappers to ever emerge from the West Coast, the self-proclaimed Young Gotti’s reputation was forever preserved on “Till I Collapse,” when Eminem included him on his personal short-list of all-time favorites.
Quik and Kurupt's collaboration, “BlaQKout,” is one of the year’s finest rap records, with the duo exhibiting a natural chemistry and a desire for sonic innovation rare in veteran artists. Rocking the House of Blues on Saturday night with a full band, the pair spoke to Pop & Hiss about their new album, working with 2pac, and their place in history.
How did you guys end up coming together to make "BlaQKout"?
Kurupt: We was working on this record for Snoop’s last album, “Ego Trippin,’ ” and it was so banging that we decided to make a whole album together. We realized that we could really do this, so we locked ourselves up in the studio whenever we had the time and were off the road. We actually did the whole thing in just six months. I love it, it’s got that classic Quik production but with a different turn. There’s just that chemistry there between us.
Quik: The first thing that I ever heard from him was this song called “So Much Style.” I was like, "this dude is hard." I knew Dogg Pound was going to blow up and they did. We toured around that time, did a bunch of shows together with 2Pac. But it was really something when I heard his collaboration with Battlecat on “We Can Freak It.” I had a crazy sound system in my trunk: $25,000 worth of sounds in my Ford Explorer. I think that record busted my subwoofers — I was a little mad at Battlecat for that.
I never lost that respect for him — he makes records that get better with time. Like a Pinot Noir, a real dope red wine. I wanted to add to that. You can’t catch lightning in a bottle twice so we tried to make our own Tesla coil and bottle our own electricity.
Where would you rank each other in the annals of rap history?
Quik: He’s not just a great West Coast MC, he’s a great MC. When I’m talking the greatest of all time, I think the God MC Rakim, Nas, 2pac, Biggie, Jay-Z, Kurupt, Snoop and Ice Cube.
Kurupt: You’ve got some producers who are so good that you know you have to come with heaters. You just know that they’re going to bring it home like the Lakers. There are a lot of great producers but out of all the ones I’ve worked with, Dr. Dre and DJ Quik are just in a different caliber.
You guys both had the chance to work closely with 2Pac, are there any memories that stand out above the rest?
Kurupt: At Death Row, before 2Pac came, we used to sit there for whole days and only get a verse or two or one song done. We’d just be partying, smoking, chilling. Then Pac came in with an entire military mind-set. He taught us that it wasn’t a game and it was all about making as much music as you can find. We got into a pattern where we’d all of a sudden make two or three records a day. It was so much fun and it changed our entire mind-set. 2pac lit the fire at Death Row; he made us want to win the championship and make it really happen. We all loved him so much.
Quik: Before I met Pac, I saw his tenacity, which was insanely fierce toward the end of his life. I always saw my songs one at a time, until I recorded with him and I started making 14 a day just [messing] with him. I’d been doing my thing for a long time at that point and I was like, "Who is this fire starter to get me to change the way I did my business?" He really made me figure out the best usage of my available time, and got me on a wholly new personal clock directed toward constantly making music.
How do you think the chemistry and push-and-pull aspect of collaboration forced you to work harder and create a better album?
Quik: It’s organic -- we created this without a mold. “BlaQKout" wasn’t based on what we’ve done in the past; it was about do we go backward or forward or do we revel in the present?
I wanted to be in the present and figure that people will all get it later. “9X Outta 10” is a template that reminds me of “Follow the Leader” or even “Move the Crowd,” it reminds me of one of those records where you’re like, "this is crazy." I remember when I heard “Eric B. for President” for the first time; that was when I knew the world was changing. Or when I heard Slick Rick or Doug E. Fresh or Wreckx-n-Effect. I knew I was hearing something new. Or when I heard the Wu-Tang. I knew that if those got in, we could all be out of business because that was some wild stuff.
Or when I heard Dre, I knew that he had taken everything he knew about music and mixed it with a social political aspect. It was like mixing Nirvana and the Roots. When you hear certain things, sometimes they strike you as, "Why didn’t I think of that?" With the intro to “BlaQKout and “9X Outta 10,” they motivate me to keep going and trailblazing. Guys like Kurupt and Snoop will tell me the truth. The best thing about working with Kurupt is that he won’t rap to something he doesn’t like. He won’t sacrifice his morals and that keeps me disciplined and looking to the future.
DJ Quik presents Quiks Groove: BlaQKout CD Release Party featuring Kurupt and special guests. Saturday, June 20 at The House of Blues, 8430 Sunset Blvd. $25-$27.50.