Shoutout to Vibe.com for these stories!
Quik Is The Name (1991)
“N.W.A. pretty much showed us all that we could have pride in our city of Compton because Compton was so tumultuous back then. It sucked to see all that oppression from the police and from the gang bangers. You were damned if you do, damned if you don’t. So when Eazy E and them came out representing Compton it made me feel proud to be from there. I was already a DJ at that time in the late ‘80s, but N.W.A. sparked me to really become serious with my lyrics. We were the real gangbangers. N.W.A. weren’t even bangers…they just played it so high up. But although we really lived that gang culture that’s not what it was all about with us. We were very family oriented. We showed the softer side of Compton.
Quik is the Name was originally supposed to be a mixtape that I was going to sell in the ‘hood. I recorded it on a Tascam four-track. I did all the over-dubs, all the blending, and mixed it down on one of those Maxwell metal tapes they used to sell. But along comes Dave from Profile Records looking for me like, ‘Hey dude, I heard your cassette, man. Come sign with us.’ [laughs] There was a bidding war between Fred Munao at Select Records and Cory Robbins and Profile. Cory ultimately ended up beating Fred out and I signed with Profile.
Profile gave me a $30,000 budget to mix the record over. So you do the math: a $1000 a-day studio…if we get Quik is the Name done in less than a month, that’s more money in my pocket. So we got it done in 17 days. We dumped everything out of the SP-1200, brought the turntables into the studio, scratched all the hooks, did all the overdubs and brought in a bass guitar player to fatten up the sound because we would lose a lot of the bass from sampling. We recorded some of the album at Westlake Studio on Santa Monica, which is where Michael Jackson did Thriller. It was a trip being in there mixing ‘Tonite’ on those big boards knowing that Michael was coming in and out of there.
My mom played Isaac Hayes’ ‘Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic’ all the time. That was my motivation for sampling it for ‘Born and Raised in Compton.’ It was a dog beat, very funky. But on the other hand ‘Tonite’ was pretty much R&B and some jazz. I sampled that from Kleer’s ‘Tonite,’ which came out I believe in 1981 on Atlantic Records. That record was so advanced for that time. That musical scheme was dumb, and to have it over a TR-808 beat that was bananas for me. I sampled it primarily for that groove and it was a good record to tell a story to, especially about growing up in the ‘hood.
Rappers weren’t going platinum a lot except for Run-D.M.C., Dr. Dre, Public Enemy and so on and so forth. So I still don’t understand how Quik Is The Name went platinum. I don’t question it, but I think I had a stroke of blessing at the right time. I had this edgy, dark live show that was kind of ‘hood-tinged, but it was still entertaining. I looked at myself as the average homeboy in the ‘hood; the one that made it. Ultimately I willed myself into the business.”
Way 2 Fonky (1992)
“I didn’t think that West Coast gangbanging would really permeate the nation. Then again, I was naïve. We would hear about all this violence happening in certain cities and we were apprehensive to go on tour in certain spots. I had trepidation about performing in Denver because they said all the Crips moved from L.A. to out there. I was like, ‘For real? I have to deal with this shit just to make a dollar [laughs]? The gang culture probably hurt the growth of a lot of neighborhoods. This is what I was trying to say on ‘Jus Lyke Compton.’
I grew up in gangs, so there was no way around it for me. After getting bullied a few times by Crips from the opposing neighborhoods, I decided that that was all I could stand. So I cliqued up with the Pirus and said ‘fuck it.’ It gave me a relief because people knew I had backup. They stopped breaking into my house and shooting up my mama’s house…shit like that. But ‘Jus Lyke Compton’ was basically me saying that I had no idea the same things were going on everywhere else from St. Louis to Texas. It was basically me saying, ‘Is there a way to quell all this gang violence?’ I didn’t know that I might be perpetuating all the gang shit. I just wanted the world to have fun.
With Way 2 Fonky I was just trying to put out an album every year like artists were doing. I was just trying to stay current so I could stay on tour. Plus, I wanted my boy Robert Bacon, who co-produced the record, to get his shine as a musician. He showed me a lot. He showed me the real way to do reggae. He taught me musical counterpoints because he writes music. He’s like my music teacher, so I just wanted him to ball out. We got the album done and it went gold in a week. I’m very proud of it.”
“I had no idea this song was going to become so controversial. We were just sampling beats that we liked. AMG always had the pimping thing while I had the ladies man mentality. I don’t even know how I ended up with AMG. I was chilling with this guy named Greedy Greg, who I wanted to be my manager because he had my beat interests at heart. And Greg’s roommate was AMG. So I started taking my drum sounds down to Greedy Greg’s house and AMG started going through them, and to me that was stealing. I was sharing drum sounds back then with Battlecat and a lot of unknown DJ’s. And I was making my way through the L.A. circuit with Uncle Jam’s Army. But AMG started making beats with my drum sounds and that’s how ‘Bitch Betta Have My Money’ came about. Primarily, AMG made that beat, but he had to give me some of the production credit. But I like the beat to this day. That’s the only reason I let him use my kick and snare. It was funky.
During this time gangsta rap was taking a lot of hits from the politicians. We were on the frontlines [in terms of free speech]. I’m just glad all that drama kind of died down. Ironically, I didn’t know I would have so many daughters—I have two. This has obviously affected me because I don’t think I would want to play a song like ‘Bitch Betta Have My Money’ for my daughters [laughs]. I think that was a curse on me for making some of those records. God did that to me. He gave me girls [laughs].”
“Trust No Bitch” → Penthouse Players Clique feat. Eazy E, DJ Quik, and AMG
“I fell in love with the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique. I was flipping the records that I was hearing, so ‘Trust No Bitch’ was really one of the Beastie’s songs. They did the drum track and sampled it from one of those break beat compilations, and recreated it as a hip-hop record. They were just clowning on it, but I figured we could really funk out to it. And that’s pretty much what I did. And Eazy E coming to the studio back then…when that man walked in that shit was so powerful. He had like a bright light aura surrounding him. To be in the studio producing him and telling him what to do I was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m in here telling Eazy E to punch in some lyrics.’
Eazy would pull up in any sports car you could think of…a 300 Z…just living. Those were some of the best times ever. Working with Eazy honestly meant that I had arrived, and that I needed to start thinking more highly of myself because I was downplaying my power at that time. I was aligned with some very powerful people and I knew it had to be because of my talent.”
Safe + Sound (1995)
“I inadvertently shouted out MC Eiht from Compton’s Most Wanted out on a mixtape. I didn’t do it in a disrespectful way because they were already successful. We were proud of anybody that came out of Compton. I respected Eiht. But when Eiht started dissing me, it was personal. That hurt my feelings…I’m not even going to lie. We just got dissed by Tim Dog (who made the incendiary diss record ‘Fuck Compton’), who didn’t even know us, and now I’m getting dissed by MC Eiht, a dude that grew up less than a mile from me. I couldn’t believe it. We kept going at it for two years. It was uncomfortable. He put out another record dissing me again and that was enough. I was hell bent.
I did [the single] ‘Dollaz & Sense’ for Safe + Sound. I was having physical fights while I was recording that album. That’s how over done I was with anger. That was a very dark period for me. And when I finished with that record all that anger was out of me. But honestly, ‘Dollaz & Sense’ wasn’t just about Eiht. I just channeled all my anger to his name. But it was also about the people around me. I was trying to take care of everybody. People were taking shit for granted.
Around the time, 2nd II None had started bringing Suge Knight around to the studio. Suge knew what I was doing. But I didn’t know he was going against Eazy because it wasn’t my business. Suge promised me the world, so I started working with him. I saw what he was building at Death Row, and I thought, ‘Oh…Dr. Dre is going to be there? Maybe I can establish myself over there.’ I was looking at it as a great business venture, and it was to an extent. I had Suge talking to Profile Records on my behalf because I didn’t understand all of the contract stuff. I was like, ‘If you can have them give me my royalty check, we are all good.’ So Suge got me some bread and before you know it we were cool.
The crazy thing is, outside of Safe + Sound, some of the business that was going on was crazy. Jimmy Iovine and Suge offered me and 2nd II None a production deal at Interscope. The number was so high that it freaked out Dion (a member of 2nd II None). He thought it was the devil…he was like, ‘Oh, they are trying to buy our souls!’ And I was like, ‘Man, are you stupid [laughs]?’ But Dion was like, ‘I have to go to God and ask him.’ I just told him, ‘You better go to the bank and cash this check. What are you doing this for? You are an idiot [laughs].’ But Dion turned the deal down. So we both lost the deal and I went back to Profile.
It ended up with me being a work-for-hire at Death Row, mixing all of those Tupac records and making sure all of the stuff got into the vault. I started cataloging those Death Row records and Suge gave me a handsome fee for that. But when I started seeing that Death Row was becoming run by gangbangers, that’s when I left. It didn’t rest well on my spirit. If I would have kept fucking around with Death Row I knew I would end up in a box.”
“Heartz of Men” → 2Pac (1996)
“This guy named Carlos has credit for making ‘Heartz of Men,’ and that’s the dumbest thing ever. They gave the credit away on the only 2Pac song I produced. But working with Pac was crazy. He’d sit down, grab a pen, a legal pad and a blunt, and write out all of his thoughts. He would record the shit, do the backgrounds and ask if you needed anything else. Then he would walk out that studio and go in another studio with Dr. Dre and do the same thing and then go in the studio with Johnny J and do the same thing. I was like, ‘This dude is a robot. We really need to take something from his work ethic because this shit is crazy.’
The Pac in his last days was very shielded. I went to his mansion in Topanga Hills in ’95 right before he passed. It was this big beautiful white house, but it seemed so empty. Looking back, I think he was a little lonely…there was no furniture in that house. He was purging his energy. It almost felt like he knew that his death was coming. He was egging it on. The Pac I like to remember is the Pac from Digital Underground who I was on tour with. I wish that guy was back. He was a bright eye, fast-talking Oakland genius. He was a ball of energy that you could never forget. When Pac died I cried like a baby.”