Artist: DJ Quik
Album: Under The Influence
Rating: 8 / 10
As we all know, DJ Quik has had a tough time of it in the past few years. With the effective death of G-Funk and Westcoast gangsta rap many artists’ careers went down the drain with it. Of course, the major guns have remained. Dre, Snoop, Cube, Kurupt have all proved there is life after the Death Row days. But while these artists have stuck to what they do best (ie. gangsta shit), Quik has had the audacity to re-invent himself. Partly to do with the mixed reaction “Balance & Options” got, Quik dropped the Westcoast sound that has been a trademark of his, and gone for a new, fresh sound. The result? The highly anticipated “Under Tha Influence”.
While Quik produces the entire album, there is one song that isn’t Quik produced. Longtime collaborater Dr. Dre teams up with Quik on ‘Put It On Me’. You may have heard this cut on the “Training Day” soundtrack. Dre’s new sound has been criticised for being repititive and boring, but the catchy pianos and percussion here WILL get your head nodding. Even though Dre doesn’t really do much with his verses (as usual), the chemistry with the far superior Quik is intoxicating. You won’t find a catchier song all year.
The slightly Asian sound of the lead single ‘Trouble’ is mesmerising, and the humourous, high octave rhymes of Quik a good match, with AMG dropping some fairly tedious “gangsta shit” in the middle. And Quik is no fool, as he shows with ’50 Ways’ that he can get introspective and thoughtful. Over a strumming guitar, and Wanya Morris of Boys II Men on the hook, Quik reflects on his life and career €“ and his struggle for survival. He hits out at critics who have hit out at his new sound…
“So I put on my game face, go back to the same place
Only to realize that y’all ain’t got the same taste
Even with somethin new, they look at you cold
And without a hot face, consider you old
And leavin me stressed and broken-hearted
How could I be finished with West coast rap? I helped start it!”
Quik promised that there would be “no westcoast sounds” on his new album – because he’s completely changed his production style – and the entire album is a sound that is unique to DJ Quik. ‘Get Loaded’ has this in abundance, with a fierce, string laden chorus, and a bouncing, piano led beat. AMG pops up again to lend some vocal support. Meanwhile, on ‘The Poem’ Quik just sits back and lets Talib Kweli, Hi-C and Shyheim Da Kid drop battle lyrics. It comes as little surprise that the loquacious Kweli comes hardest with an extended yet tight verse.
Everyone knows DJ Quik as a consistent and strong producer, but his admittedly good lyrical skills are often overlooked by everyone. And his natural charisma, high pitched voice and humorous rhymes help this. And ‘Murda Case One’ proves that everything on this album doesn’t have to be dominated by beats. Check it…
€œWe love that ‘Goodfellas’, ‘Scarface’, all that mafia stuff
But a few volumes of ‘Faces of Death’ get you coppin it toug
Look at the autopsy, where fly-swatters got mashed for mile
Writin €™ checks that they insides couldn’t cash! (ewww
Like raw steak, them vital organs they soft
Pharoahe Monch and K, like chrome they popped off €.
What makes this so impressive is the presence of a verse from lyrical mastermind Pharoahe Monch. Quik more than holds his own, however.
The relaxed, funky side of the album continues with tracks like ‘One On One’ – a love song of sorts, with a very cool chorus utilising the Roger Troutman voice vocoder. It €™s slow, with a very funky, feel good groove. Marvellous. But DJ Quik is still DJ Quik so don’t expect well-meaning tracks like this all the time – he easily slips into a “nastier” mode, injecting some good ol’ humour into his sexually-orientated rhymes on “sucking and fu**king” cuts like ‘Come 2Nite’ and ‘Ev’rday’. While these may be traditional hip-hop “subjects” the humourous outlook of Quik makes them better for it.
To be honest, there €™s not much wrong with “Under Tha Influence”. I didn €™t like ‘Gina Statutatorre’ as much as some of the others, mainly because its latin influence doesn €™t really pander to my tastes. It €™s still a quality cut, but not to my tastes. The same can €™t be said about ‘Get the Money’, which is probably something close to filler. While the pimped out, hilarious Suga Free livens up the track, it €™s still a bit too lethargic. Ditto ‘Sex Crymee’ – also a weaker track than most of the songs here.
The unique sound of this album is not Westcoast, Eastcoast, G-Funk – it’s DJ Quik. Intricately created, funky grooves with strong hooks and good performances from the assorted emcees. Real love and craft has gone into this album. In a year which has already seen some very impressive hip-hop releases, DJ Quik €™s “Under Tha Influence” may be unfairly slept on and overlooked, but it €™s a very impressive comeback album from this Compton born producer/emcee. This is a polished and refined effort that has the shine of a man who knows how to make good hip-hop.