(I know a lot of you two were excited when I wrote up West Coast producer-slash-rapper DJ Quik's debut album, Quik Is The Name. Although I want to continue with his back catalog soon, sadly, there is no scheduled date on the horizon. So today I present the next best thing: Justa came through with his take on Quik's latest effort, The Book of David. Leave your comments for Justa below.)
West Coast hip hop was the backbone of early/mid-1990’s rap. Before both the Bad Boy gloss and the Dirty South came to dominate airwaves, the City of Angels was carrying the torch for the movement, with its G-Funk and its tales from the streets. One of the unheralded pioneers of this sub-genre was producer/rapper David Blake, better known to most as DJ Quik.
If I were to sit here and list some of his solo work as an artist, most of you wouldn't know what I was talking about. And if I listed some of his production work, odds are that most of you still wouldn't know much about the man. For some reason, DJ Quik has lived in the shadow of another West Coast-based producer/rapper named Dr. Dre (who, surprisingly, actually has less production credits under his belt, even though his name is held in higher esteem). Despite not having the same level of public acclaim, Quik has consistently delivered quality music over the last two decades: in 2009, he even produced a critical favorite with his collaboration with fellow West Coast-based rapper Kurupt (of Tha Dogg Pound), Blaqout.
With this newly found momentum, Quik decided that this year was the perfect time to release his first solo album in six years, The Book of David, conveniently named after himself. To help him with his comeback, he recruited the relatively unknown Gift Reynolds, the usual suspects BlaKKazz K.K. (one of his boys from 2nd II None) and Suga Free (good to see these two working together again), rap legends such as Ice Cube and Bun B (who has yet to turn down a request for a guest appearance), and some curious choices such as former Babyface protege and late 1990s R&B star Jon B. and Bizzy Bone from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.
Anyway, let me get into this review.
1. FIRE AND BRIMSTONE
Look Max, no intro! How about that. We go straight into a seriously dope beat and a proclamation that our host “don’t give a fuck about you, you, him, her”. The drums are fierce and bang even with their off-kilter programming and industrial-type sound. His lyrics for this are on point, too.
2. DO TODAY (FEAT. BLAKKAZZ K.K. & JON B.)
Yeah... Jon B. is on this one. He actually fits quite nicely on this 1980’s R&B-ish throwback joint, too. The beat is nice, on some summertime feel-good vibe. You could easily drop the top in the ride for this one.
3. GHETTO RENDEZVOUS
So after the feel-good track we're presented with a darker selection. “Ghetto Rendezvous” is a dis track aimed at Quik's sister and a few other close relatives (which makes this different from your average rap battle), on which he airs them out and puts their misdeeds on blast (a note to those of you with more popular relatives: don’t ever do them wrong). The beat, once again, is dope (I'm noticing a trend), and Quik delivers some killer verses, letting those who have betrayed him get catch his lyrical wrath. Quik has never been one to shy away from beef; throughout his career, the man has thrown shots at such big names as Everlast, MC Eiht, and Dr. Dre, among others. As John Madden used to say about Brett Farve, “He’s a gunslinger”. A good track.
4. LUV OF MY LIFE (FEAT. GIFT REYNOLDS)
Never been a fan of the “ballin'” talk that has dominated the airwaves, but even I have to commend the beautiful sound that Quik has created with this track. The lyrics aren't all that great on here, though: newcomer Gift Reynolds, who must have sold his soul to the devil in order to score his guest appearances on The Book Of David, delivers a verse that I couldn’t recall even after multiple listens. He sounds just as good as that guy at the gas station selling you his “hot, creative, five-dollar” mixtape, and that's just me being nice. Besides that, this wasn't bad for a first single: Quik sounds good, and the beat is smooth. It's just the guest star that struggles.
5. BABYLON (FEAT. BIZZY BONE & BLAKKAZZ K.K.)
I was never really a huge Bone Thugs-N-Harmony fan back in the day. Some of their early songs were alright at first (and I did spend money on Krayzie Bone's solo debut, as well as the first Mo Thugs compilation project for some reason), but for the most part, their double-disc effort The Art of War was the last straw for me. However, on “Babylon” Quik supplies a backdrop that fits Bizzy Bone, who I have long thought to be one of the more talented members of the group, perfectly. I'm not sure what any of the verses have to do with the chorus (which goes, “Ring the alarm, the alarm the alarm, Babylon fallin'”), but it sounds pretty good. I could see this easily playing behind a highlight segment on SportsCenter.
6. KILLER DOPE
The best track on The Book Of David, and that is saying a lot. This beat is glorious. Have you ever heard a rapper brag about “playing his own piano for a session”? Yeah, me neither: that's some cocky Little Richard/Rick James-type shit right there. DJ Quik has never sounded better than he does on here. The combination of the horns and the strings sound simply victorious, like a king's anthem: this is the perfect song for a hip hop veteran who, after many years, feels confident and secure in his position.
7. REAL WOMEN (FEAT. JON B.)
Jon B. returns to deliver another great hook (he's now two for two) over this more laid-back, grown-folks affair, on which Quik praises the women who aren’t out there trying to imitate Snookie or creating drama, better known as “Real Women” (the type that about seventy-five percent of the guys I know don't go for). This one may be a bit too R&B for most audiences, but it was still a dope track. Quik even kicks things off on here with a shout-out to MC Hammer: that's some true West Coast love right there. (Side note: I like how Eminem, Ice Cube, and (insert rapper name here) have all dissed Hammer for crossing over for pop audiences, when they have all sold out much more than he ever did. Still can't condone that bizarre Jay-Z dis/sermon Hammer released last year, though.)
8. POPPIN' (FEAT. BLAKKAZZ K.K.)
The beat is cool, but after feeling the laid-back vibe on “Real Women”, I didn’t really want to hear Quik and K.K. throw out disses and threats right away. This isn't exactly skippable, but after a couple of spins, you may find yourself naturally inclined to do so anyway.
9. HYDROMATIC (FEAT. JON B. & GIFT REYNOLDS)
The instrumental is great, but absolutely everything involving the vocals was not. Once again, Gift receives an opportunity that most artists would kill for, and his fouled-up contribution will not have you looking forward to his eventual solo release. I don’t remember anything dope about the lyrics at all, and the Jon B. hook grows old very quickly. “Hydromatic” and “Poppin'” are definitely the low point of The Book Of David.
10. ACROSS THE MAP (FEAT. BIZZY BONE & BUN B)
Although I like the guy overall, once again Bizzy Bone surprises me with a standout two-verse performance. DJ Quik has proven to me that he really is one of the greatest producers to ever work within the hip hop genre, coaxing the greatness that most thought was long gone from the Bone Thugs member. Also, the beat on here is sinister: it's essentially John Carpenter-type chords (as he performed all of the music for his earlier films, including Halloween), but with more bounce. Bun B, a man who would apparently rather contribute a guest verse than sleep or eat, also delivers a great verse, and afterward, West Coast legend Rodney O ends the track with a proclamation that isn’t important in the least bit, but it sounds good, so why not? Another dope track.
11. NOBODY (FEAT. SUGA FREE)
Suga Free never reached the heights of fame as his peer Snoop Dogg did, most likely because, unlike Snoop, he was actually a real-life pimp (and would never allow himself to be seen selling three-wheeled scooters on late night infomericals). Anyway, this track
leaked dropped last year with one stellar verse courtesy of Pomona’s favorite pimp/rapper, and a great hook. I love the hilarious Tiger Woods advice, as well as the bridge that commences while he spits his verse. The album version treats listeners to an additional verse from Quik, as well. The beat on this funky track (one of my favorite songs off The Book Of David) makes for some classic West Coast fun.
12. BOOGIE TILL YOU CONK OUT (FEAT. ICE CUBE)
Many of the reviews I've seen for The Book Of David refer to this song as “unimpressive”. But why is that? Do we really want to hear rappers in their forties making songs like they did back in their early twenties (like Busta Rhymes still attempts to do today)? I, for one, don't, so I found this grown-folks two-step club jam cool. You know exactly what kind of club I'm referring to: the one you used to make fun of back in high school/college because that's where the older folks went, but you now find yourself considering checking it out because you know there aren't as many “knuckleheads” there. Yeah, it was made for that place. I don’t expect much from Cube these days anyway (especially after his sitcom on TBS), but his verse was alright. Nothing like The Predator or AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, but alright. I have no real complaints about this song.
13. FLOW FOR SALE (FEAT. KURUPT)
Quik and Kurupt waste no time getting to the music with this dope track. Although I'll be waiting for a long time for another “New York, New York”-esque performance from Kurupt Young Gotti (even though The Streetz Iz A Mutha is a classic album, in my opinion), he still sounds pretty good on here: I like the way he has to switch up his style whenever he works with our host, as Quik keeps him on his toes. Just like it did on Blaqout, Kurupt's flow sounds great even though he's hardly saying anything memorable, but this isn't a bad thing.
14. SO COMPTON (FEAT. BLAKKAZZ K.K.)
This nighttime summer anthem contains some of those classic synths that you associate most West Coast beats with. Good stuff.
15. TIME STANDS STILL (FEAT. DWELE)
Max, I know you don’t like most R&B tracks, but this one should be the exception. Dwele (who, sadly, is only really known for his contributions to Kanye West songs at this point in his career) provides a performance that is better and more genuine than anything he has ever done. This is in the running for my second favorite track on The Book Of David.
16. THE END? (FEAT. GARRY SHIDER)
This great tribute to P-Funk features Quik and Garry Shider (from Parliament-Funkadelic fame) collaborating for a few minutes on bass and background vocals, before segueing into...
17. QUIK'S GROOVE 9
...this track. For some reason the version of The Book Of David I have doesn't separate out “Quik's Groove 9” from the “The End”, choosing instead to run it all together on the same audio track. Regardless, this instrumental ending to the album sounds terrific.
THE LAST WORD: As a long time DJ Quik supporter, I feel that The Book Of David definitely stands out as far as his solo work goes. Though it never truly reaches classic status (there are a few tracks on here that are only alright), the album successfully showcases just how musically gifted he is overall. Quik the producer brings out the best in those we would never expect (except for Gift Reynolds, although I suppose it could be argued that his two contributions on The Book Of David are the best he can do) over one of the most creative musical soundtracks of the year, and as a rapper, he delivers some pretty amazing lyrical performances himself. I rarely advise people to buy anything that isn’t absolutely essential, but if you consider yourself a fan of hip hop, The Book Of David is a must-own. It is one of the best representations of our genre (or for music in general) in 2011, and it absolutely shouldn't be neglected in a time when most heads complain about the loss of “real” hip hop.
(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave your thoughts below.)