DJ Quik and Problem on Making Timeless Rap, Remembering Prince
Nineties West Coast pioneer DJ Quik has experienced a late-career renaissance on the strength of solo albums like 2011’s The Book of David and 2014’s The Midnight Life, as well as collaborative projects like 2009’s Blaqkout with Kurupt. His latest release, the Rosecrans EP with Compton MC Problem, is at turns adventurous, historically minded and just plain fun — a record which prefers not to follow any rulebook.
Problem has had numerous successes over the years — his single “I’m Toe Up” earned him a record deal, and he’s appeared on hits like E-40’s “Function.” Quik, meanwhile, has spent decades as a performer of singular talents, a quirky experimentalist whose restless ear is unafraid of pushing against our expectations. Rolling Stone spoke with both Quik and Problem about recording their new tape and their fond memories of Prince.
How did you first start working together?
Quik: It was [Snoop Dogg’s] Ego Trippin’ project. I go and … kick it with him, and he’s got Teddy Riley in the studio. He’s like, “I want to start a production company with us three, QDT — Quik, Dogg and Teddy. And we’re going to produce records.” The first project was Ego Trippin’. He’s like, “Quik, this is Problem. He’s a writer.” … They gave Problem his first big check and he was excited. He drank some champagne. [Laughs.]
Problem: I fell on my back, I kept the champagne bottle up. I felt so paid that day. [Laughs.]
Quik: He was coming down out of the control room at Encore, and he was walking down the stairs and he just missed his step, and fell in slow motion with the check and a bottle in his hand. Hit the floor like, Boom! And didn’t break nothing. [Laughs.]
Problem: You know how they say you’re never supposed to meet your hero because it’s only downhill after that? This is one of the few times it didn’t happen.… I came in there as a writer and left with one of the hottest records in L.A., “I’m Toe Up,” and I had a deal. Just from the game and knowledge that they gave me. [Quik has] never made me feel like I’m less than him. No matter what the status of what’s going on he’s always been this same person that’s on this phone right now.
Did you guys have a favorite record you did on Rosecrans?
Quik: I look at it as one big piece of work. But if I could only play one, I like “A New Nite.” Someone had tried to sample my song “Tonite,” a Top 20 record in ’91. And when I heard it, it was so stingy, so lazy, I denied the sample clearance for it just because it didn’t make that much sense to me. And I just decided that if someone was going to do my music over — I still have the original master tapes from that song. I also still have the original floppy discs that all the original samples and drums are on from the SP-1200. So I pulled it into the studio, spread the song out technically and did it myself. Problem heard it, came to the studio, listened to it, and was like, “I got something for this.” And he just started killing the chorus live, no paper.