Wait, DJ Quik just dropped a classic, in 2011? Any hip hop head is liable to toss Quik is the Name at you the moment you mention needing more West Coast rap, but that was 1991. While Quik’s never really “gone” anywhere – all his albums are, at the least, good – no record has quite had the impact of his debut (aside from, debatably, 2002’s Under tha Influence). Unlike 95% of his companions, Quik isn’t pretending to be anything he isn’t: in the press leading up to The Book of David, the producer/MC has been nothing but self-depreciating, acknowledging his lack of presence in the mainstream. Apparently, the Book was originally conceptualized as just that, a narrative of Quik’s life, but the rapper eventually realized a musician had no reason to write an auto when no one was bumping their music.
We can be grateful Quik directed his pen at lyrics rather than paragraphs. Absolutely out of the blue, this album is one of the strongest West Coast albums to drop in recent memory. The hip hop community seems ill-prepared, The Book of David is still floating beneath the message board radars. It’s safe to assume the record’ll gain traction; it’s just stuck in a confusing place. Quik is an old school artist working in the new school, choosing to relish the underground. However, living in a post-indie rock world, the underground has crossed into the ambiguously “indie,” legitimizing music such as Quik’s for hipsters and throwing off the majority of people who would have eaten this album up in the first place. Quik is poised perfectly for such acclaim: shying away from major labels to protect his vision. He’s a “real” artist, as if the limitations mainstream rappers face instantly disqualifies them from worth.
The temptation is there: to call this a classic, the best rap record we’ve heard lately, and so on. That’s what happens with a rain after the drought. Covering albums such as Rolling Papers (Khalifa’s, that is), Quik seems a god in gilded armor returning to save the peons. In reality, Quik has his limitations. He takes time out on record to express his annoyance at the Dr. Dre comparisons, but the man’s a Compton MC that does his own production – it’s going to happen. The two were recently pictured in the studio together, and one can only hope Dre heard a little of this soon enough to feel pressured with that Detox. Aside from their locale, the two share another prominent quality: they’re more effective behind the booth than in it. Quik doesn’t have Eminem and a who’s who of ghostwriters taking care of him, so ya gotta give him that, but on the other hand, his voice simply doesn’t command the mic as Dre’s does.
In terms of the music, Quik strays a line between old school revivalism and forging new ground. His production is West Coast through and through, but none of it comes off as – unlike a considerable number of recent attempts by other older WC artists – ham-handed or dated, layered to the point of perfection. He’s adventuring thematically too, such as on the 13 minute+ closer “The End?” or the lovelorn “Time Stands Still,” but doesn’t hesitate to recede into the West Coast gangsta standard, spending a good amount of the album boasting and dropping lines like, “I bet Eazy-E’s turning over in his grave to see that some a y’all made gangsta rap gay,” proceeding to brag about his proficiency with a sniper rifle. The whole affair doesn’t take itself too seriously, and so what we’re given is a musically ambitious, light album. In contrast to the self-aware grandeur and show of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Quik’s done much the same thing he did in ’91: put out a great rap record, plain and simple.
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