Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
Words by Phlip
Both Dr. Dre – born Andre Romele Young, February 18, 1965 – and DJ Quik – born David Marvin Blake, January 18, 1970 – were born in (or near, as Compton never had a hospital, as Quik would tell us on “’Til Jesus Comes”) Compton, California. Each are as well, sometimes better, known for their chops behind the boards as producers as they are for their work on the microphone as rappers. What remains up to question and perhaps opinion, is who is better at their job and why.
Those who will default “success” to mean “sales” will throw Dre’s name first, and would be well within their rights in doing so. Those who default “success” to mean “respect” will note that Quik did frequent work WHILE Dr Dre was still at Death Row (albeit apparently in his last days) at the request of his good friend Tupac Shakur, and perhaps some of you have heard of that guy. The “respect” there is owed because Quik didn’t do these beats under “DJ Quik,” but rather his given name which not very many knew at the time (check your liner notes for All Eyez on Me) Others still will look at the length of (relevant) works as a qualifier, and for that I am left to call it a tie, as Dre’s earliest recognized work was with an androgynous R&B get-up with an equally confusing name of World Class Wreckin’ Cru when he was about 18. A Similarly-aged Quik got on making and selling tapes for the neighborhood and got some attention from not only Profile – who kept him – but a then-recently shunned-by-Dre Eazy E. I cannot credit anyone with doing it longer because one is older, so the fact that they have been working from the same age will drive a tie.
Throughout their careers, both Andre and David have changed quite a bit. On one hand, Dre went from makeup and shiny suits and singing to straight gangster and then on to G-Funk and a totally different brand of weed-scented gangsterdom. He would go on to participate in the Mafioso Rap phase of the 90s before making the biggest score of his life at the end of the 90s, but we’ll talk about that later. Noteworthy, though, is that Dr Dre’s “G-Funk” phase took place with the onset of Death Row Records in late-91/early-92ish, while Quik had ALREADY established this as his signature sound by the time. One could call it Quik having had a head start while Dre was still finding himself, but it has REMAINED viable as a tool in Quik’s arsenal and he does it for profit while Dre didn’t exactly outgrow it so much as he left it behind when he left Death Row Records. This suggests that he was never much on it to begin with. If the sound of other LA-Area producers has shown me anything it is that the G-Funk sound is consistent and still in positive favor. To me, that suggests that Dre was more about “using” the sound than creating from it.
No rap career seems to be without controversy. I tend to give points for AVOIDING it more than I do for drawing it.
Dr Dre slapped Dee Barnes. He let money come between him and the people he came into the game with.
[Phlip note – I do not terribly disagree with this one, as he was one of the ones being coined] Using muscle to coerce Eazy into setting him free, and then continuing to let Suge do so for their next endeavor, though? I am more than willing to take issue with. Following this, his career has been pretty much controversy free.
DJ Quik, on the other hand, has been pretty much drama free. Other than minor personal issues with his sisters and his son’s mother (both of which he has made mention of) and on-record disagreements that he hilariously carried out with MC Eiht, I cannot find a tale of people who have had problems with Quik.
We know the guy can make beats… But can he rap?
Not that I have been to one of either, but I have seen footage enough to know that people jam into DJ Quik shows and recite every word of every song from start to finish. I also know that not many people do the same for Dr Dre’s parts of his songs as they might for those of any guests that may so be featured. Oh yeah! Feature artists! Dr Dre’s albums and songs are often weighed down badly with these, one might even say it set the precedent that was carried on by mid/late-90s Cash Money and No Limit Records.
Wait, and who is WRITING those raps? I just removed Dre from this comparison, effectively handing a loss in this category because of the answer to that question. As the likelihood of Detox ever seeing the light of day becomes less and less, it seems to be about once a month for the past couple of years that we hear a song by a known artist being rapped as if they were Dr Dre. The smart ones among us know those as “reference” vocals, written and rapped as a “repeat after me just like this” solidifying that Dre is not writing his raps. Word on the streets is that he uses ghost producers and pays them to not take credit.
Okay, so he can make a beat, but can he guide an artist to a decent career?
Look, I waited and waited for Rakim, Eve (twice), Raekwon, Busta Rhymes and at least 2 other people to release albums on Aftermath and none of them ever did. Meanwhile, Eminem and – by connection – everyone he signed to his own imprint UNDER Aftermath and everyone signed to G-Unit under Shady went on to wild levels of commercial and sometimes critical success.
Meanwhile, Quik mourned the loss of Mausberg and brought us Second II None and Suga Free.
Well what about sales?
Lastly, and only because kids these days seem to think that rappers are supposed to be accountable for the shit they say they’ve done.
Dr Dre has claimed on record to be responsible for murders, drive-bys, drug sales, multiple assaults (not involving Dee Barnes), gang lifestyle, illegal weapons possessions, and several other felonies that I cannot remember right now with what I have currently loaded in my iPod. To date, none of these have resulted in any charges or even any corroborating witnesses. Meanwhile, Quik has only claimed to be affiliated with the Bloods street gang, to have been a VERY small-time drug dealer for long enough to get some musical equipment and get the fuck out of the house. More people have apparently agreed to having seen this.
I could go on and on, but I decided to play this series to seven games and to me that places Quik a step ahead.
Words by Phlip