DJ Quik

The Book of David

Rating: 3.8/5.0

Label: Mad Science / Fontana Distribution

California hip-hop has been something of a petri dish for nationwide rap experiments in recent years. From the slapping bass of the hyphy movement to the unfiltered spaciness of #Based music and even the angst-riddled howling of Odd Future, something out West is giving traction to great creativity and its impact is never far from the rap world’s eye. One of the state’s most important innovators has been DJ Quik, who since first breaking nationally with 1991’s Quik is the Name, has found critical and commercial success both as a rapper and a producer. While the past two decades have seen him shape signature songs for everyone from 2Pac and Rakim to Janet Jackson and Shaq, Quik’s own guidance has also let him know when best to push his own material. While he’s always been a good rapper, 2005’s Trauma, an album that heavily dealt with his musical and personal struggles, seemed to find him turning a corner, bringing both his rhymes and delivery into an equally vulnerable and confident place they had never reached before. He followed this with a 2009 collaboration album with former Death Row mainstay Kurupt called BlaQKout which topped several ‘Best of 2009’ lists. Quik has returned once again and melding the fun vibes of BlaQKout with the earnestness of Trauma for a fantastic new outing in The Book of David.

Blasphemous as this may sound to longtime Quik loyalists, on The Book of David he’s never been a better rapper. Perhaps it’s the album’s release in 2011’s rap soundscape where many of his contemporaries find sounding as disinterested and unengaged as possible while rhyming to be cool, Quik refreshingly instead wants you to know how hard he is trying to give the listener the best lyrics possible, making it all the more satisfying at how often he succeeds. The opening track, “Fire and Brimstone,” shows Quik coming fresh out the gate with, “I wrote your eulogy on toilet paper right out in the rain/ You n*ggas got nerve? Well I’m your Novocain.” His delivery is just as sharp, from tongue-twisting around the “Rappin Duke” channeling “Flow For Sale (featuring Kurupt)” to the genuine wistfulness of “Time Stands Still (featuring Dwele)” where Quik’s respectful open letter to the mother of his child becomes a subtle heartbreaking listen.

The production is just as good. Quik’s gift for placing harmonies and melodies over definitively G-Funk basslines makes The Book of David the perfect album to start your summer with. While he does threaten to beat up the next journalist who compares him to Dr. Dre, I’ll gladly take one for the team and use him to explain precisely why Quik’s album works. The songs we’ve heard thus far from Dre’s oft-delayed Detox show the once genre-defining Doctor lost while trying to get a footing in today’s rap. Quik by-passes these problems by instead sticking to what he does best and making it better. That’s not to say he’s stuck remaking his ’90s hits like “Tonite” and “You’z A Ganxta” over-and-over again, rather, his work on The Book of David is the logical extension of that. It’s enough to keep his core fans pleased without sounding redundant and thus being relevant enough to sweep up new listeners.

Even as a vocal supporter of his recent work, I was still somewhat surprised with how much I enjoyed The Book of David. But like the best summer parties, the few flaws are found in the guestlist. While frequent collaborators Kurupt and Suga Free turn in memorable performances, not even Quik’s magic touch was enough to revitalize a stagnant Ice Cube or an overexposed Bun-B. Regardless, this is Quik’s show, and when one of the best rapper/producers is at the top of his game for an hour, you really can’t go wrong. If your summer plans include riding around with the windows down, The Book of David is a mandatory R.S.V.P.

by Chaz Kangas

Key Tracks: Flow For Sale, Nobody, The End

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