People often have mixed opinions on DJ Quik’s Rhythm-al-ism.
Some will say that it’s when the Compton emcee turned soft. Others claim it as a musical masterpiece most artists can only dream of making. A few couldn’t even get past the cover, which showcases Quik, a renowned Blood, sporting a flashy blue button-up.
Me, personally, I say it’s one of my favorite albums of all time.
Aside from the immediate recollection of personal memories I associate with it during every spin, Mr. Blake’s 4th album has a broad and colorful soundscape that’s stacked like some E pills back in high school. Full of flutes, scratches, twangy guitar play (courtesy of fonksta Rob Bacon) and an occasional sample of R2-D2, Quik recycles few sounds from his past and many more that would eventually become key parts of the ambidextrous style he’d become known for in future works.
Obviously in tune with his music, the man known best known for 40s in the freezer and entire discs of relentless diss tracks, completely flipped his lyrical scripts on this 1998 release. On the heels of the murder of his best friend and colleague, Top Dogg, Quik proved he could step outside the dilapidated cardboard box of G-Funk, and put out an album showcasing that there could really was life after red rags, low-lows and gun-talk.
With his life straightened out, along with those flowing locks he flaunts, a grown Quik laces Rhythm-al-ism with cuts comprised of sexual escapades (to an extent, this was still somewhat uncommon for G’d up Westcoast rappers), flossing (before it was the sole thing mainstream rappers spoke on), long lost loves and finally finding his way on a road where wrong turns are more than common in the place he was born and raised.
Always one to stay down, down, down, Mr. Q-U-I-K with no C also made a point to reach out to everyone and their cousin for this innovative effort.
Featured on the disc are almost all of his original skanless homies, including 2nd II None, Playa Hamm, Hi-C, and his former right-hand man, AMG, with whom he’d previously fallen out with after royalty disputes. In one of the more bold moves of his career, Quik, an obvious R&B aficionado, even enlists 80s pop singer El Debarge to croon all over the disc, a move which would turn into something more and more common for the future mega-producer. Plus, after doing his part a long time ago and changing his views, Quik was obviously open to breaking bread with everyone, which is probably how Snoop and Nate Dogg finally got down with their fellow Cali counterpart after years of side-stepping each other at Death Row.
In the midst of this package of melody and self-reconstruction, the musical mind of David Blake also spotlighted two would-be stars in the making, Suga Free and the late Mausberg. One would go on to become the prototype for the Katt Williams’ of the world. While the other, unfortunately, wouldn’t live to see past the undeveloped age of 21.
So, to reiterate my beginning sentiment, Rhythm-al-ism can be viewed in so many ways. It’s growth. It’s beautiful. It’s positive. It’s fresh. It’s ground-breaking. Even today, it still sounds new. Despite what anyone could ever say about the DJ Quik, his appearance, or how he lost sight of where he came from, this album is the crown jewel of his catalogue. His magnum opus. On a whole other level, his Chronic.
Most importantly, though, it was a necessary stepping stone for one the more talented men in the history of Hip-Hop, and an album that many of today’s one-dimensional artists could truly take note from.