Posse Revival: Great Rap Albums: TRAUMA
Quik & Kurupt’s Blaqkout is in stores now and excellent. As per request, here is a reup of my review of Quik’s last solo album, the very overlooked Trauma that originally ran on 2/20/08 as part of the Great Rap Albums series over at that one site.
DJ Quik – Trauma (Mad Science, 2005)
“It was so dark, some of that music flat out makes me cry,” Quik told me of Trauma, when I interviewed him last year for Scratch. “You couldn’t possibly process going to court in another county, you live an hour and a half away from that motherfucker, and at 8:30 AM you gotta get there, face ten years possible prison time. And when court is adjourned, you have to drive another hour and a half back to hollywood, to go in the studio to produce a record.”
Quik was facing time for pulling a pistol on his own sister, allegedly in response to a kidnapping attempt she was trying to run on his kids. And, on top of his familial and legal issues, he’s explicitly struggling with the trappings of Southern California. He was still reeling from the murder of frequent collaborator Mausberg and appropriately critical of not only the gang culture he grew up in but of economic and cultural disparity. “Every level of living except for the Mid.”
Quik seemed to be falling apart amidst such disorder. His once playful run on sentence style seemed to be coming unhinged, his well worn, snide player persona dissolving into paranoid madness (”I still love pussy but I don’t like the bullshit that come with it”).
Still he’s infallibly comfortable behind the boards and the record doubles as both a glimpse of his diary and a producer’s album. Quik frequently passes both the chorus and as many as two verses to guests and only has four solo records. It’s a direction he had been taking more frequently with the previous couple of albums, except here he’s got celebrities like TI, The Game, and Wyclef in place of the Suga Free/Second II None/Hi-C axis (AMG is the only member of the old 304 Posse to make an appearance). And even though these superstars eat Quik’s track length, they primarily serve as a perpendicular counterpoint to his manic diatribes. They’re all cutting the type of breezy, ho hopping records he’s has been making for the fifteen years prior and the beats reflect this vibe too. Typical top down genius music. But then he jumps on and talks about how bloods beat up all the girls in San Diego or how his mother and psychiatrist are begging him to get rid of the gun under his bed. So things quickly get a little darker. Take the Ludacris collab “Pacific Coast (Remix),” originally “Spur of the Moment,” a lightweight party cut from Luda’s Red Light District. For it’s Traumatic incarnation Quik tweaks just one sixteen and a few loose lines, forgoing his tales of freeway smoking sessions and passed off pussy in favor of criticizing scheming baby momma’s and hollywood superficiality.
And therein lies Quik’s trauma, a man at war with his two inescapable relationships – his family and where he rests his head. Still, for, all this venting his natural sense of humor definitely shines through, and it makes for an entertaining breakdown, at the very least. If guiltily so. It’s the type of brink of sanity funnyman opus that Eminem spent the first half of his career trying to synthesize. Except Quik wasn’t in character.
At least it seemed therapeutic. Post-incarceration Quik has been on the happy tip, for better or worse.
(This has been part three in the occasional and newly anointed Great Personal Turmoil in Rap series. In the past readers have criticized my interest in the break down (and I don’t mean funky drummer) rap album, but I feel no shame. Quoth The Bunk: “that’s what great art is – to be private in public.”)