Beef Not Bacon

You don't need to be a Five-Percenter to suss that pork has no place in hip-hop. How pleased, to give one example, was Ice Cube when "mama cooked a breakfast with no hog" in "Today Was a Good Day"? DJ Quik's contribution to hip-hop's nostalgic, fleeting-utopia song genre—which includes the aforementioned Cube track, KRS-One's "Outta Here," the Fresh Prince's "Summertime," Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth's "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)," and many others—is 1995's sweet-female-chorused, characteristically-Quik guitar-curlicued "Summer Breeze," where a transcendently everyday barbecue is pointedly characterized as pig(meat)-free. An adolescent Quik plays "hide-and-go-get-it/with the neighborhood homegirls dumb enough to be wit it," an older him cruises in a not-your-father's-Oldsmobile "Cutlass" he takes pride in using to pick up ladies hidden at the bus stop, and finally, he hears dead Compton "homies callin' on the breeze." The freedom from a food that wallows in its own filth links with the satisfaction of other hungers.

Anti-pork cuts are one thang. Beef, however, is a different story, an overarching, dozens-to-the-nth-degree narrative few rhymers manage to escape. Da Finale, dozen-year vet Quik's brand-new, near-perfect best-of, in many ways hinges on 1995's "Dollaz + Sense" and its retrospective '98 sequel, "You'z a Ganxta." The former, an also characteristically vibrant, male-genital-obsessed answer to a beef with MC Eiht he had mistakenly thought squashed, climaxes with these gay-porn-threat lines: "I never had my dick sucked by a man before/but you gonna be the first, you li'l trick-ass 'ho/then you can tell me how it taste/but before I nut, I'll shoot some piss in your face." Concerning Eiht's "misspelled name," Quik notes, "you left the G out/'cause there ain't none in you."

That this self-professed former dealer ("Safe + Sound") and serial misspeller throws crack rocks in a glass house shouldn't be a surprise. Quik can hang as long and hoary as any West Coast G, but his career turning out platinum "money and pussy" party anthems and producing everyone from Dr. Dre to Whitney Houston points to a fundamental discomfort with thug life. Whether he's literally just "throwing bass in [the] face" of whoever stole his equipment on '91's "Born and Raised in Compton," lamenting that every city is becoming "Jus Lyke Compton" one year later, passing over "snaps" for "craps," or insisting "no I'm not" when the chorus to "You'z a Ganxta" hits, Quik prefigures or maintains the post-gangsta, occasionally talkin' shit but trying not to step in it.

Steers clear of roota and toota alike
photo: Courtesy of BMG
Steers clear of roota and toota alike

But, as always, the "Streets Iz Callin'." On Da Finale's one new non-instrumental track, Quik's "on a plane/Calcutta-bound," beefing over sample clearance for what turned out to be one of 2002's best singles, owing to his production—the Bollywood-musical-nicking "Addictive," by Truth Hurts, featuring Rakim. The loop in question, a piercing female wail that moves like smoke rising off a grill, actually sounds something like those guitar curlicues Quik has often used—along with his nasal intonation and jumpy, real live bass-drums-etc.—to enhance the flavor and burn the predictable phat from his G-funk. This disc is divided mostly between the classic first two of his five albums, Quik Is the Name and Safe + Sound, and '98's Rhythm-al-ism. Quik's later flow at times recalls Snoop—whose long-haired pimp look Quik cultivated first—or Busta Rhymes's whispery exhortations, and his sound of course acquired a digital sheen. "You'z a Ganxta" was his most hectic, complex moment, but "Trouble" (off this year's Under tha Influence, featuring old friend AMG) nonetheless twists like his earliest joints, thanks to its simple sonic riddle of an inner-looping guitar. He's still hungry.

 
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