In the confines of San Bernardino County’s West Valley Detention Center, DJ Quik did some soul searching. It was the summer of 2006 and Quik was spending time in prison on a parole violation. The charges stemmed from an incident where he allegedly pulled a gun on his sister back in 2003. The production legend was ordered to serve 45 days in jail on the weekends, but after failing to report, he was thrown in the pen for five months.
Quik used his incarceration as motivation. Upon his release in October 2006, the self-proclaimed “mad scientist” went into the studio with longtime friend and collaborator AMG and formed a duo called The Fixxers. The veteran MCs soon released their first song, “Can You Werk Wit Dat,” to local radio and the record started to generate a buzz, catching the attention of Interscope Records. The monstrous label promptly signed The Fixxers making it the first time that either Quik or AMG had been signed to a major in almost 10 years.
DJ Quik and AMG helped lay the foundation for West Coast hip-hop. Quik’s influence dates back to his platinum debut in 1991, Quik is the Name. The veteran MC then went on to release six more solo albums in the next 15 years while also producing for everyone from 2Pac, to Snoop Dogg to Jay-Z.
AMG hit the scene in 1991 with his debut album, Give a Dog Bone. But 1992’s gold album, Bitch Betta Have My Money, was his coming out party. With pimped out lyrics and party anthems like “Jiggable Pie,” and the DJ Quik produced “Nu Exasize,” the album was hailed by many as a West Coast classic. AMG’s success, however, was short lived. His following two albums: Ballin’ Out Of Control (1995) and Bitch Betta Have My Money 2001 didn’t fair as well.
Now, after working together for over a decade, the Compton, CA natives are releasing their group album, The Midnight Life, this summer. XXLMag.com talks with The Fixxers to about what these veterans can bring back to the game.
How did the group form?
Quik: We always talked about it but never did it. We had obligations that wouldn’t let us together. We created these high maintenance worlds for ourselves that wouldn’t allow us to focus on it. But there’s a lull in the sound here and we realize, in a sense, that we play a part in the barometer of hip-hop on the West Coast.
How did this deal with Interscope for The Fixxers album come about?
AMG: They caught wind of what was going on. We had the radio stations smashing, “Can U Werk Wit Dat.” We actually went to Interscope first, then we were gonna do the deal at Warner Bros. It was one of those, who wants us type of thing. But the record has picked up speed. We started doing appearances and putting the songs into the shows we did. The crowd responded, the reps came out and saw it. It’s a good surprise and something that’s needed. The label [Interscope] was like, “Let’s see what these guys can do.”
What’s the vibe on Midnight Life? Is it more fun and partying?
AMG: Oh yeah, definitely. My thing has always been more of a party atmosphere. I keep it light because that’s the element [needed] to make this record work. Nobody is coming with deep messages. We’re not trying to save anybody. So I think the concept of this album is to just keep the party going. If you wanna learn something, you’ll learn it with or without a record. I don’t think records are here to teach you.
So this album isn’t going to be as heavily West Coast influenced as your previous collaborations?
Quik: Yeah, it’s not. We’ve done it before, over and over again. When the results don’t match the input — if you’re putting a lot in and getting a little out — I think it’s time to walk away from that slot machine and go gamble somewhere else.
AMG: I think we need to do something different besides the same old West Coast thing. We gotta get on some new dance shit. Niggas got a million styles. It just so happens when you get into the record business, you gotta make those certain records. A lot of Quik fans are saying, “It looks like you’re selling out. You’re making down South records.” But you gotta change. You can’t be walking around with bell-bottoms when straight legs are in.
Quik, many regard you and Dr. Dre as the best West Coast producers ever. But it seems Dre gets most of the mainstream attention.
Quik: Of course he will. Dre is a good businessman. He knows how to sell stuff. My thing is — I was always emotionally driven by the music. I think when you give so much of yourself to one thing, you become one-sided and out of balance. So I think that caused the industry to not respect me as much as other people. I’m not a ruthless guy. I’m not robbing anybody for their publishing. I guess you gotta be a shark in this game. I just wasn’t a shark. And I guess, me being dyslexic as I am, or whatever, I thought I didn’t know the business and that’s the furthest from the truth.
As veterans, how do you stay relevant in a game that changes so fast?
Quik: We’re giving people what they want, as opposed to trying to force a structure on people, like, “This is the way it’s supposed to be. This is real hip-hop.” They don’t give a fuck. If it don’t strike them for that moment, then they’re onto something else. We conformed into giving people party music — the feel good music they want.
Quik, last year you went to prison for five months. What happened there?
Quik: That was a real dark time in my life. I was fighting with my sisters. Some of the things they put me through, they probably didn’t really intend it, [but] they were trying to extort me. I always gave them everything and I told them I appreciated them for helping me buy equipment when I was younger. After we got older, I told them, “I really don’t owe you anything. You spent five or six thousand dollars on me when I was coming up. After I became successful, your money didn’t end. I was giving y’all money that I hadn’t even paid taxes on yet.”
[Then] I found out my sisters were trying kidnap my kids for money. So I was like, “Are you guys on crack now? Is that what this is? Are y’all trying to keep it from me? Do you think y’all [are] slick? You’re trying to play me. I’m not ignorant. I’m a genius.” So I could see what it was. It’s just that I’m left-handed and I’m a giver. I’m a philanthropist and I give from the heart. So I love you guys, but I’m not gonna let you hurt my kids. That’s retarded.
I had a strap on me for some dudes. I can talk about it now [because] it’s my situation. My sisters had incorporated some guys involved in the streets into the plot. I caught an assault case and I didn’t pistol whip my sister. She’s little, you don’t have to pistol whip her. But I had my pistol there to shoot them niggas in the face if I would have saw them. I would have blown their ass away. So I snapped. I was out of my mind. I went through therapy and anger management for it and did my jail time. To me, it was more like rehab [rather] than a prison sentence. It was like, go in here and find yourself. Don’t be crazy. Don’t be a victim of the system and don’t let them own your mind.