DJ Quik :: Greatest Hits Live at the House of Blues :: Mad Science Recordings
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

The problem with most live rap albums is that they're live. Huh? You read that right the first time. Live rap albums generally SUCK. I've been to a number of great live rap shows but I can count the number of great live rap albums I've heard on one hand and not even use all of the fingers. It's nearly impossible to translate the energy of a live crowd bouncing around, going crazy and rapping back the words to all their favorite songs on a live recording. The most interesting moments with the unplanned freestyles and yelling at crazy drunk motherfuckers in the audience are always cut. The rappers themselves are at fault too for doing shortened versions of their hits, forgetting the words to their own shit, or having five million hype men finish every line for them because they're too out of breath to do it they damn self. 4 out of 5 live rap albums aren't worth buying, and the other 20% you only need to listen to one or two times before they can gather dust in the closet.

With that said DJ Quik's "Greatest Hits Live at the House of Blues" comes off a hell of a lot better than most live rap albums. This may in part be due to the fact Quik produces his own shit, so as a man who's already a perfectionist he wouldn't tolerate his shit sounding half-assed live or allowing a recording of a live performance to come off weak. Let's not forget that Quik is also a great rapper who has been overlooked for years by the mainstream and even by many of his Cali contemporaries. He has an incredible knack for songs with catchy hooks and memorable raps, and can personalize the G stories with real life experiences that seperate him from people who are only hard in the studio. Quik has never relied solely on his gang ties to get over either - in fact he goes out of his way to make songs about drinking, partying and fucking that people who have never spent a day in the hood can relate to.

Still for reasons that are hard as hell to explain Quik is a cult artist with a cult following who has always seemed like he should be mainstream but never blown up to a Snoop Dogg or 50 Cent level, and it's certainly not the quality of his beats or his rhymes that are to blame. That devoted cult following is out in force on "Greatest Hits Live at the House of Blues" though, and they're so excited to see him they're chanting his name in unison before he can even hit the stage. Appropriately he opens the show with "Intro for Roger," the same song that opened last year's "Trauma" CD. Obviously the House of Blues he was performing in had great acoustics, or someone worked damn hard to make sure the mics were in the right place, or both - you can hear every word clear as bell even with his rapid paced delivery:

"You niggaz wanna be on squirrel time, I'm around the world time
Until I gotta come back for court, talk to my kids and they're fine
This is my intro, I'm scratchin Chingy, comin blingy this time
Showin off my hands and freestylin, showin you through my mind
This is for Roger Troutman, he helped me when I was so blind
To see that y'all might freak out me at an opportune time
I shoulda seen it comin"

Then just to throw the listeners a curve Quik jumps all the way back to 1992 to perform his classic sex romp "Mo' Pussy." Is the crowd faded by this? HELL NAH. In fact when it comes time for AMG to provide his line, the mic's on the crowd and they all shout it together in unison:

"I wonder.. how would it feel, to sleep with a woman like you?
To fade that monkey 'til it's funky
Rollin all over your bed, stickin to you like glue
You can call me a real funk junkie
Slangin this dick like dope
Strapped with a cap and I'm lookin for the slope that leads
to the hairpie hoes, AMG knows

Now on a slightly negative note I have to point out that Quik does not rap the last verse of this song, which has some of the funniest lines of the whole song, but it's a long set and I'm going to cut him some slack especially given he did all of the longer "Jus Lyke Compton" that followed. The live band playing with him really adds to this track and gives it a special feel that you wouldn't get off a regular "Greatest Hits" album. One just can't argue with any of the choices Quik picked for this set, because they represent him great live and any Quik fan would likely have picked the same songs for their own homemade "best of" mix. You'll hear the funky-ass ode to getting wild of "Pitch in Ona Party," the crunked out B-Real duet "Fandango" - take note of the crowd going nuts when B comes out to perform his own verse - the unapologetic ode to "Sweet Black Pussy," the hip-hop classics "Born and Raised in Compton" and "Tonite" and even pleasant surprises like "Do I Love Her" with Suga Free and some classic "Quik's Groove" instrumental jamming.

You certainly can't complain about the length of this concert or the value of what you get on the CD, it's well over an hour in length - even the free video sample you can watch on AOL is that long (it starts with "Pitch in Ona Party" and goes from there), although it contains more dialogue than this disc. I guess that's just an incentive to buy a DVD of the show, but it shouldn't be less of an incentive to buy this CD. Not only does the album actually live up to the "Greatest Hits" billing, but thanks to the stage band, excellent recording quality and Quik's willingness to be a crowd pleaser it's a live album that's actually fun to listen to. If you pick up a single "live in concert" hip-hop album this year, Quik's should be the one.

Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10

Originally posted: June 20, 2006