Rhythm-al-ism → DJ Quik (1998)
“I really wasn’t in a good place mentally when I was working on this album. My best friend was murdered at my studio at my house. I don’t want to talk too much about it, but I was naive to some drugs that were starting to show prominence in the ‘hood. I didn’t know anything about meth, and somebody in my camp was doing it, and I was blindsided by that. I didn’t know meth made you do that kind of crazy shit. Here I am…I’m aloof and rich. I’m producing everybody and then this happened. I had to bury my friend and I kept that grief around for the longest. Then my nephew went to prison. And I needed both of those guys.
I’m a dude that doesn’t really know how to grieve. I thought you should bury yourself in your work. So I just buried myself in the making of Rhythm-al-ism without addressing the seriousness of what had happened. I didn’t know I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. It started to show in my behavior. I was like, ‘Try to be me for a while. If you don’t like how I’m acting, fuck all of y’all.’ The saving grace for me was El DeBarge coming into my life. (El was featured on the Rhythm-al-ism tracks ‘Medley For A V’ and ‘Get 2Getha Again.’) He had dealt with his own tragedy with his brother Bobby dying. For me, El was the link to his brother’s music—Switch. For him to have my favorite falsetto voice ever on my record was one thing. But then to see he was a brother, a Detroit cool cat, we kind of naturally became good friends.
Back then, wasn’t nobody tripping on El getting high. Because he could get high and still nail a show. I never tried to intervene in his business. He was a grown man, and so was I. I was a drunk at that point anyway. I’m drinking and smoking weed everyday trying to run from my problems not realizing that the shit that was happening to me was very severe and life changing. But El was there for me. He sung at my boy’s funeral. He helped me with the production. He’s hella spiritual. I am grateful to El DeBarge to this day.
And working with Nathaniel (Nate Dogg) was always great. He was the kind of person that was the voice of reason. If some shit was going crazy, he was always there. I’ll tell you a story that I’ve never told anyone. When we performed at the Source Awards in 1995 in New York we did the Death Row Medley. This is when Suge got up onstage and took that shot at Diddy. When the audience turned on Death Row and started giving us these looks, me and Nate Dogg stood up back to back. Now I’m scared because the situation was crazy. I didn’t know that Nate Dogg had been a marine [laughs]. So Nate tells me, ‘Well, if you don’t let nobody hit me in the back of my head, then I won’t let nobody hit you in the back of your head.’ And I was like, ‘For sure.’ It’s funny thinking about that now. But niggas was ready to fight [laughs].
I love Rhythm-al-ism. I worked through adversity to get it done. It ended up having the beginning signs of music that I could call my own, which is a good mix of hip-hop, R&B or jazz. It’s a little gutter thing that happens when you add the drum machine because when the tracks are too pretty they are boring. Rhythm-al-ism was an amalgamation of all of my favorite musical styles and influences. If you listen to some of those records like ‘I Useta Know Her,’ those songs are really innocent, just talking about humping on a bad girl for the first time. I wouldn’t change a thing on Rhythm-al-ism. As a matter of fact, it’s my favorite record out of my catalogue.”