DJ Quik & Kurupt — “9X’s Outta Ten”

Released: 6.9.11

Peak: Did not chart

My opinions on ’90s L.A. hip-hop are highly suspect. Even my taste in Cali gangsta runs toward the agile semiotics of Jersey transplant Ice T rather than the blocky bludgeoning of Compton homebody Ice Cube. Chalk it up to east-coast nurturing if you like; my personal theory is that I was old enough to appreciate George Clinton’s greatest hits before Dre lopped off their humor and humanity. And as much as NYC irritates me, its cosmopolitan pretentiousness at least forced dopes to feign intelligence, while L.A.’s method-acting conventions encouraged even some of its smarter MCs to dumb it down.

But DJ Quik’s frisky flow always skipped along with a sharp self-awareness. Though no ace lyricist, Quik’s eye for detail allowed him to sketch a world of backyard barbecues and everyday scuffling that his contemporaries often obscured with b-movie stage trappings. His long-running ambivalence toward thuggery came to a head in 2000 with Balances and Opinions, which not only featured a call to “Change Da Game” but the explicit assertion “I’m not a gangsta.”  And as a producer, Quik peppered his easy-listening g-bounce with an arsenal of funny sounds, particularly a trademark plink that’s somewhere between a spoon-tapped water glass and a thumb-popped cheek.

From the seductive exotica of “Hey Playa! (Moroccan Blues)” to the flutey darting of “Whatcha Wan Do,” Quik outdid himself on BlaKQout, his full-length collaboration with formerly negligible Dogg Pound mutt Kurupt. Buried at the center is “9 X’s Outta Ten,” its hard-ass beat a lump of coal compressed into a diamond. His no-bullshit baritone contrasting with an upper register flutter hook and Quik’s own slightly higher-pitched voice providing contrast, Kurupt repeats “When it stops/ 9x outta 10/ It’s gonna start again/ Where it started at ended up and restart again” so solemnly you’d think he was intoning some forgotten ancient wisdom — so solemnly you might even wonder what he means.

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