DJ Quik Made “Hey Playa (Moroccan Blues)” out of a ‘Bizarre Foods’ Sample
In 2009, DJ Quik took an unexpected snippet of Andrew Zimmern’s hit show and flipped it into an instant party starter. Here’s how he did it.
Compton native and veteran producer DJ Quik knew the Death Row duo of Daz Dillinger and Kurupt was going to hit it big when he heard “Sooo Much Style” and the rest of their 1995 Dogg Pound debut Dogg Food. His appreciation Kurupt’s talents reached another level when the veteran MC signed with A & M and dropped the Battlecat produced “We Can Freak It” in 1998.
The song, which sounded incredible on Quik’s epic car stereo, left a lasting impression that he couldn’t shake. “I had a crazy sound system in my trunk: $25,000 worth of sounds in my Ford Explorer,” he told the L.A. Times in a 2009 interview. “I think that record busted my subwoofers — I was a little mad at Battlecat for that.”
As the years passed, Quik felt a growing admiration for the veteran MC’s ever-improving skills as an MC. “I never lost that respect for him — he makes records that get better with time,” he told the L.A. Times.
“That record was done for the sake of art. Not even hip-hop, just art.” — DJ Quik
The two artists moved in similar creative circles and collaborated several times in the years following “We Can Freak It” and Kurupt’s subsequent album Kuruption!, with Quik providing a track for Kurupt’s 2001 Space Boogie: Smoke Oddessey as well as his 2007 collaboration with J. Wells Digital Smoke. They decided to build on their noticeable creative spark by making an entire project together after they joined forces again in 2008 for “Press Play” on Snoop’s Ego Trippin’.
The creation of the resulting 2009 album BlaQkout required careful coordination of schedules, as Kurupt was balancing multiple projects with a hectic tour schedule at the time. “Kurupt was on tour with Snoop, working on his album Street Lights, and working on BlaQkout with me and knocked out BlaQkout in just a few months,” Quik told SoundHustle.com in a 2009 interview.
Recorded in a mere six months, Kurupt marveled at Quik’s ability to build out songs on his own during the busy recording process. “Whenever I wasn’t on tour, he told me when he’d be in the studio,” he told SoundHustle.com. “He got the beat, I come in, lay it on, the next time I hear the record it’s a whole different thing. And that’s the good thing about working with Quik, he puts his heart into it.”
“It’s going to be eclectic, and avant-garde, and enigmatic and all this weird shit. It’s just gonna be some funky new shit. He was like, ‘Push the button.’” — DJ Quik
With Quik financing much of the project himself and no outside pressure from record label bean counters, the two artists were able to take risks and make unconventional songs throughout their many studio sessions. “That record was done for the sake of art,” Quik explained in a 2012 interview with Complex. “Not even hip-hop, just art.”
This free-spirited approach — coupled with new microphones and a new Pro Tools rig — made Quik want to push the envelope as much as possible. “If you don’t mind, it’s not going to be a gangster rap record,” he told Complex. “It’s going to be eclectic, and avant-garde, and enigmatic and all this weird shit. It’s just gonna be some funky new shit. He was like, ‘Push the button.'”
In the spirit of keeping an unusual vibe, Quik decided to flip the Morocco episode of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern for the single “Hey Playa (Moroccan Blues)” while he was watching TV one day. According to Quik, he knew he had a potential hit on his hands as soon as he heard the sample. “I’m watching it and I heard that little sound bit and I rewound it and was like, ‘Oh my god, here we go again. Here’s another dance record!’” he told SoundHustle.com.
“He got the beat, I come in, lay it on, the next time I hear the record it’s a whole different thing. ” — Kurupt
The sample, which featured a local musician at a Tangier restaurant singing and playing a stringed instrument, caught Quik’s ear because of the joy shown by the musician and the unique acoustics of the music that the restaurant provided. “He was just having fun, singing about the restaurant,” he told Fader in a 2014 interview. “He was making noise in this clay building but it resonated so nice.”
Quik also appreciated the way food and music work together Moroccan culture. “The food inspires that music and the music inspires that food,” he told DubCNN in a 2009 video interview.
Sampling the tiny snippet of music directly from DVD to his trusty MPC, Quik took extra care to beef up the sounds while constructing his beat — perhaps losing a few listeners in the process. “I juiced his little string instrument and made it sound like a horn,” he told Fader. “It was a little avant-garde, it was too nouveau, maybe it went over some people’s heads.”
“I juiced his little string instrument and made it sound like a horn. It was a little avant-garde, it was too nouveau, maybe it went over some people’s heads.” — DJ Quik
Aware that an obvious sample from a very successful TV show could lead to a future lawsuit if clearance wasn’t handled properly, Quik dedicated the necessary amount of money and time to get approval from Andrew Zimmern — who was already a fan of Quik’s work — and The Travel Channel. Though the process wasn’t easy, both parties were able to work out an agreement in the end. “I took extra care and caution in getting the sample cleared,” he told SoundHustle.com. “It took a long time, but we got it cleared.”
When all was said and done, making “Hey Playa (Moroccan Blues)” reminded Quik about the importance of sampling outside of well-known sources. “I sample weird wild shit because I think my fans need to hear it,” he told Fader. “Instead of going to the comets I try to go around the world with music. Because I want my music to be around the world.”
Kurupt agreed with this open-minded sampling philosophy, letting people know in his 2009 DubCNN interview that you can find music and something to spark your creative spirit in the most unexpected places. “Music is everywhere man,” he said. “Inspiration comes from all different facets of the ballgame.”
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