The Making of Chupacabra
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The Making of Chupacabra

Words by Sam Butler

Photography by Estevan Oriol

Sometimes, a good story just falls into your lap. In early April of this year, I was visiting Los Angeles and went for lunch with Jay Worthy, Compton's most celebrated Canadian and one of hip-hop’s all-time great dot-connectors. As the topic of conversation turned from the recent release of Affiliated 2 on to the topic of our newest issue of BRICK, he asked if there were any pages left open - explaining that he had been working on a new album from DJ Quik and Problem as the project’s A&R, and that an interview with the three of them would make for a great story. 

As it turns out, we didn’t actually have the pages for it, but one phonecall to our very patient printer later, and we had added an extra 8-page section to bring you this very special conversation between these three Los Angeles legends, telling the inside story of the genesis of their triumphant new album, Chupacabra.

DJ Quik: I got tired of the music industry, and I was officially done. I announced my retirement after I did the salute to West Coast rap at the Grammys last year. My agent was running his hand through his hair like “fuck, I can't believe you quit. We just did all this work to get you back where you are and now you want to quit?” They threw me a party with Rakim and Big Daddy Kane, and it was over. I bought a new house and was like, “I'm never going to build another studio. I quit.” It was a new chapter in my life. Problem called me when I was just chilling, getting used to the new surroundings. He was like, “can I pull up?” So he came over, and he had a laptop with him. 

Problem: That’s my dog, we hang and bang, so when I hear he got a new spot, I'm going to pull up over there and play him some shit.

Q: He was talking about new music and I was like “man, I'm over it.” But he pulled the laptop up and I'm like, “what is this?” The music was hard. So I went from retired with all my shit packed up, to saying “Alright, you know what? Lemme go get the speakers.” It wasn't supposed to happen.

P: Yeah, it was so organic. Every day I would come back to the house and there would be a new piece of gear set up, and he’s saying “Here you go, use this if you going to do it.” 

Q: Yeah, if you’re going to do it, do it the right way with the right gear.

P: He was building a home studio at the same time as he's telling me he don't want to do shit. Me knowing him, I'm like, “Oh hell no… he wouldn't be pulling out all these goods if he wasn't feeling the vibe.” And so one record turned to four, four turned to eight. Then I said, “Hey man, we got to bring it to Jay Worthy. He says he wants to be an A&R, so let's give him a shot.” And I know he's dope. He came in and instantly linked it all up. By this time, keyboards are out at Quik’s house and now Game is pulling up, all these artists are pulling up… and chicken's getting made.

Q: I'm in the kitchen frying chicken! We got weed, champagne, and chicken while records are getting made around my dinner table.

P: It was like a dream, to watch my hero decide he’s going to throw the cape on again. And he’s still got that motherfucker on, four months later. Now, we can't stop working. All we do is work now. 

Q: We were doing two or three songs in a day, and I usually don't work that fast. My songs usually take a couple of weeks to finish. It was just crazy. This was the quickest project I've ever done.

P: It took us 40 days, and that's just because we started having too much fun. We could have been done a lot faster than that, but we fell in love with the process of it and just kept adding more guest spots. And that was all down to  Jay Worthy. Every other day, he had some new voice for us to add to the album. Man, he really kicked into high gear towards the halfway mark.

Jay Worthy: Look man, I'm a fan of both of y'all, so first of all, it's an honor and a pleasure to be able to create something together. Everybody knows me for rapping, but you gave me an opportunity to wear a different hat in the game; and I just like bringing that energy, bringing in the Larry Junes, the Thundercats, the George Clintons. I always told Problem that Quik ain't an easy guy to get next to, because of how busy he is and how legendary he is. So all the stars aligned. The experience for me was great, and like Quik said, it flowed smooth. We just had a good time. We had great company and we made great music.

P: I would say we dialled in on a real system, and that's what made the flow easy. Even bringing my guy Dominique Sanders in to work on ProTools alongside us, that gives you more freedom—if you don't have to sit in front of the computer and manicure stuff. Quik has been a one-man-band his whole career, and so have I. So it was a great feeling to be tagging somebody in, especially somebody as magical as him.

Q: It didn’t feel like work. The way we set it up in my living room, you had people turning the dinner table into little workstations while my man would be over here programming music. They'd listen to what we're doing, then just send it over to the mainframe and it worked perfectly. Everybody's in headphones in a think tank. It was pretty brilliant. When Jay Worthy came on, it became like a merry-go-round where motherfuckers was jumping on and jumping off. It was more than a flow, it was like a bullet train bro.

P: I'll be lying if I said that was the plan from the start. It just went that way and now it's to a point where I feel like I don't even want to do another album if it's not done that way.

Q: Then the funny thing was like, “So, what are we going to do with this great record that we just did?” Problem gives me a call talking about “bro, this person wants the record… that  person wants the record.” Not to brag, but quite a few record companies were bidding for it. I'm like, “Get the fuck out of here!” No 54-year-old guy gets a record dealit doesn't work like that. So we ultimately ended up going with Empire, which was a good look because they had Rosecrans. It's still crazy to me that I went from retirement, never going to touch another beat again, to a record deal 40 days later. We actually did way more than the sixteen songs that's on the album. We ended up doing 35 or 40, so there might be a sequel coming out.

P: We may call it Chupacabra 2. We may call it something else. Just know that there's a lot, lot more music coming. I don't want to take the attention away from what this is because I know in this world everybody is asking “What's next? What's next? What's next?”—but I actually want to stay in the moment with this record and  live here as long as we possibly can… but in the back of your mind, know that we're just getting started.

Q: Rosecrans [Quik and Problem’s 2017 collaborative album] wasn't even an idea to begin with. I had a studio set up in Burbank and I was just in there with a bunch of music trying to figure out what to do with it. Problem came to the studio and I started letting him hear beats. He was like, “oh lemme get on that.” I think the first track we did was “Straight To The City,” or “You Are Everything.” It was so funky, I was like “bro, we need to do more of this.” So I pulled up more music and we started cooking. We were both bringing inspiration -  he's got that youthful spark and I'm an OG on the Dr. Dre level.

P: We were having a good time. We had cut six records and 4/20 was approaching. I was looking to put out some stuff and I'm like, “Man, let's just throw this out!” So we dropped those first six songs, and it went crazy. When we came back to do the second six, it was far more concentrated. I was just a student sitting there getting all the game, just listening. Quik would tell me all these tricks of the trade, and he taught me a lot about song structure—if the song is nine minutes, it's because we liked it at nine minutes—don't cut it. Don't ever bend for this industry. So the difference now, when we’re coming back together, is that I'm now seven years stronger.

Q: He's seven years more mature.

P: Yeah, more developed. I wanted to show him like, “look bro, I can do a heavy lift on this.” I think that's why this flowed so much better. The first one was still a party, but the flow on this one was something that I've never experienced on any project I've ever done.

JW: Come on bro.

P: We went into this not trying to better what we had done before. I think a lot of people get lost in needing to be better. We didn't play that shit one time. 

Q: We didn't think about it. 

P: We didn't call it Rosecrans 2 for that reason. That was that, and this is this.

Q: It’s an all new cast of characters, the equipment has changed. I've learned much more about sonics. I'm a geek when it comes to sample rates and bit depth, so I'm exploring all of that to make you feel like when you put the vinyl on, it's an event when you drop the needle on the record. So sonically I stayed on top of things even though I wasn't putting out records, because you never know when you're going to get inspired.

P: I think people are going to be surprised with the Channel Tres moments, the Kaytranada moments, the Thundercat moments.

Q: People have seen us work with Game and Dom Kennedy, they were on Rosecrans. I think with what Jay Worthy does, what he means to Compton and the culture, it’s natural that he's on it. I think the shock factor will be around those more surprising guests.

W: Quik and Thundercat, and Quik and Channel are the things that are going to be like “Whoa.”  I thought those were so important to the project. There's a whole new wave of Compton artists that make you want to dance and have some fun. It's only right that they get with Quik.

P: I think the energy of the people we were working with helped to connect the dots. We didn't involve people if we had to pull teeth to get 'em. If anything stalled longer than a couple of days, and you can ask Jay Worthy, I was on “fuck ’em.”

W: Oh yeah, we wasn’t playing with it. If it didn't come in, we were like, “Look bro, this opportunity doesn't come around all the time.”

Q: My music is like Halley’s Comet. And the sound of this album is just stupid. The sonic quality was never sacrificed for the sheer amount of people that are on it. I levelled out everybody to sound like it's one homogenous piece of work. And now it's extending into all three of us working on other projects.

JW: So much has come from Chupacabra, like Quik’s work on Kush and Orange Juice 2. Problem gave Terrace Martin the idea to grab me to A&R his new album. So many great things that happened in these last 40 days. 

Q: Yeah, it's just insane. We're kind of flowing into other pathways and taking this whole Chupacabra wave with us, man. I think 2024 and 2025, you're going to hear a lot from us. 

JW: Chupacabra is a movement.

Q: I think that this could spread, too - like I want to be in the studio with Janet again, I want to be in there with Dr. Dre and Snoop. The way we rock is just a little different. It's almost like we hit a wave, and we’ve cracked some code.

P: It feels like it’s fun again, it doesn't feel like we're in competition with the rest of the industry. My expectations are not what everybody else's expectations are.

JW: Exactly. We've already won at this point.

Q: This all just shows you that good work can't be negated. Bob Marley said that good music is going to find its people, and you see it in me going from retirement to making this record, drinking champagne and doing funky-ass drum beats, just killing. It was easy. I haven't had it that easy since before I was famous. This feels like when I was doing “Safe + Sound” and “Quik Is The Name.” That's when it was fun and easy. Everybody was on that page. Once I blew up, it just became too much bullshit. Everything depended on how much money was in it for certain people. But on this record, we pulled the keyboards out and just had fun.

JW: It was a good time.

P: To add to that and close this out, I hope that everyone hears how much fun we had when they play the album. That's all I really want. 

Q: It really was a party happening, and you hear it on the record. And we gotta keep going from here. Like I said, we could end up producing the world, fuck it. I appreciate you guys, man. You’re my guys.

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