Right now, hip-hop is in the midst of an actually entertaining rap beef. Both Drake and Pusha T, two capable wordsmiths, are trading diss records down the slippery slope of who might be willing to go the lowest, leaving family members, producers and potential children in their wake. And as usual, I think Brick killed a guy.
As we await a mandatory response from Aubrey and bask in the glow of just how disrespectful King Push was willing to go (I can’t decide if we’re at Jay-Z’s “Super Ugly” or Tupac’s “Hit ’Em Up,” though I lean more toward the latter), I’m reminded of one of hip-hop’s classic diss records, DJ Quik’s “Dollaz + Sense.” The diss was aimed at one of Compton, Calif.’s other famed MCs, MC Eiht, from Compton’s Most Wanted, who was also A-Wax from the classic movie Menace II Society.
The song first appeared on the soundtrack for the super-ironically timed Death Row short film Murder Was the Case (at the time, Snoop Doggy Dogg was in the midst of a trial for a 1993 murder; he would eventually be acquitted of all charges) and subsequently on DJ Quik’s third solo album, Safe + Sound.
Now, depending on who you ask, the beef started either with a line on one of DJ Quik’s early underground tapes, The Red Tape, in which he took the liberty of attempting to work Compton’s Most Wanted (MC Eiht’s group) into a lyric, or when MC Eiht used the word “quick” one too many times on “Def Wish,” from CMW’s sophomore album, Straight Checkn ’Em.
Eiht claims that he didn’t even know who Quik was at the time, but that sounds highly unlikely, considering that he also says his DJ had the very tape that Quik allegedly dissed him on. Double that with Eiht being a Crip (Tragniew Park) and Quik being a Blood (Tree Top Piru), and the beef goes from the record to being street shit involving the homies. Unfortunately, there was a loss of life attributed to this beef, but thankfully it was eventually resolved, with the two men speaking and settling their differences.
But before they got there, we got “Dollaz + Sense.” Full disclosure: DJ Quik is one of my favorite artists of all time. His production style and no-holds-barred, not-that-great-but-functional-as-hell lyricism was right up my alley. And while I liked several CMW songs and MC Eiht solo songs (“Streiht Up Menace” is an absolute classic record), I was always going to be on the DJ Quik side of the fence.
From the gate, Quik got straight to business, even starting the record with, “Now let’s get down to business, bitches.” I learned a LOT about DJ Quik’s gang affiliation from that record. For one, I was 15 when the record came out and had only really learned about Cali’s gang culture through movies like Colors and songs like “We’re All in the Same Gang,” etc., since most movies out of Cali at the time were heavy on gang life without specifically mentioning gangs. Ricky got shot by a Blood in Boyz n the Hood, and the Crenshaw Mafia was mentioned, but I can’t pretend like I was that well versed in 1991 about gang life.
But most rappers of note back then weren’t heavily shouting out gang affiliations. With “Dollaz + Sense,” however, I got Quik’s block, the streets that made up his set, MC Eiht’s set and the dividing lines of specific sets. Shit, I was waiting for him to shout out his member ID number at one point. I legit started looking blocks up on maps, trying to figure out these locations. Also, his album Safe + Sound was an album where Quik REALLY started Bloodin’ hard.
The beat was amazing, with what would become a signature DJ Quik sound, later used on Tony! Toni! Toné!’s “Let’s Get Down,” from their House of Music album. The song itself was so ... angry. Quik was really pissed and it was evident. It felt more personal than just rap, which I guess it was for aforementioned reasons like gang affiliations. But what elevates any and all diss records is the inclusion of quotable lines that stick to your ribs, which led to one of the best diss lines in recorded hip-hop history:
Tell me why you act so scary
Giving your set a bad name with your misspelled name
E-I-H-T, now shall I continue?
Yeah you left out the “G” cuz the “G” ain’t in you
While the irony of calling Eiht’s name misspelled is not lost on me—though clearly Quik dropped the “c” for gang reasons—the realization that MC Eiht was missing the G was one of those ... YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO moments. Like, OMG. Talk about find the perfect line. So mean. So specific. So ... perfect.
The way Quik delivered the line and his voice, he took a song that was personal and very neighborhood-beef specific to top-shelf levels that would make its way into the pantheon of classic diss records. While “No Vaseline” (Ice Cube) and “Hit ’Em Up” (Tupac), among others, are records that I think are probably the gold standard, “Dollaz + Sense” is definitely one of the better diss records in hip-hop. Because it mattered and it had real implications.
MC Eiht responded with other records (the “Def Wish” series, etc.), but nothing quite landed like “Dollaz + Sense.” Both were able to continue to be career rappers and artists, and they eventually squashed the beef, largely because of maturity and realizing after the deaths of Tupac and Biggie that anybody could die behind this nonsense, a fate that I seriously doubt is in the air for our current beef du jour. Prayerfully.
But in 1994, DJ Quik brought us a classic hip-hop diss record. And it made dollars and sense.