Dr. Dre

Dr. Dre

Ever since emerging from the West Coast underground in the 1980s as a member of the seminal gangsta rap group NWA, Dr. Dre has been one of the most influential people in all of hip-hop -- as a rapper, a producer, and a nurturer of young talent. Andre Romelle Young grew up in Compton, Calif., at the time an isolated backwater in hip-hop, as rap was dominated in its early years by New York. In the early 1980s Young joined the club-rap group World Class Wreckin’ Cru and took the alias Dr. Dre. He then met the rappers Ice Cube and Eazy-E, and the trio started recording harder-edged music that drew on the rough-and-tumble L.A. streets for inspiration and named themselves NWA (Niggaz Wit Attitude).

As a rapper, Dre paled in comparison with his NWA associates Ice Cube and Eazy-E, but he was phenomenally innovative behind the boards, crafting a potent blend of George Clinton samples and live instrumentation that came to be called G-funk and that put California on the hip-hop map. Dre’s 1992 solo debut for the label Death Row, which he had just created with former football player and bodyguard Suge Knight, was called The Chronic, and it was a critical and commercial smash. The album was dominated by the slow-rapping, raspy-voiced unknown Snoop Dogg and Dre’s melodic, funky production. It produced the hits “Nothin but a G Thang” and “Let Me Ride,” sold over four million copies and became one of the most influential albums in the genre’s history.

Dre stayed relatively silent as an artist in his own right for most the 1990s, but he was probably the decade’s most successful producer. Dre produced all of Snoop Dogg’s hit album, Doggystyle, and shepherded Eminem into the hip-hop world by releasing Eminem’s major-label debut, The Slim Shady LP, on his own Aftermath record label and producing its singles “My Name Is” and “Guilty Conscious.”Dre resumed his solo career with 2001, released in late 1999. Like its predecessor, 2001 was heavily reliant on G-funk sounds and Snoop Dogg’s drawl, and it sold in the millions.


In the twenty-first century Dre has worked steadily as a producer but he hasn’t enjoyed the kind of dominance that he held over the 1990s rap game. His biggest success came as the mentor/producer to 50 Cent, scripting the hit single “In da Club” and other songs on the Queens rapper’s debut, Get Rich or Die Trying. Dre’s next solo album, Detox, has been in the works since around 2005 but has yet to see a release. With the release of Guns n Roses’ Chinese Democracy and Raekwon’s Only Built for Cuban Linx II, Detox has probably ascended to the top of the list of our most anticipated, longest delayed albums. ~Wilson McBee

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