Thursday, December 22, 2016

2 In 1 --> Dr. Dre

When I last talked about Dr. Dre, it was during the revisit of N.W.A.'s "Niggaz4Life" album. As its release, the group would soon disband, leaving everyone to choose their own career paths. Dr. Dre would eventually link up with Suge Knight (and launch Death Row Records while getting him out of his Ruthless Records contract in the process), hook up with an artist who later be known as Snoop Doggy Dogg, along with releasing the classic "Deep Cover" and the rest is, as they say, history. So, with that said, I would like to welcome you to the next "2 In 1" session, where I will focus in great detail on the two most noteworthy Dr. Dre albums, "The Chronic" (Death Row's first release) and "2001." And before we begin with "The Chronic", I want to mention this quote that was said during the "Welcome To Death Row" documentary:

"Dre wasn't advocating that everybody smoke weed, he wasn't saying that. He was saying, my album is DOPE, BUY IT!!"

Release date: December 15, 1992

All songs produced by Dr. Dre (He also stated that "there was no formula to making this album, everyone just went into the studio and whatever was made that day, if it was the bomb it went on the album."

1. "The Chronic (Intro)"

(cell block opens)


Simply put, one of the greatest intros on a hip hop album. This Snoop led intro is one of my favorite intros. It's the dawning of a new era, the Death Row era, with everything else a thing of the past ("Niggaz With Attitudes? Naw loc, niggas on a muthafuckin' mission!"). Continuing on, Snoop introduces Dre ("the notorious Compton G, on the solo tip"), throws a shoutout to MC Ren, among other things, including DIRECT shots at Eazy-E and Jerry Heller (more on that during the next song). This ALL leads us RIGHT into.....

2. "Fuck Wit Dre Day (And Everybody's Celebratin')
Featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg
Additional Vocals by RBX and Jewell

I remember when I first heard this one and how DOPE I thought it was. My then stepdad Wade had this single on cassette and for whatever reason, he didn't care too much for the song itself, only choosing to listen to the instrumental version on side B, lol. Be that as it may, that didn't stop me from bumping this joint when I could. Along with the memorable accompanying video, Dre and Snoop pull NO punches with their direct disses towards Eazy-E, Jerry Heller, Tim Dog and Luke, all within the same song mind you (lots of quotable lines, lol). Even with those shots present, it doesn't distract from the fact that it still BUMPED at the same time and Jewell's closing singing portion was the icing on this West Coast cake. DOPE.
*5 out of 5*

3. "Let Me Ride"
Additional Vocals by Jewell and Ruben

"So would you just walk on by, cause I'm too hard to lift/And no, this ain't Aerosmith/It's the muthafuckin D-R-E, from the C-P-T/On a rhyming spree, a straight G"

"Why don't you let me roll on?I remember back in the days when I used to have to get my stroll on/Didn't nobody wanna speak/Now everybody peeping out they window when they hear me beating up the street/Is it Dre? Is it Dre?/That's what they say, every single motherfucking day"

I know post-Chronic, Dre has had some solo spots, however, even with Snoop and RBX being credited as having penned this for him, I feel this is by far his best lyrical display on the mic. The laid back, West Coast styled production suited the lyrics VERY well, plus I also liked the Parliament sample of "Mothership Connection", not just in the hook, but how clips from a live performance of that song were interspersed in the video towards the end. GREAT stuff here, which would also lead him to his first Grammy Award win in 1994 for "Best Rap Solo Performance."
*5 out of 5*

4. "The Day The Niggaz Took Over"
Featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg, Dat Nigga Daz and RBX

Featuring audio clips from the documentary "Birth Of A Nation", which focused on the 1992 riots following the beating and the (sigh) "not guilty" verdict handed to the police officers for their obvious role in the beating, this song is a result of that, and of course the LACK of justice served, but with a Death Row twist. Just listen to what happens when people decide to take matters into their own hands, even in a verbal form.
*5 out of 5*

5. "Nuthin' But A G Thang"
Featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg

"One, two, three and to the four/Snoop Doggy Dogg and Dr. Dre is at the door"

Now, you know I have a little story about this, but since I told the majority of it during my Snoop Dogg project, I'll try to make it short and sweet here, lol. During my 4th grade year in school, I was SUCH a fan of Dre at this point, I did an essay on him, titled "My Favorite Rapper", which was also my first time in front of a computer. My mom had no interest in buying the album for me, so my fellow classmate Kelvin hooked me up with a dubbed copy of it. I didn't keep it long because it wasn't too long afterwards that I finally copped the CD. Ah, the memories, lol, and now that story time is over, lol, allow me to talk about this CLASSIC. Man, what MORE can I say about this song that hasn't been said already? Hands down, this is one of the greatest songs in hip hop history. Everything, from Snoop's opening verse, the hook, the Leon Haywood sample courtesy of "I Want'a Do Something Freaky To You", it's laid back production and the accompanying video (with a shy Snoop who wasn't comfortable in front of the camera as he would QUICKLY become, lol), are memorable to this day. It was a hit on BET and MTV and in heavy rotation on the radio, also peaking at #2 on the "Billboard 200" chart. It also was selected by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as one of 500 songs that shaped Rock & Roll and nominated for a Grammy Award in 1994 for "Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group." How much more historically significant can you get?! CLASSIC MATERIAL and it'll always stand the test of time.
*5 out of 5*

6. "Deeez Nuuuts"
Featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg, Dat Nigga Daz and Nate Dogg

It was his first time doing it here, but I still chuckle at Dre trying to rhyme "manuscript" and "shit" and still managing to make it sound tight, lol. With Dre, Snoop, Daz and Nate on the same track, this was another slice of standard West Coast, G-Funk shit, letting the beat ride out towards the end in a NICE touch. (Kurupt should've been on this one too.)
*5 out of 5*

7. "Lil' Ghetto Boy"
Featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg, Additional Vocals by Dat Nigga Daz

"Things done changed on this side/Remember they used to thump, but now they blast right" -Dre

This smooth, Donna Hathaway sample joint of the same name finds Dre and Snoop almost in a state of reflection, from their younger years to the men they had become.

"Now me finally grown as you can see, still an OG/For life and always remain to be"

After the three verses (two from Snoop, one from Dre), the beat rides out to close the song. And yes, simply a nice touch. (Also, I don't think the following video was ever released to BET or MTV because I certainly never saw it on any of those channels back in the day.)
*5 out of 5*

8. "A Nigga Witta Gun"

"And show him why they call me the notorious one/The name is Dre Eastwood when I'm packin a gun!"

The man with the master plan is the one "witta gun." This is straight hardcore, lyrical gunplay with Dre simply at his hardest, even with an instrumental version of Whodini's classic, "Friends", being re-worked in a West Coast form.
*5 out of 5* 

9. "Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat"
Additional Vocals by Snoop Doggy Dogg and RBX

The hardness continues and it picks up RIGHT where the previous song left off. This is also one of those songs I bump when I'm REALLY mad about something, lol. Dre puts it best:

"It's strange how I re-arrange and change the business by droppin shit like this!"

More lyrical gunplay from all involved, Death Row style.
*5 out of 5*


10. "The $20 Sack Pyramid"
Lol, one of the funniest skits ever right here. Dre's "cable is off", lol, and while flipping channels, he runs into this show, hosted by "Big Tittie Nickie", lol. The D.O.C. and Samara are the "contestants" and they have "30 seconds to answer five muthafuckin questions", lol. The questions and answers are simply hilarious, leading to them winning some weed and "$35 to go the swap meet", lol. You know, after all this hard, aggressive material, it was only fitting to have a little comedic relief in between. After the laughs, it's time for.....

11. "Lyrical Gangbang"
Featuring Kurupt, The Lady of Rage and RBX


Not only does Dre come with some slammin' production for this one (including a sample courtesy of The Nite Lighters' "Valdez in The Country"), but he steps away from the booth and allows Kurupt ("they say I'm bad so you'll find nothin' worse than this"), Rage and RBX to catch some SERIOUS West Coast wreck on this apply titled banger. All three artists go in the best way they know how and if you can't get amped by this type of production, you're on the wrong song.
*5 out of 5*

"Lyrical gangbang, but it's just a G thang!" -RBX

12. "High Powered"
Featuring RBX

This 2:44 BANGER once again showcases RBX, who comes through "and drop bombs like Hiroshima." By itself, this song would probably be a "4 out of 5", but the "high powered" production sends it right to a "5 out of 5" rating.

13. "The Doctor's Office"
This was probably one of the first explicit, if you will, "sex skits" on a hip hop album, not much more to say about it.

14. "Stranded On Death Row"
Featuring Kurupt, RBX, The Lady of Rage and Snoop Doggy Dogg, Additional Vocals by Bushwick Bill

I would love to know how Bushwick managed to get on this track, lol. I'm not saying that as a knock to him at all, because he more than fills his role quite well here. Dre once again steps away from the booth to allow the lyrical side of Death Row to flex their aggressive sides. Can you imagine a video for this, with all involved in some form of a cell, while rapping of course, leading to an ultimate climax at the end with everyone breaking out of prison?? Wow, it would've been something. Backed by a sweet sample of Issac Hayes' "Do Your Thing", this would be your standard Death Row posse cut, filled with TIGHT lyrics over hard production, complete with a show stealing, closing verse by Snoop. I LOVE this.
*5 out of 5*

15. "The Roach (The Chronic Outro)"

Along with a well placed sample thanks to Parliament's "P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)", this is not only for the smokers, but it shows what happens when you get a bunch of homies under one roof with something to smoke and drink, lol. RBX, Jewell, Daz, Ruben and Rage are part of this "uplifting" experience.
*4 out of 5*

*16. "Bitches Ain't Shit"
Featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg, Dat Nigga Daz and Jewell

This was a bonus track because the actual title was not included in the album's insert. Talk about a song that I'm sure NO politician was a big fan of if they ever heard it, lol. They were not only calling out "certain females", but Dre uses his verse to throw one last direct shot at Eazy and Jerry Heller, Daz and Kurupt bringing misogynistic verses (I still trip out at Kurupt's line "bitches on my nuts like clothes, ha", lol), Snoop being betrayed by Mandy May and Jewell closing the song with a verse that only the men could love. Anti-climatic closer? Nope, not close.
*5 out of 5*

It's a bit surprising that this is my first time revisiting my #7 favorite album of all time on the blog, and with that said, my top 10 favorite albums of all time have all been covered!! "The Chronic" is one seminal album, no question about that. It influenced an entire generation, put Death Row on the map BIG TIME, sparked a new sound on the West Coast (along with the birth of "G-Funk" and so called "gangsta rap") and spawned several re-issues with bonus material (I still own the original pressing). Lyrically this album is about as aggressive as you can get, but what really stands out is the TERRIFIC production. Dre was already a hot commodity at this point, especially when you consider his track record circa 1992, so it should come as no surprise that the production was DOPE as it was. The "Death Row inmates" all played a big role in this album, but none more bigger than Snoop, who would become a big star in the process as 1993 arrived with his highly anticipated album, "Doggystyle." In addition, classics such as "Nuthin' But A G Thang", "Dre Day" and "Let Me Ride" were staples on radio and TV, leading to the album hitting #1 on the Billboard "Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums" chart and #3 on the "Billboard 200" chart en route to 5.7 million units sold as we speak. I also kinda wish "Deep Cover" was a bonus track on this album, but then that may have affected the sales of the "Deep Cover" soundtrack. Overall, truly a 5 star classic and one of the greatest albums of all time.

Before we get to Dre's 1999 release "2001", let's cover some familiar territory.

After "The Chronic" was released, Dre continued to be the driving force behind Death Row's production, which was clear on Snoop's "Doggystyle." After that album and more quality work on the "Murder Was The Case" and "Above The Rim" soundtracks respectively (playing a Supervising Producer role on the latter), Dre played the background a bit, especially during the turmoil that was starting to erupt behind the scenes at Death Row. He still was active, coming with the classic "Keep Their Heads Ringin" for the Friday soundtrack, plus he mixed the Dogg Pound's "Dogg Food" debut but did no production on it (that was largely handled by Daz). Then, 1996 came and in a shocking turn of events, he departed Death Row to start his own label, Aftermath. He would released the compilation album, "Dr. Dre Presents The Aftermath" and unfortunately, the less said about that album the better. Fast forward a couple of years and that takes us to Dre's proper second album, "2001", along with a bit of controversy. The original titled was scheduled to be the obvious "Chronic 2000", but Suge Knight, likely in an effort to stick it to Dre, took the title and used it for a forgettable compilation album he would release on Death Row, forcing Dre to use "2001." So, without further delay, we head to 1999 for the next part of this session!

Release date: November 16, 1999

All songs produced by Dr. Dre and Mel-Man, expect where noted

1. "Lolo (Intro)"
This Xzibit and Tray Dee intro leads us right into.....

2. "The Watcher"
Background Vocals by Eminem and Knoc-Turnal

Away from the scene for a bit, Dre not only showed that he hadn't lost a step, but he also talked about his past and how it led him to where he was circa 1999. He also pretty much says that even though he laid low so to speak, he was still had his eyes open to what was happening, "the watcher." Great start. (The sequel to this would be included on Jay-Z's double album, "The Blueprint 2: The Gift and The Curse", which also featured Dre, Rakim and Truth Hurts.)
*5 out of 5*

3. "Fuck You"
Featuring Snoop Dogg and Devin a/k/a The Dude described this song as "pretty straightforward sex rap" and that's basically what it is, and usually when you got a song like this, you won't find Devin too far behind (he actually had the best verse here), and Snoop for that matter. All things considered, this joint is dope in its own right and it didn't overstay its welcome.
*4 out of 5*

4. "Still D.R.E."
Featuring Snoop Dogg

This was a fitting choice for the album's lead single, featuring Jay-Z penned lyrics for Dre and pulse pounding production with SICK keyboard work by Scott Storch and Camara Kambon. Note to aspiring artists: if you're ever away from the scene for a couple of years, this is how you return and spark much buzz in the process. TIGHT stuff here also with the memorable reuniting of Dre and Snoop, taking us back to the classic Death Row days.
*5 out of 5*

"I'll break your neck, damn near put your face in your lap/Niggas try to be the king, but the ace is back!" -Dre

5. "Big Ego's"
Featuring Hittman

An aggressive dedication to those with big egos is what I call this and man it goes hard, featuring a thumping beat (complete with more sick keyboard work from Scott Storch) and two dope verses from Dre (done by The D.O.C.) and Hittman, who I must say steals the show here.
*5 out of 5*

6. "Xxplosive"
Featuring Hittman, Kurupt, Nate Dogg and Six-Two

Dre steps back and allows the guests to flex their "pimp shit" on this one (Hittman should've kicked a verse here). Also, the original title of this was set to be "The Way I Be Pimpin", featuring Royce da 5'9 (which will be posted below), but things changed (it has been said that Royce's manager "leaked info" stating that Royce was ghostwriting for Dre) and this is the version we ended up with. Soul Mann & The Brothers' "Bumpy's Lament" was cleverly sampled here, however, Erykah Badu would also sample this for her hit "Bag Lady", which is probably more memorable than "Xxplosive" if you can believe that.
*4 out of 5*

7. "What's The Difference"
Featuring Eminem and Xzibit, Background Vocals by Phish

Dre, Em and Xzibit work this HIGHLY dope production with equally dope verses, showing what sets them apart from everyone else on the mic. Speaking of Dre, in a classy move, he dismisses the previous beef with the late Eazy-E ("I'm still wit you, I miss you and that's just being real wit you"), clearly showing he was finally at peace. (There also was an apparent unreleased version of this song that featured Hittman. Man, if he was on this version with Dre, Em AND Xzibit, the results would've clearly spoke for themselves.)
*5 out of 5*

8. "Bar One" (Skit)

9. "Light Speed"
Featuring Hittman, Background Vocals by Ms. Roc and Knoc-Turnal

"Light speed, blazin chronic through the galaxy/Hydro, doja, chocolate Thia weed/Or we might be, sippin' on gin or Hennessey/Fuck that, where that new shit, the chronic iced teas"

Short, sweet and to the point, this joint is truly for the smokers, nothing more or less.
*4 out of 5*

10. "Forgot About Dre"
Featuring Eminem

On the album's second single, Dre really goes in, utilizing the "double time" flow for the first time in his career, and calls out those who constantly thought he had "fell off" during his hiatus from hip hop. During his two tight verses, penned by Em, he acknowledges the failure of the Firm album (".....y'all better listen up closely/All you niggas that said that I turned pop on the Firm flop/Y'all are the reason that Dre ain't been getting no sleep!") as well as throwing a shot at the most fickle fans  (".....with their hands out, lookin' up to him like they want somethin for free/when my last CD was out you won't bumpin me.") The song was so good it won a Grammy Award for "Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group" in 2001.
*5 out of 5*

11. "The Next Episode"
Featuring Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg, Background Vocals by Kurupt

I'm sure this banger was a fixture in the strip clubs, lol. Either way, this joint still bangs and I guarantee you when the DJ throws this on in any club in California, everyone loses their collective minds, lol. 2:42 well spent. (This song was also nominated for a Grammy Award in 2001 for "Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group", but "Forgot About Dre" won.)
*5 out of 5*

12. "Let's Get High"
Featuring Hittman, Kurupt and Ms. Roq

I know this is another one for the smokers, but man I really like this one, even with its abrupt ending after Ms. Roq's tight verse. At first I wasn't too crazy about it, but it ended up growing on me after a while. 
*4.5 out of 5*

13. "Bitch Niggaz"
Featuring Snoop Dogg, Hittman and Six-Two

Well, Dre, Snoop, Hittman and Six-Two have NO love for "bitch niggaz", not sure how much more I can add to it other than saying that all involved work the guitar laced production well, plus it bumps in such a low-key way with a well-timed Audio Two sample courtesy of "Top Billin."
*4 out of 5*

14. "The Car Bomb" (Skit)

15. "Murder Ink"
Featuring Hittman and Ms. Roq, Background Vocals by Traci Nelson

Without involvement from Dre, this was a showcase for Hittman and Ms. Roq. I feel they could've done more with the story aspect of the song, but what we got was something very good and fast paced.
*4 out of 5*

16. "ED-Ucation" (Skit)

17. "Some L.A. Niggaz"
Featuring DeFari, Xzibit, Knoc-Turnal, Time Bomb, King T, MC Ren and Koka

Now, let's start with the good on this song, which there's a lot of. All involved bring dope verses, including the creative use of opening lines (during the verses) from classic West Coast songs, such as "Straight Outta Compton", "6 In The Morning", "Jackin' For Beats" and "Passing Me By." The disappointing thing here is that MC Ren did NOT kick a verse and for him being on a Dre track for the first time since 1991, I'm not sure what happened there but it would've been sweet for him to lace this joint with a verse (I'm deducting .5 for that). Other than that, this collaboration of West Coast talents "packed heat."
*4.5 out of 5*

18. "Pause 4 Porno" (Skit)

19. "Housewife"
Featuring Kurupt and Hittman

"You can't turn a ho into a housewife", well, that's certainly something I've heard before, many times. Needless to say, this one finds the men talk about their encounters with women, further adding credence to that statement. Not a wack song, but at this point in the album, it's a clear low point.
*2 out of 5*

20. "Ackrite"
Featuring Hittman

This was a solo showcase for Hittman, who had done a fairly decent job with his appearances on this album. This could've been much better all things considered.
*3 out of 5*

21. "Bang Bang"
Featuring Knoc-Turnal and Hittman, Background Vocals by T.Y. Nichols

"Everyday it's the same thing, L.A. ain't changed" -Dre

Another decent song, somewhat highlighting how things can get in Cali. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
*3 out of 5*

22. "The Message"
Featuring Mary J. Blige and Rell
Produced by Lord Finesse

The album closes with this heartfelt tribute to Dre's brother Tyree. It's a NICE tribute with top notch produce provided by DITC's own Lord Finesse. And without sparking any controversy, this song was written by Royce da 5'9. Here are some direct quotes from an interview Royce did with

"I wrote the verses, but I didn't even know about [how Dr. Dre's brother was killed]. I was rapping about an experience that I had. I wrote the song and when I went in the booth and laid it, Dre was quiet. And I remember thinking to myself, 'Damn, why is he so quiet?' That's when the whole thing about his brother came up. He didn't sit me down or say, "yo, I wanna rap about my brother.' It just happened. I was rapping about a friend of mine who got shot in the neck. Nobody knew what it was for. So when I found out about it, I was hitting his pager. Everything I said on that song, I absolutely went through."

*5 out of 5*

23. "Outro"

Wow, almost a lot to talk about here. First off, this is an excellent, supremely mastered album, featuring a who's who of West Coast talent on the scene at the time (I wonder why Daz was missing on this one) lacing some terrific production from Dre and Mel-Man (props to Lord Finesse for his sole contribution). As The Source magazine once said about this album, "it's one big West Coast party" and I still agree with that. Speaking of The Source, that brings me to their rating for this album and mine. In their 150th issue, this was one of several albums that they decided to go back and award the once coveted "5 mics" to (I believe they gave this one 4 1/2 mics like they did "The Chronic" years back). Again, this is excellent album and a great return for Dre, but in my view, I'm honestly going to give this one a strong 4.5 star rating, which is a definite change because I previously rated this at 5 stars. There's lots of good things on this album, however, the needless skits and a couple of filler tracks towards the end affects the rating just a bit, as well as Ren inexplicably not kicking a verse on "Some L.A. Niggaz." Continuing on, the album was a success for Dre, debuting at #2 on the "Billboard 200" chart and moving an impressive 516,000 units in its first week, achieving a Sextuple Platinum certification in excess of 7,800,000 units sold as of August 2015 (don't be surprised if this hits Diamond one day). All in all, it still holds up today and it comes with a strong recommendation.

From here, it would be several years before we see another Dre album, which turned out to be 2015's "Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre", reportedly his last, instead of the LONG AWAITED "Detox" album, which will never see the light of day quite frankly (don't be surprised if there are some tracks in a maximum security vault somewhere). No matter what the case, Dre, you're my #1 favorite producer of all time, THANK YOU for all of your contributions since the beginning days of N.W.A.

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