Way Back Wednesday: Dr. Dre

A weekly video spotlight on influential artists who came up pre-'00s

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Welcome to another installment of Way Back Wednesday, where I remind you about some classic artists from way back...

I grew up listening to all types of music, across genres. Dr. Dre played an integral part in my current taste. He helped to launch, and groom many careers. He was also responsible for making West Coast hip-hop what it is today, and introducing the music world to G-Funk. "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" is one of those universally recognizable tunes with its distinctive guitar and bass riffs sampled from an obscure Leon Haywood tune. The Chronic is a cultural phenomenon, possessing so much meaty content and grooving style that it remains relevant 23 years after its release. No matter what type of music you like, Dr. Dre is a name most people know. 

Background: Andre Young aka Dr. Dre, was born and raised in Compton, Calif., a hometown city he'd make a popular and controversial topic for years to come. Young cut his teeth in the music game with the World Class Wreckin' Cru, which churned out several hits from the mid-1980s, most notably "Turn Off The Lights." After releasing an EP and LP, WCWC's members went their separate ways, and that prompted the launch of Dre's unbelievable career. He also gained an important skill during his tenure with WCWC — that of DJ/producer. Dre recruited Yella to form what would later become N.W.A. After making two EP's and three albums with that notorious rap group, Dre left the group after butting heads with fellow member Eazy-E. His abrupt departure from N.W.A. and beef with Eazy made national news and spurred feuds between several other rappers. Despite the odds — two groups behind him, controversy stirred up by his lyrical content in N.W.A., a legal battle with well-liked former friend and group-mate Eazy E — Andre Young managed to come out on top.

Notable Albums: In 1991, he joined forces with Suge Knight. and together, they established one of the most dominant record companies of the '90s, Death Row Records. As co-founder and launching artist of Death Row, Dr. Dre was able to produce an album the way he wanted to. Just a year later, he dropped first single "Deep Cover," and introduced the world to Snoop Dogg. "Deep Cover" also became the theme song for a film of the same name that came out that year starring Laurence Fishburne. Right before Christmas of 1992, Dr. Dre finally released his solo debut, The Chronic, introducing a style of rap that was different than the usual, both lyrically and musically. The Chronic was a game changer. Its first single is arguably one of the most well-known rap songs of the '90s, "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang." Once again he collaborated with up-and-comer Snoop Dogg, the two trading verses over that funky Haywood sample. "Dre Day" and "Let Me Ride" were both released as singles, too. The former was a response and dis record aimed directly at Eazy-E and Luke. Their feud continued for a few years, but it only fueled more record sales and popularity for Dr. Dre. The Chronic was certified platinum in less than a year, and has sold more than 8 million copies. It's not only a classic hip-hop album, but the launchpad for the several artists prominently featured on it.

Five years later, Dre reunited with former N.W.A. compadre Ice Cube, and the pair dropped "Natural Born Killaz," which was featured on the Death Row soundtrack, Murder Was The Case. Dre had a knack for making hit singles for soundtracks; a year later he wrote and produced, "Keep Their Heads Ringin" for Ice Cube's star-making film, Friday.

Dr. Dre released that single record on Death Row, thanks to Suge Knight's legal battles and the death of then-labelmate, 2Pac. He launched his own label, Aftermath Entertainment, in 1996, and then dropped a compilation album, Dr. Dre Presents: The Aftermath, which proved a bit of a disappointment to fans eager to hear new Dre material and were only whetted with a few new songs. But the album wasn't about Dre, it was about introducing and exposing rising talent. The Firm, a supergroup that featured Nas and Foxy Brown, issued their album under Aftermath, and Dre handled production for several songs. It was met with generally negative reviews.

Then came along Marshall Mathers. Dre's discovery of Eminem propelled his image, finances and overall music biz power. Eminem signed with Aftermath and released The Slim Shady LP in 1999. The album kept Aftermath afloat for a long time and 1999 proved a strong year for the Doctor and his label. Later that year, he released his follow-up album, 2001. Now personally, I think it's a great album, but it obvioulsy doesn't compare to The Chronic. The G-Funk sound first introduced on his debut was expanded here. Once again handling the brunt of the album's production, Dre's signature was felt throughout. "Still D.R.E," "Forgot About Dre," "The Next Episode," and "The Watcher" were all hit singles that pushed album sales to almost 8 million in the U.S. alone.

Dr. Dre only released two studio albums during the '90s, but his impact on the music industry was colossal, and it remains to this day. The number of artists he's signed and careers he's helped jump start, is impressive — Snoop Dogg, Lady of Rage, Kurupt, Warren G, Eminem, 50 Cent, Xzibit, The Game, Busta Rhymes, Rakim and most recently, Kendrick Lamar. Did I leave anyone out?

"Deep Cover"

"Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang"

"Dre Day"

"Let Me Ride"

"Natural Born Killaz" Feat. Ice Cube

"Keep Their Heads Ringin"

"Still D.R.E." Feat. Snoop Dogg

"Forgot About Dre" Feat. Eminem


Which Dr. Dre track is your favorite? Would you be excited to see a new album from him?

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