Dr. Dre’s ‘The Chronic’ Album Turns 20
When Dr. Dre released his debut album, 'The Chronic,' in 1992, he just left N.W.A. due to a contractual dispute with Ruthless Records and founded Death Row Records with co-founder Suge Knight. The Compton native was determined to prove to himself and the world how great of a producer he really is -- and he succeeded several times over with 'The Chronic.'
'The Chronic,' arguably, changed the sound of hip-hop forever when it was released on Dec. 15, 1992. The collection, which took gangsta rap to MTV and mainstream radio airplay, is considered the benchmark on how to produce and mix a classic hip-hop album.
But would you believe that this LP almost didn't happen? After Dre left N.W.A., he was locked in a legal battle with Ruthless Records, trying to get out of his iron-clad contract. This made Dre virtually untouchable by other record labels who wanted to do business with him but didn't want to inherit his legal issues.
Thankfully, Interscope Records executives Jimmy Iovine and David Cohen wanted to invest in the project after they listened to early demos of 'The Chronic.' The honchos reportedly paid off Ruthless Records, Eazy-E and Jerry Heller and allowed Priority Records to distribute the album.
"Before I got with Interscope, I recorded the entire album, artwork and everything and went into almost every label, and everybody was slamming doors [in] my face, talking about, 'This isn't hip-hop; you're using live instruments," Dre told XXL magazine in 2008 about his earlier struggles. "It had me second-guessing myself. I remember being on my balcony with Nate Dogg, listening to my record like, 'Is this s--- good or not?' I had no idea it would do what it did."
The 16 tracks that appeared on the landmark album were some of the most unabashed rap songs of its time. Sonically, nothing compared to 'The Chronic' -- the whining synthesizers, grooving bass lines and ingenious samples of '70s songs from Parliament/Funkadelic and Leon Haywood records help create the influential sound commonly referred to as G-Funk (or gangsta funk).
Dre also enlisted a motley crew of upstart rappers who all had a chance to shine on the album including the D.O.C., Kurupt, Lady of Rage, RBX and Dat Nigga Daz. But it was the languid rhymes of a lanky emcee by the name of Snoop Doggy Dogg (aka Snoop Dogg) that became everyone's favorite hip-hop character.
The late Nate Dogg contributed hooks and background vocals on the effort. "I think ['The Chronic'] was a classic because everyone on it was hungry. Everybody put their all into 'The Chronic' album," he told LA Weekly. "This was going to build a record company; this would build all our careers. The best records came out when we were starving."
The album's hit singles 'Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang,' 'Let Me Ride' and "F--- Wit Dre Day' featured the dynamic duo of Dre and Snoop rapping of the California hood life -- drop-top Impalas, weed sessions, backyard BBQs, girl-watching and beating down busters.
'The Chronic' also ventured into the dark side. The chaotic-sounding 'The Day the N----z Took Over' offers a vivid picture of the rebellion that took place during the L.A. Riots. 'Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat' is a haunting song littered with gun violence and 'B----es Ain't S---' is unapologetically misogynistic.
The album sold over four million copies in the United States, and 8 million worldwide making it one of the biggest-selling gangsta rap albums in the '90s. In 1994, Dre won a Best Rap Solo Performance Grammy Award for 'Let Me Ride.'
After 'The Chronic,' Dr. Dre's hit-making run continued with Snoop Dogg's 1993 debut opus 'Doggystyle' and later with the late Tupac Shakur's 1996 double album 'All Eyez On Me.'
For Snoop, appearing on the 'The Chronic' meant that he had finally arrived. "The first time I performed songs from 'The Chronic' was with Dre in a small concert in Compton," he recalls. "And man, these motherf---ers were singing every word of the songs. And that made me feel -- damn, my life is right here."
Twenty years later, it still ain't nuthin' but a G thang, baby.
Watch Dr. Dre's 'Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang' Video Feat. Snoop Dogg
Watch Dr. Dre's 'Let Me Ride' Video
Watch Dr. Dre's 'F--- Wit Dre Day' Video Feat. Snoop Dogg