Wising up to the dangers of working with Suge Knight, Dr. Dre left Death Row Records to set up his own label, Aftermath. It took seven years for Dre's anticipated second release to come to light and the timing couldn't of been better. With Eminem's mainstream debut dropping earlier in the year its success put Dre's name in the limelight for "finding" Eminem and gave the record a massive momentum with blinding singles like "Still D.R.E." & "Forgot About Dre", an unforgettable collaboration with Eminem that the two spitting some of their slickest verses with Dre explaining where he'd been while blasting his doubters who thought he couldn't make a "comeback". When Eminem steps up to the mic he gives one of his most vivid raps that continual grew with intensity as he violently describes the two causing havoc and dropping the "Hoping out with two broken legs, trying to walk it off" line. The timing of the record couldn't of been much better and it delivered some of Hip Hops most successful music, but beyond the shiny surface of the singles, this album has a touch of quality on its own level, inspired by a drive to prove wrong to his doubters Dre gave us his best record.
Staying ahead of the game, Dre and co-producer Mel-Man took the clean, instrument oriented direction of the bling era to a new plateau, mixing the slickest, cleanest and tightly polished sound of the time with timeless hooks and flawless songwriting that gave every song a hook and catchy instruments that would stick in the mind for years. Track after track Dre carefully orchestrates a genius balance of instruments that play of each others space, dropping in subtleties behind the leads and narrating themes through short distinctive melodies and grooving beats. Looking into the source materials you can see a large portion of this record comes from the production team alone, and where there source material is used it sometimes barely resembles the original with the tunes and melodies being reinvented on lush, charismatic instruments.
The overall mood and tone of the record is sleek, dark, smooth and grooving. Proving himself time and time again, the main theme follows Dre through the recent years as he reminds wheres hes been and stating that hes still got it through dynamite tracks and raps. As a lyricist he finds his best form here, taking a stronger presence than on "The Chronic" while showering us in classic lines and solid verses that hold up so well over time. Once again there's an array of guests supporting Dre including Snoop Doggy Dogg who appears on two of the albums best tracks, but doesn't have quite the same charm as he did last time, Eminem, Xzibit, Kurupt and Nate Dogg all bringing their best to the record.
Despite having similar blueprints to other Hip Hop records of the era, 2001 is loaded with a substance and style that's executed to perfection. Its a stronger and congruent record that knows itself s better than The Chronic did. There is even an instrumentals version available that sounds great when you're in the mood for just the beats and they hold up on their own. The record wraps up with "The Message", a moving number produced by Lord Finesse, the only one not by Dre and Mel-Man and has the classic Finesse bell ringing quietly in the background. Its a humbling tribute song to end the record on and takes it over the hour mark without a moment of filler. A genius record that solidified Dre's status in Hip Hop forever.
Favorite Tracks: The Watcher, Still D.R.E., Xxplosive, Whats The Difference, Light Speed, Forgot About Dre, Lets Get High, Muder Ink, Ed-Ucation, Ackrite, Bang Bang