Friday, 14 August 2015

Dr. Dre "The Chronic" (1992)

 Departing from Ruthless Records in 92 for similar reasons to former band mate Ice Cube, Dr. Dre set out to establish his name as an individual and teamed up with notorious thug Suge Knight to form Death Row Records. Using muscle and intimidation Suge got Dre released from Ruthless, which would only be one of many "incidents", the two formed their new label and Dre got to work making what can only be described as an absolute classic record that drove Westcoast Hip Hop into the mainstream, launched the career of Snoop Doggy Dogg and marked the beginning of his ever important role in Hip Hop. The memory of N.W.A. was gone in a blink of an eye as Dre took things to the next level.

As a producer Dre is about so much more than just the instrumentals, he molds and crafts the talents of his friends he brings onto his record, guiding their potential to flourish. On every track Dre has several other rappers to support him and even on "Lyrical Gangbang", "Stranded On Death Row" and "The Roach" he gives them all the limelight without dropping a single line. It gives The Chronic a robust and versatile arsenal, keeping things fresh and varied as beat after beat explore different themes with an array of voices to decorate the track. Its a smart move for Dre who's a competent rapper but not the best and in retrospect we here more of his lyrical talents on "2001", however there's some fantastic murderous verses in the cut and Dre's flow is steady, audible with an angry force flowing through the words, coming across with real intention.

With the instrumentals Dre both created and mastered the definitive G-Funk sound with an attentive ear for the melodies and hooks that brought tracks like "Nuthin' But A G Thang" to a new level, reinventing the source samples into stylish laid back gangster tracks with strong spacious instruments and hard hitting drum grooves, the ghetto whistle delivering a remarkable melodic hook and making its presence known on the chronic after its inception on the second N.W.A. record. The bass guitar is bold, rounded and brings a lot of that Funk groove to the fold and with these elements the chemistry is ripe for a record of bombastic, thumping gangster tracks with an infectious dose of melody in places. Its Dre's attention to detail that glosses the beats to perfection with subtle and intricate details hidden between the main instruments, giving them depth without becoming overwhelming.

The Chronic has style and substance, its an attitude and a lot of it can be felt in the source material, but the charm is with Dre and how he reshapes them into a distinctive style that him and Snoop define with their hooks, violent lyrical themes and tight rhyming that has a fair few classic lines scattered throughout. "The Day The Niggaz Took Over" plays out a social commentary over the LA race riots that broke out in response to the Rodney King incident, the song bringing a ferocious energy to a dark shady instrumental. Its moment like these where Dre gets so much right however I do feel the record suffers from burnout towards the end with a few tamer tracks lowering the intensity of the first half. Dre also cuts the beats hard, flipping the momentum into a new track, not a transition I particularly like, but it hardly makes a difference. The Chronic is a classic, but not my favorite Dre record and I always loved the album cover on this one, it remind's me of the kinda of record cover that would be remembered for just that and lost in a bargain bin. Luckily, or not, there's a bomb under the hood and a classic record that wont be forgotten anytime soon.

Favorite Songs: Fuck Wit Dre Day, The Day The Niggaz Took Over, Nuthin But A G Thang, A Nigga Witta Gun, Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat, Lyrical Gangbang
Rating: 8/10