Black Music Month: Dr. Dre

June is Black Music Month and WERS at Night will recognize black musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters who have made enormous contributions to the music industry. Today, June 6th, 889@Night is highlighting Dr. Dre.

One of the most notorious and well-recognized names in hip-hop, Dr. Dre is one of the pillars of West Coast rap and modern hip-hop. Dre was born in 1965 to Theodore and Verna Young of Compton, California. He spent the majority of his young life growing up in the Compton community, and by the end of his high school years had decided on entering the entertainment industry.

By the mid 1980s, Dr. Dre had become a frequenter at the nightclub Eve’s After Dark to watch DJs and rappers perform. He performed at the club under the name Dr. J, which he adopted from the basketball player Julius Erving. It was at Eve’s where Dre first met DJ Yella, who would eventually become one of the members of Dre’s influential rap group, N.W.A. Together. Yella and Dre began to produce mixes for the Los Angeles area radio station, KDAY. Dre also joined the electro-hop group World Class Wreckin’ Cru in 1984, featuring him primarily on the turntables. This would be a great foreshadowing of the role he would play subsequently in music.

In 1986, Dr. Dre met another prolific West Coast rapper, Ice Cube. The two collaborated with another local Compton rapper, Eazy-E. Drawing in DJ Yella, MC Ren, and Arabian Prince, the six created the group N.W.A. Breaking from the elctro synths and fun rhymes of his previous work, N.W.A. focused on profane lyrics describing street violence in the rougher areas of Los Angeles. N.W.A. grew extremely popular, despite a lack of airplay and touring. They even drew attention from the Federal Bureau of Investigations who warned them about the content of the songs they were producing. However, the group began to fall apart. In 1989, Ice Cube departed from the group and it’s label, Ruthless Records, amidst a conflict of financial interests, as well as personal beefs with other members. Dre went on to produce N.W.A.’s second album, Efil4zaggin, as well as tracks for Ruthless artists Above The Law and The D.O.C.

The bees in Ruthless Records continued, and by 1991, Dre decided to depart from the label. With the help of his friend D.O.C. and then bodyguard Suge Knight, he joined Knight’s label Death Row Records, which would be considered home for many West Coast artists of the 1990s. Under Death Row, Dre met Snoop Doggy Dogg, and began production on his debut album, Doggystyle. It was at this time that Dre also released his first solo album, The Chronic. The Chronic became an essential sound to West Coast, capitalizing largely on G-funk and synths. It has since been widely recognized as a cultural phenomenon. Shortly following the album’s success, however, Dre decided to leave Death Row Records amidst claims that label boss Suge Knight was corrupt, financially dishonest, and out of control. Dr. Dre went on to found Aftermath Entertainment, which has been his home since the late 90s.

In 1996, Dr. Dre released the album Dr. Dre Presents the Aftermath. Although the album was certified platinum by the RIAA, it was not received well by fans. Dre moved in to more production and did several tracks on The Firm’s The Album. He also produced two number one songs in 1996, 2Pac’s “California Love” and R&B group Blackstreet’s “No Diggity”. Two years later, Dre signed the now infamous white boy rapper, Eminem, to his label, who would later sky rocket to widespread fame. In 1999, Dre released his album 2001, which was certified platinum six times. 2001 featured collaborations with artists such as Devin the Dude, Hittman, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, Nate Dogg and Eminem. The work was a return for Dre to his old sounds as he let the hip-hop world know he was still around – and a force to be reckoned with.

After the success of 2001, Dre moved almost exclusively to production. He co-produced six tracks on Eminem’s landmark Marshall Mathers LP, including the Grammy-winning lead single, “The Real Slim Shady”. Dr. Dre was also the executive producer of Eminem’s 2002 release The Eminem Show and his fourth studio album, Encore. He was more actively involved in the music, producing or co-producing a total of eight tracks, including three singles.

He produced the single “Family Affair” by R&B singer Mary J. Blige for her album No More Drama in 2001 and also “Let Me Blow Ya Mind”, a duet by rapper Eve and No Doubt lead singer Gwen Stefani. Another success for the Aftermath label was Get Rich or Die Tryin’, the 2003 major-label debut album by Queens, New York-based rapper 50 Cent. Dr. Dre produced or co-produced four tracks on the album, including the hit single “In da Club”. Dr. Dre also produced “How We Do”, a 2005 hit single from rapper The Game from his album The Documentary.

Currently, Dr. Dre is in the pursuit of several projects. In 2008, he released his widely popular headphones, “Beats” by Dr. Dre. He is also supposedly producing a movie with Ice Cube about the career of their group N.W.A., tentatively titled Straight Outta Compton. On the music front, his fans have for years been anticipating his final album, Detox. Work for the album dates back to early 2004 and was originally scheduled for a 2005 release. However, it has been pushed back and rescheduled several times. Producers confirmed to work on the album include DJ Khalil, Nottz, Bernard “Focus” Edwards Jr., Hi-Tek, J.R. Rotem, RZA, Jay-Z, Warren G, and Boi-1da. The first two singles, “Kush” and “I Need a Doctor”, were released in September 2010 and February 2011. With the release of these two songs, fans are praying for a final album release later this year.

Overall, Dr. Dre is one of the greats of hip-hop. He played a key role in the development and popularity of several West Coast rap’s enterprises, giving a rise to the style. Furthermore, in production career, he was the godfather behind many hits of the early 2000s that got everyone dancing. His signing artists have proved to be some of the biggest and well-credited names in hip-hop, as well. Without Dre, needless to say the music we hear today would be a completely different sound. Dr. Dre is someone all hip-hop fans should show respect for.

By Cerise Castle

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