Review

Dr. Dre, 'The Chronic' at 20: Classic Track-By-Track Review

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Dr. Dre, 'The Chronic' At 20

Twenty years ago today, Dr. Dre changed hip-hop with "The Chronic." Billboard contributor Thomas Golianopoulous takes a look back at every song on the rapper's classic debut.

Andre " Dr. Dre" Young was in a tough spot when he started recording his debut album, The Chronic, in June 1992. Former N.W.A. cohort Ice Cube had ridiculed the 27-year-old rapper and producer on the brutal diss track, "No Vaseline" and Dre soon left the revolutionary group following a financial dispute with Eazy-E and Ruthless Records co-founder and CEO Jerry Heller. Released from his contract, he signed to Death Row Records, an unknown entity in the industry. And then there was also the stench of his attack on TV host Dee Barnes; Dre pled no contest to assault and received two years probation. Around that time, he posed on the cover of The Source magazine holding a gun to his head. But things started turning around for Dre when The Chronic was released on December 15, 1992.

The Chronic peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and spawned three top 40 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. It redefined the West Coast sound, is considered one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time and made gangster rap that was accessible to pop radio and MTV. In short, The Chronic brought hardcore hip-hop to the suburbs.

How'd he do it? First, he surrounded himself with some of the best young, undiscovered talent on the West Coast -- Kurupt, Daz, the Lady of Rage, Nate Dogg and a kid from Long Beach who'd soon be a star, Snoop Doggy Dogg. Snoop, Daz and The D.O.C. handled most of the writing duties. Some of the records, including the stunning lead single, "Nothin But a G' Thang," was party music and sold an alluring lifestyle revolving around women, weed and weather. But the album is also filled with nihilist violence. Police, females, Eazy and Jerry were frequent targets.

While The Chronic trod in well-worn themes, the album broke ground musically, ushering in a sound quickly branded G-Funk. Dre slowed things down a bit, sampled his favorite funk records from artists like Parliament Funkadelic, layered heavy synths and created a mellow groove that carried hints of danger.

Dre moved more into a producer and executive role since releasing "The Chronic," founding Aftermath Records and helping launch the careers of Snoop Dogg, Eminem, 50 Cent, The Game and Kendrick Lamar. Still, "The Chronic" casts a long shadow over his career. It took Dre over seven years to release it's follow-up, 2001  and 21 to unleash its predecessor, 2015's Compton. With The Chronic finally hitting streaming services today (April 20), Billboard looks back at Dre's magnum opus and his flawless execution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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