Thursday, September 3, 2009
10 Years Later: Dr. Dre – 2001
Release Date: November 16, 1999
Background: After leaving Death Row Records in 1996, Dr. Dre overplayed his hand. Bankrolled by Interscope Records, Dre released a bloated self-titled compilation album that featured C-level talent and the same g-funk production from five years earlier. (Think The Chronic without a young Snoop Doggy Dogg.) Dre's star fell further with the unnecessarily negative reaction to his heavily-hyped production work with The Firm in 1997. Was I the only one in America who dug their album? Probably. In the span of 18 months, Dr. Dre had been laid to rest. Then, in 1999, he produced the smash single "B*tch Please" off of Snoop Dogg's Top Dogg album, which probably saved the careers of Dre, Snoop and Xzibit all at once. Oh, and he aligned himself with a white guy from Detroit. Street cred back!
Why I Have this Album: Was Dr. Dre a commercialized crossover West Coast act from the 1990s? He was? Well, then, here's my $12!
Best Track: "Still D.R.E." – Yeah, yeah, yeah…but, the radio-friendly (and infamously ghost-written) first single has held up pretty well. The track's ubiquitous keyboard and sparse drums comprise one of the most memorable beats of its era. And, Snoop Dogg's "sticky icky icky" outro has always cracked me up.
Worst Track: "The Message" – This is Dre's tribute to his deceased brother. I'm not knocking dude's sincerity, but these kinds of cuts almost never work in rap form. The fact that he didn't even write it doesn't help his cause. Neither does Mary J. Blige's "strictly for the appearance fee" performance on the hook.
Whatever Happened To…?: Hoo boy. Knoc-turn'al (kind of a "Snoop v2.0") appeared on one track. His Dr. Dre-produced debut album was torpedoed by rampant pre-release bootlegging(!) and never saw the light of day. Comedian Eddie Griffin – still riding the unwatchable, low-rated wave from UPN's Malcolm & Eddie – has a cameo on a pair of skits. And, can any of you identify the guy on this album who sounds like the hungry, charismatic version of Eminem? Anyone?
Best Verse: How would you feel if n****s wanted you killed?/You'd probably move to a new house on a new hill. And, choose a new spot if n****s wanted you shot/I ain't a thug – how much Tupac in you you got? – "The Watcher"
Worst Verse: Mr. Powder Puff/Your bark ain't loud enough, huh./I know Chihuahuas that's more rah-rah/HA HA! – "B*tch N****s"
10 Years Later: It doesn't have the seminal sound of The Chronic, but I listened to 2001 in its entirety for the first time in about five years today. Dre's beats are still strong even if the lyrics and subject matter are…uh, "limited".