Following his well-publicized split from N.W.A, Dr. Dre took to musical hibernation in his LA studio in ’92 and by the end of the year ‘The Chronic’ was rolled and, no doubt, ready to smoke.
And what an early Christmas present it must have turned out to be for hip-hop zealots on both coasts, unbeknown to them the first devotees to G-Funk. Characterized by low-slung, sine basslines and waspish synths juxtaposed against the gun-slanging, gangster tendencies of their Californian troubles, the production was a revolution in itself. Up till then, rap’s barometer had only swung between the politically aligned prose of those like Public Enemy, party animals like Beastie Boys and Rakim’s calm yet sample-engulfed classics. In contrast, Dre’s ‘Chronic’ was fortified by strong roots in ’70s/’80s funk buddied with a taste for real instrumentation.
The album was significant in leapfrogging Snoop Dogg, Daz Dillinger, Kurupt, Nate Dogg, and Warren G into the limelight. Snoop in particular. The pair first met when Dre’s half-brother and rapper, Warren G, introduced them to each other. Both Snoop and Warren had attended the same school along with now deceased G-Funk legend and vocalist, Nate Dogg.
Albeit a solo project, Snoop’s auxiliary work was an essential jigsaw piece. His arrival alleviated much of the vocal pressures on Dre, allowing him to concentrate on tweaking that seamless bump that each of the sixteen tracks flaunted at their leisure. Not too much to forget whose album it was though. Take ‘The Chronic (Intro)’, for instance, which straight after the starting gun reeks of Mafioso steez and Cadillac Eldorado leather. Snoop narrates about Compton life, throwing superlative insults at Eazy E and N.W.A before lurching into the dank cusp of ‘Fuck Wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)’ where, again, he lends a helping hand. That pivotal bond also culminated in G-Funk anthem ‘Nuthin’ But a “G” Thang’ that magnetized listeners from the moment they heard him say, “Ain’t nuttin’ buh a gee thang, bayyy-bay.” The video for it went out to capture as opposed to just staging what West Coast life was about. As video director, Dwight Patillo, commented: “We just tried to keep it as loose as possible and get the little nuances that just popped up and happened. Nobody knew that Warren G was gonna be doing what he was doing in the video at that time. The little kid [that you see in the video] actually just got into the moment and was grooving to the music all on his own.”
It was more than just gangbanging on the menu though. Those sixty-three minutes of LA riots-inspired riddims tightly wove in commentary on race, women, flossing and of course the most potent marijuana in the mainstream consciousness. Dre’s bravado drawl and adept production not only oozed composure but also mapped the trademark sound for the Pacific strip. It too paved the way for other alumni from Compton’s school of hard knocks, including a certain Kendrick Lamar, who is now sowing seeds for his own potentially fruitful career here in 2012 and beyond.
For those not around at the time, all it takes is a quick jaunt around Rockstar’s GTA: San Andreas game with Radio Los Santos on the go to experience the familiarity of modern, golden era West Coast hip-hop. Influences aside, ‘The Chronic’ lives on as one of rap’s greatest achievements. Anything which twenty years on still has us wishing we could go to one of those house parties has to be something special.
Words: Errol Anderson
DR. DRE - ‘THE CHRONIC’
RELEASED: DECEMBER 15th 1992 PRODUCER: DR. DRE
1. ‘The Chronic (intro)'
2. ‘Fuck Wit Dre Day (and everybody’s celebratin’)’
3. ‘Let Me Ride’
4. ‘The Day The Niggaz Took Over’
5. ‘Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang’
6. ‘Deeez Nuuuts’
7. ‘lLl’ Ghetto Boy’
8. ‘A Nigga Witta Gun’
10. ‘The $20 Sack Pyramid (skit)’
11. ‘Lyrical Gangbang’
12. ‘High Powered’
13. ‘The Doctor’s Office (skit)’
14. ‘Stranded On DeatH Row’
15. ‘The Roach (The Chronic outro)’
16. ‘Bitches Ain’t Shit’
1992: In the news
Bill Clinton elected forty second US President.
Windsor Castle is ravaged by fire.
The Czechoslovakia federal assembly passes Vote to split the country into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Charles and Diana publicly announce their separation.
Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love have a daughter, Frances Bean.
1992: The albums
Alice In Chains - ‘Sap’
Manic Street Preachers - ‘Generation Terrorists’
En Vogue - ‘Funky Divas’
Faith No More - ‘Angel Dust’
The Prodigy - ‘Experience’