Dr. Dre

  • Rapper and record producer born Andre Young in 1965 in Compton California.
  • Young grew up in tough neighborhoods in Los Angeles, but for the most part he stayed out of trouble, though his grades in school were poor and he frequently skipped school. After graduation, he briefly attended a radio broadcasting school, but soon he dropped out. While in high school, he frequented a local club to watch DJs and rap artists perform. Eventually, Young became a DJ at the club, using the name Dr. J (in homage to his favorite basketball player). At the club, he met Antoine Carraby (known as DJ Yella) and they began to collaborate, recording demos. Young changed his DJ moniker to Dr. Dre, keeping the Dr. from his previous alias and incorporating Dre from his actual first name.
  • In 1985, Dr. Dre and DJ Yella joined an electro hip hop group that often performed at the club – World Class Wreckin’ Cru. The group was signed to a record label, and albums were released in 1985 and 1986 that featured songs written by Dr. Dre and DJ Yella. Later in 1986, Dre and DJ Yella met rapper O’Shea Jackson (aka Ice Cube), and the following year they decided to form a new hip hop group with a gritty, hard core approach to rap music – N.W.A. Other members of N.W.A. were Eazy-E and MC Ren. They revolutionized rap music with their West Coast hip hop sound – profanity filled songs about gang violence and life on the streets, with numerous sampling of songs from other artists (without any writing credit to the sampled artists). It became known as “gangsta rap.”
  • N.W.A. released their debut album Straight Outta Compton in 1988 on Eazy-E’s own record label. Despite its complete absence from radio play, its controversial content led to its notoriety. Ultimately, it was certified 3x platinum, and Rolling Stone ranked it at #80 on their list of the Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2016, the album was the first rap album to be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The title track initially did not chart, but when the biopic film about N.W.A was released in 2015, the song re-entered the charts, reaching #38 on the Hot 100 and #9 on the Hot Rap Songs chart. Another single from the album, Gangsta Gangsta, reached #11 on the Hot Rap Songs chart. A third song, Fuck tha Police, was a protest song that gained huge publicity for its message of police brutality and racial profiling. The song was ranked #190 in Rolling Stone’s list of the Greatest Songs of All Time. In 2016, N.W.A. was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
  • A second N.W.A album was released in 1991 – Niggaz4Life. By then, Ice Cube had left the group, leaving Dr. Dre to handle most of the production of the album. At the height of the group’s popularity, Dr. Dre left in 1991 after a dispute with Eazy-E. Dre co-founded his own record label – Death Row Records. His first solo single was the title track for the film Deep Cover, featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg would collaborate on many other songs over the years. Deep Cover peaked at #4 on the Hot Rap Songs chart.
  • Dr. Dre’s debut studio album, The Chronic, was released in 1992. It was certified 3x platinum and it peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200 album chart. It featured Dre’s signature G-Funk style, which included 70s funk sound into gangsta rap music. Rolling Stone ranked the album at #37 on its GOAT list and in 2020 the Library of Congress selected it for the National Recording Registry. The singles Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang and Dre Day reached #2 and #8 respectively on the Hot 100 chart – both featured Snoop Doggy Dogg on vocals. Another song from the album – Let Me Ride – won the Grammy award for Best Rap Solo Performance.
  • For five years, Dre focused on producing for other rap artists and collaborating as featured artist on songs that topped the Hot 100 chart by 2Pac (California Love) and Blackstreet (No Diggity). In 1996, Dre left Death Row Records because of concerns that his co-owners were corrupt. He formed another label, Aftermath Entertainment, and his future releases were through that label. Aftermath also signed other prominent artists, including Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Anderson.Paak and 50 Cent.
  • His first release with his new label was 1996’s Dr. Dre Presents the Aftermath. It was a departure from gangsta rap, as Dre wanted to move on from the violence that was raging between East Coast and West Coast rap. The album sold well but fans were disappointed with Dre’s new approach to hip hop. The turning point for the record label came when Eminem signed with them in 1998. Dre co-produced three songs on Eminem’s The Slim Shady LP, including My Name Is. The album was a huge success, and Emimen remained loyal to Dr. Dre for over twenty years.
  • Dr. Dre released his second solo album, 2001, in 1999. Hits from the album included Still D.R.E., Forget About Dre and The Next Episode – all charted on the Hot 100 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts. The album peaked at #2 on the Billboard album chart, and it was certified 6x platinum. He won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for Forget About Dre, which featured Eminem on vocals. He also won a Grammy for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical for the year 2001, due to the success of this album, as well as his work as producer for albums by Eminem, Mary J. Blige and others.
  • From 2000 to 2010, Dr. Dre focused on production and guest appearances for other artists. An Dre album to be named Detox was worked on for years, but its release was delayed. In 2006, he partnered with another record company executive to launch the headphone company Beats By Dr. Dre. In 2014, Beats By Dr. Dre was sold to Apple for $3 billion, and Dr. Dre’s net worth went to just under billionaire status.
  • In 2011, a non-album single was released. I Need a Doctor featured Eminem and Skyler Grey, and it reached #4 on the Hot 100 chart – his second song to break into the top 5 of the Hot 100 chart. In 2015, after over a decade of work, Dr. Dre’s third and final studio album was released. Instead of the Detox name, it was titled Compton. It reached #2 on the Billboard album chart, and it topped the charts in eleven international locations. It met widespread acclaim from critics.
  • In the 2020s, Dr. Dre continued to produce for other artists, and in 2022 he was a co-performer at the Super Bowl halftime show. Dr. Dre was ranked #56 on Rolling Stone’s list of the Greatest Artists of All Time. I hope he has given proper props to Snoop Dogg and Eminem – their collaborations with Dr. Dre were a big part of his success as a recording artist. Certainly, hip-hop today has Dr. Dre to thank. Here’s his video I Need a Doctor – interesting because features Dre well into his forties, but it has lots of retrospective to his early days, and it is Eminem’s homage to Dre, thanking Dre for Eminem’s success.

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