Ok so before we get into talking about today’s egregious first listen, allow me a moment to talk about non-hip hop music for a sec. Outside of this week’s West Coast deep dive that has taken up a very significant part of my life, I’ve been super obsessed with Yours Conditionally (2017) by Tennis. Like, someone should take my Spotify access away because I’m wearing this album OUT. “10 Minutes 10 Years” is so……………..DREAMYYYYYY. “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar”….”Baby Don’t Believe”……WOWOWOWOW. I have a big place in my heart for indie-pop and this has been giving me a lot this week. Secondly, I had a very strong Nicole Scherzinger/Pussycat Dolls phase in middle and high school school, and I just found out a couple days ago that her album Killer Love (2011) is on Spotify, and I’ve never been happier in my life. For a really long time, it wasn’t there so I’d have to slink over to YouTube to listen to it, but it’s there in all its glory now and WOW. Miss Nicole ATE on Killer Love. I hate so much for her that she didn’t end up having a bigger music career than she does. She has the voice, the look. She writes music. Like……HELLO???? Someone owes Miss Nicole a bag!!!
Anyway. Dr. Dre. You know him. A piece of the troubled puzzle that was N.W.A., co-founder of Death Row Records, talented producer. Dr. Dre has been someone that I’ve just accepted is an important piece of hip hop, but I just had no desire to really dig into his music that much. I just always got really weird vibes from him, and come to find out, there’s a lot of domestic abuse allegations attached to him. So that’s probably why. I was very close to not including him this week, but it felt weird to not add him to the list, but I’ll try to sum up the bedazzled misogyny of this week at a later time (edit: I actually already have written about this before, but maybe it’s time for an updated write-up ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). Let’s get into The Chronic (1992) before I get upset.
1992: The Chronic
I like this project a lot! And I was almost positive that this was going to be a project that was super overrated. And it’s possible that it’s still very overrated, but this album made several points. It’s a different type of project than Ice Cube’s Amerikkka’s Most Wanted (1990) and Tupac’s 2Pacalypse Now (1991), but I’m kind of happy that I didn’t get conscious hip hop project #3 for the week. There are moments on here that touch on the the Black community’s difficult relationship with America, but a lot of the project was filled with the bragging, arrogant, overindulgent lines that I love to cleanse my musical palate with. And I actually think that makes this project more enjoyable for me. Sometimes the heavy-handedness of listening to a song like Pac’s “Words of Wisdom” can be a little…..MUCH, so it’s nice to have a project like this that you can just listen to and not think too hard about if you’re supposed to find a message in it.
There wasn’t a lot that I didn’t like about this project, but there were a few things right at the beginning and end that bugged me. He begins the project with “The Chronic Intro” and “Fuck Wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)” taking shots at different rappers, including folks from N.W.A., and normally I really enjoy a diss track, but it took up at least the first 8 minutes of the project. Which I get. N.W.A. had broken up not too long before The Chronic came out, so that means he was recording this album during (or immediately after) that really ugly process. And I love a project that reflects what an artist is going through in their lives at that moment. And really, it’s less the tracks themselves and more the choice to put them at the beginning of the project. I think it would have been more impactful to put them at the end; it could have been a nice show that the people in his past were an afterthought to him. That make sense? Another thing I hated on this project was “The Doctor’s Office.” I just don’t understand people having full sex simulation skits on their projects like this. Like….what is that doing for you? It’s awkward for me, and now I can never play The Chronic out loud! There’s this one, the one at the beginning of Lil Kim’s Hard Core (1996) (which makes more sense, but still!)…these need to be BANNED.
And my only other complaint about this project is the final track, “Bitches Ain’t Shit.” The unjarred and unhinged misogyny is really not a good look, especially because when, as I alluded to earlier, it’s mixed with Dre’s history of violence and abuse towards women (I’ll link an article by Dee Barnes here where she talks about her incident with him. Content warning, though, for graphic descriptions of what happened. But she does talk a lot about rap’s relationship with violence against women, both verbally and physically. It’s a good piece.). Like, at this point, just say you hate women, can only see them as things to have sex with, and go. Because you’re wasting time. The only thing it does is confirm who the audience is for projects like this.
On a less-aggravated note, there were a lot of things to like about this project. I really like Dre and Snoop Dogg together on this. Snoop is another really questionable person for me, that’s a hint for tomorrow’s album lol, but they make a really good pair on here. So much so that I think Snoop kind of got played a little bit because this album feels like a Dre and Snoop project, rather than just Dre’s. It reminds me of Jay Electronica’s A Written Testimony (2019), where Jay-Z was on every song, but it was Jay Elec’s project. Just scoot over a little bit and put your friend on the cover of the album too! The production was another strong spot on this project (for obvious “Dre is primarily a producer” reasons); the backdrop of every song was absolutely amazing. It’s clear that a lot of the sounds coming out of rap in the 90s, especially on the West Coast, was inspired by the G-funk that Dre had a big part in developing, including the stuff on this project. “Nuthin’ But a “G” Thang” and “Let Me Ride” are the poster children for the quintessential G-funk sound, and I have decided to marry the production on “The Day The Niggaz Took Over;” I lovvveeee a spooky-sounding rap track! The skits on here were also not terrible – outside of “The Doctor’s Office” – and I’m feeling real weird that the albums this week have been making me enjoy skits so much. The ones on The Chronic were absolutely hilarious, and if you don’t listen to anything else from this project, “The $20 Sack Pyramid” and the skit at the beginning of “Deeez Nuuuts” are worth spending a little time with.
So Dr. Dre. Very talented man. The Chronic. Very good project, but not without the hugeeeee blemish of Dre’s mistakes before and after The Chronic‘s release. He’s apologized for what he did in the past, but what does an apology mean when it’s happened multiple times? What does it mean when the Straight Outta Compton (2015) movie completely disregards that part of his life? Dee Barnes makes a really good point in her article where she says that even though the depiction of the violence done to her – or to Michel’le who he was dating at the time of the album’s release and during his time in N.W.A. – didn’t need to be in movie, there needed to be an acknowledgement that it happened; it “should have been addressed” in her words. Legends have to be held accountable for the ways they’ve hurt people. And not for the sake of preserving their legacy – obviously, with or without the acknowledgement, people like Dr. Dre will live on in glory in the eyes of the public. But they need to be held accountable for the sake of not downplaying how much of that was a part of their lives. Just like the art they created was.
We have to be able to hold both of those things as truths.
(listen to The Chronic on Spotify by clicking the image below)
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