Ahead of the release of his first album in 16 years, we salute west coast hip-hop legend Dr Dre with a rundown of the producer’s 10 finest moments behind the boards…
10 Dr Dre feat. Kurupt, Hittman, Six-Two and Nate Dogg – ‘Xxplosive’
On ‘Xxplosive’, Dre flips super chilled ’70s instrumental ‘Bumpy’s Lament’ into a bugged-out weed jam. With Kurupt, Hittman, Six-Two and Nate Dogg all enjoying themselves, it’s your classic posse cut – and one Erykah Badu would later pinch on her 2000 single ‘Bag Lady’.
9 NWA – ‘100 Miles And Runnin’’
Looking to New York like never before, NWA’s ‘100 Miles and Runnin’’ sees Dre take his lead from The Bomb Squad, welding together a jarring cacophony of harsh sounds, multiple samples and jagged textures. The song bustles with relentless, almost chaotic energy, while filling in on the mic for the departed Ice Cube, Dre drops two verses, briefly alluding to the then-ongoing feud.
8 Eminem feat. Dre Dre – ‘Guilty Conscious’
Dre was better than anyone at cutting goofy instrumentals for Eminem’s surrealist shit-talking (also see: ‘My Name Is’, ‘The Real Slim Shady’), but ‘Guilty Conscious’ offered the wittiest ever send-up of Em’s burgeoning bad boy image. On top of some comedy-horror piano chords, the pair run through some immoral scenarios, with Dre playing the angel on one shoulder and Slim, the devil, on the other.
7 Snoop Dogg feat. Master P, Nate Dogg, Butch Cassidy, and Tha Eastsidaz – ‘Lay Low’
While Dre has worked sparingly on most of Snoop Dogg’s post-‘Doggystyle’ solo records, the pair’s chemistry has rarely waned when they’ve come together. Built on a bruising three-note pattern, some mild keyboard flutters and not much else, the beat on 2000 single ‘Lay Low’ underlines Dre’s ability to harness dead space. Like a classic blues guitarist, the good doctor understands that silence between notes can sometimes do more than the notes themselves.
6 Eve feat. Gwen Stefani – ‘Let Me Blow Ya Mind’
Former Roots keyboardist Scott Storch was recruited by Dre to work as a co-producer around the turn of the millennium, and it was likely Storch who brought the familiar key riff to Eve’s smooth single ‘Let Me Blow Ya Mind’. Handling the riff with kid gloves, Dre’s spotless, skeletal beat sleeks along like pure silk, punctuated by the Eve’s refined flow and a sultry hook delivered by Gwen Stefani.
5 Snoop Dogg – ‘Who Am I? (What’s My Name?)’
There’s some debate as to whether or not Dr Dre was the man responsible for the development of g-funk, but there’s no doubt as to who perfected it. Snoop’s first solo single ‘Who Am I? (What’s My Name?)’ sees Dre pick up where he left off on ‘The Chronic’ – utilising multi-layered synths, deep basslines, Shaq-sized handclaps, spaced-out talk box vocals and plenty of George Clinton samples for a track almost impossibly funky on the ear.
4 NWA – ‘Straight Outta Compton’
With systematic racism and urban mismanagement plaguing Los Angeles’s African-Americans communities, NWA’s breakthrough single bottled south-central disillusionment like never before. Dre scores the group’s angry growls with a visceral-yet-cohesive blitz of drums, synths and noisy sound effects. Not just a gritty street classic, ‘Straight Outta Compton’ was the sound of a revolution.
3 2pac feat. Dr Dre – ‘California Love’
Dr Dre’s star-making tenure with Death Row Records in the nineties hit its absolute apex with ‘California Love’, an earth-shaking ode to his home state that gifted 2pac his biggest hit single in the process. Fleshing out Joe Cocker’s 1972 track ‘Woman To Woman’ and adding g-funk overlord Roger Troutman and his distinctive talk box, this “bomb beat from Dre” saw the rappers spit instantly memorable one-liners over a verse each.
2 Dr Dre feat. Snoop Dogg – ‘Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang’
NWA may have been ‘the world’s most dangerous group’, but as he transitioned into a solo artist, Dre was out to prove that gangster rap could be the most ridiculously chill, absolutely indispensable pop music in the world. Lifting huge sections of Leon Haywood’s ‘ I Want’A Do Something Freaky To You’, the blurred-eyed ‘Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang’ made a young Snoop Dogg a star, while its ageless, intoxicating groove continues to score summer-after-summer in places far beyond the LA streets it pulled its flavours from.
1 Dr Dre feat. Snoop Dogg – ‘Still DRE’
Not only was ‘Still DRE’ this flagship single from which Dre launched his second solo album ‘2001’, it also saw the producer establish the sound that would form the base of his entire 21st century output. The buzzing synths he built g-funk on were out, replaced by a more stainless-steel sound that could still keep the heads ringin’ and low riders bumpin’. Over Scott Storch’s ringing keyboard loop and a deep bassline, ‘Still DRE’ found the good doctor rapping on place in hip-hop with assurance. Nothing connected the past, present and future of Andre Young quite like it.