In case folks been smoking too much heavy ‘chronic’ lately, West Coast rap founder and scary legend Andre Young, aka Dr Dre, jogs their memories on ‘Forgot About Dre’. “Who you think brought you the Eazy Es, Ice Cubes and DOCs, the Snoop- D-O-G-Gs and the group that said motherf– the police?” yammers the one-time NWA lynchpin, ex Death Row playa, inventor of – G-Funk and occasional breaker of rival producers’ jaws. Yo, indeed, big bad Dre’s back and, despite a four-year gap since his last hardcore missive, the Doc’s recent collaboration with Eminem on ‘The Slim Shady LP’ has kept his legend simmering.
So with a title like ‘2001’, Dre must surely be about to expand into the future the South Central vista of slow and dirty grooves plus sleazo dog dialogue, no? Well, no. On ‘The Watcher’ Dre sets out his position as that of a wise old observer, at the side of rap’s route of hospitalising and handcuffed new playa action. “I just sit back and watch the show”, he intones over his patented tectonic funk beats and mournful atmospherics before handing the mic to a big-league cast ranging from Eminem and Snoop Dogg to Mary J Blige.
A salon of new rap enlightenment does not ensue. A pig-headed, punk-dicked, ‘bitch’-dissing fest does, along with requisite dollops of ho-slapping violence, marijuana-addled bravado and penis-sucking wish fulfilment. Snoop Dogg and Devin aka The Dude set the grizzly tone in ‘Fuck You’, where, over twisted, minimalist George Clinton beats, the pair expound on Thug Love. “You can give me some head but keep the breakfast in bed”, they trill between grunting about how much they want to fuck “bad bitches”, and get their genitals sucked.
Though attitudinally dog-brained, there’s evidence of higher mammal action in the execution. Some nifty nastiness flows from Hittman and Nate Dogg going over the top in ‘XXplosive’ (sample: “Fuckabitch/Don’t teaseabitch/Stripteaseabitch/Eatabowlof-thesebitch/Gobbleadick…”). But it’s Snoop and Eminem who provide much of the lyrical flair, throwing out heat every time they show, Eminem cutting through particularly effectively on brass-bolstered march ‘What’s The Difference?’, where he offers a new angle on the hypothetical killing of his girlfriend. He’s going to put some sunglasses on the corpse and drive her around in the front of his car. “Fuck blood I wanna see some lungs coughed up”, he squeals on top psycho trash form.
However, as the graphic grooves stretch out, littered with gunfire, bombings and ‘copters over Compton, and the bitch-beating baton is handed from Knock-Turnal to Kurupt, ‘2001’ reaches gangsta-rap parody-level with too many tracks coming off like porno-Wu outtakes. Rare female presence Mary J Blige scale-skips on the anti-violence closer ‘The Message’ but by then Dre’s gone too far down the road of the predictably explicit. It’s powerful enough in parts, but not clever enough to give Will Smith the fear