Released near the end of 1992, Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” rolled up 16 tracks into the one very funky joint. After all, what’s funkier than an “old batch of collard greens?”
Already a household name by this time as a result of his stint with NWA, Dr. Dre set out to create a rap album reminiscent of a West Coast summer under the watchful eye of the notorious Death Row Records.
Seventeen years later, the feeling still seems to be getting across to some students.
For Luis Morales, a 19-year-old sophomore business major, the album reminds him of his birthplace, the southern Californian native said.
“It’s definitely something that hadn’t been done before,” Morales said. “It kept that homey feeling.”
A talented rapper capable of embracing another genre to strengthen his own, Dr. Dre performed what many musical artists already carried out, choosing to combine elements of different genres, including an incorporation of 70s era funk and soul into his sound.
Using live instrumentation and a vivid synthesizer twang for some of its tracks, “Chronic” set the standard sonic for forthcoming West Coast rap albums.
Eric Green, a 20-year-old sophomore business major, said the album demonstrated Dr. Dre’s iconic sound.
“I think it’s a classic, everyone’s heard it,” Green said. “Dr. Dre has really good beats, they’re distinguishable. He just has a signature sound, almost in all his songs. His album is the shit.”
Yet amid its influence on the rap community, “The Chronic” possessed something of a universal appeal. It didn’t matter if someone was black, brown or blue; this album not only sounded good, it made sense.
Chilled in its approach and funky in its execution, “Chronic” could play on a dusky Californian afternoon or a raucous New Jersey night, listeners feeling like a “G” every single time.
It is a collection of songs forming a soundtrack for the gangster in need of some chill time, the suburban dweller attempting to gain some street cred and even the lively stoner rolling up a fatty.
“Nothing But a G Thang,” the album’s clear standout hit, perfectly encapsulates the album’s energy, mood and sound into one slick production. The song did what many 80s bands failed to do: Make synthesizers sounds cool.
Morales said the track was groundbreaking.
“That revolutionized hip-hop. It didn’t matter where you were, it hit every region, and everyone knows that song,” Morales said.
The track also served as Snoop Dogg’s introduction to the musical universe, establishing his career as a quick-reciting lyricist and Dr. Dre’s right-hand man.
Since then, Snoop has earned the moniker of “The Godfather of Rap.” In this album, if Snoop is the godfather, Dr. Dre is the priest and in white is the album itself.
But don’t be fooled – this baptism does not rid this LP from original sin, as “The Chronic” does contain some of rap’s more derogatory—yet at this point seasonal—insults at women, gays and of course, the police.
Pejorative lyrics aimed at women are one of the reasons 20-year-old junior ethnic studies major Schermisia Chambers finds the album somewhat conflicting.
“It’s problematic because it’s derogatory towards women…it’s the image he’s speaking in his lyrics [that the] public will see,” Chambers said. “I feel like his style is good, but the overall message is not.”
Another track worth noting on “The Chronic” is “Lyrical Gangbang.”
Although never released as a single, the fat beat pounding in the background is courtesy of John Bonham, as Dr. Dre samples Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.” An appropriate sample, considering the track sounds as fresh as the running waters probably responsible for those levee breaks.
Although the fate of rap did not rest solely in Dr. Dre’s hands by the early 1990s, his innovations in the studio with “The Chronic” ensured the rap genre sustained placement in both the charts and popular culture.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Esteban L. Hernandez at Esteban.firstname.lastname@example.org.