Dr. Dre

Today is the 33rd birthday of rapper/producer Dr. Dre. Perhaps best-known

for his 1992 smash-hit album, The Chronic, Dr. Dre has thus far twice

revolutionized the hip-hop scene; first as a member and producer of

legendary gangsta-rap pioneers N.W.A and then by introducing hip-hop

to the use (and some would say abuse) of P-Funk samples on his solo debut,

The Chronic. Dre was born Andre Young in Compton, Calif. His first

break in the music business came as a member of the World Class Wreckin'

Crew, a dance hip-hop act that achieved little success in the early '80s.

In 1986, Dr. Dre met O'Shea Jackson, better known as Ice Cube, and the two

started collaborating on songs to be recorded by acts on Ruthless Records,

a label started by former drug dealer Eric "Eazy-E" Wright. The duo's first

collaboration, "Boyz-n-the-Hood" was rejected by HBO, the act it was

written for, so Eazy-E then recorded the song for himself. It was with

that momentum that the three then recruited Lorenzo "MC Ren" Patterson,

former World Class Wreckin' Crew member Antoine "DJ Yella" Carraby and

formed N.W.A (Niggaz With Attitude). 1987's N.W.A and the Posse

was a collection of the group's first singles, with "Boyz-n-the-Hood"

and the "Dopeman" -- perhaps the most severe anti-drug anthem ever recorded

--

building a buzz and separating the group from other West Coast gangsta

rappers such as Ice-T.

The group truly broke through, however, on 1989's Straight Outta

Compton, an album that is now considered a hip-hop classic. The pure

energy and

brutality of such songs as the title track, "Gangsta Gangsta," "Fuck Tha

Police" and "I Ain't Tha One" had never before been heard in the hip-hop

world and drew instant critical comparisons to punk groups such as the Sex

Pistols and the MC5. Like all classic albums, the music on Straight

Outta Compton still outshines most of the music that came in its wake.

Straight Outta Compton sold more than 2 million copies with little

support from radio or MTV and helped to shift the focus of the hip-hop

world to the West Coast. Ice Cube left the group after the success of

Straight Outta Compton died out and Dr. Dre followed suit a few

years later, but not before producing two markedly inferior N.W.A albums

with the remaining members. In 1992, Dr. Dre once again revolutionized

hip-hop by releasing The Chronic, an album that relied on the

dance-funk of P-Funk to make Dre's gangsta rap sound alluring and fun

instead of dangerous. The Chronic is also notable for introducing

the world to Snoop Doggy Dogg, a man who would go on to have much solo

success in the years to come. The album spawned three hits ("Nuthin' but a

'G' Thang," "Dre Day" and "Let Me Ride") and earned Dr. Dre two Grammys.

Dre followed up The Chronic with a series of arrests and legal

hassles, as well as with production work for Snoop Doggy Dogg. In 1996,

Dre formed a label named Aftermath and released Dr. Dre Presents ... The

Aftermath, an album that spotlighted the acts on his label and spawned

a minor hit for Dr. Dre in the form of "Been There, Done That." Last year,

Dr. Dre put in an appearance in the film "Set It Off" and produced

The Firm -- The Album, an album by the all-star rap quartet of Nas

Escobar, Foxy Brown, AZ and Nature.

Other birthdays: Dennis DeYoung (Styx), 51; Juice Newton, 46; Randy

Crawford, 46; Derek Pellicci (Little River Band), 45; and Robbie Bachman

(Bachman-Turner Overdrive), 45.