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
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.