After selling millions of copies of their debut album Straight Out of Compton and touring the country performing at sold out shows from city to city, it became pretty apparent to Ice Cube that NWA’s manager Jerry Heller wasn’t handling business right, made evident by the fact when he came home from months of touring, he was broke as a joke. This was Cube’s cue to exit stage right. Fast forward a few years to 1992. Despite NWA selling millions of records on their next two projects A.C. (After Cube), Dr. Dre begin to see a lot of the things Cube was trying to hip the crew to a few years prior, mainly the shadiness of Heller. Dre would end up giving Eazy an ultimatum that either they get rid of Heller or he would leave the group. Eazy chose Jerry, and Dre followed Cube’s lead.
Dre would leave Eazy and Ruthless to link up with Suge Knight and his Death Row Records label (which would also end up being a bad deal for Dre, but we’ll get into that at a later date), where he would release his debut solo album The Chronic. Dre would handle all the production on The Chronic and drop some rhymes (ghostwritten by The D.O.C.), but he would rely on his new-found homie Snoop Dogg (who helped pen some of Dre’s verses as well) along with the Death Row Inmates (Kurupt, Daz, RBX, Rage, Jewel and Nate Dogg [rip]) to do the heavy lifting on the mic.
The Chronic would go on to sell over 3 millions copies, receive tons of critical acclaim (including a revised 5 mic rating from The Source [upon its release, it was given a 4.5 mic rating, but in 2002 they re-reviewed it and gave it 5 mics]) and is considered by many to be one of the greatest albums of the genre.
Did we save the best of ’92 for last?
Side note: Keeping with the weed theme, the artwork on the album cover pays homage to the logo found on Zig Zag rolling papers. Clever, right?
The Chronic (Intro) – Snoop is the first voice you hear on The Chronic, as he introduces the listener to the album and takes a few shots at Mr. Roarke and Tattoo (aka Jerry Heller and Eazy..ha!), Luke and Tim Dog, over a signature whiny Dre synth loop.
___ With Dre Day – This was the second single released from The Chronic. Dre’s instrumental is built around a snippet from Funkadelic’s “(Not Just) Knee Deep”, and he turns it into a certified banger. Snoop assists Dre on the mic ( I still chuckle every time I hear Dre’s line “used to be my homie, used to be my ace, now I wanna smack the taste out your mouth”) as they take aim at Eazy, Tim Dog, Luke Skywalker, and fire indirect shots at Ice Cube (“then we goin’ creep to South Central, on a Street Knowledge mission as I steps in the temple…spot ’em, got ’em as I pulls out my strap, got my chrome to the side of his White Sox hat”). Some of the rhymes might not sound as potent as they did back in the day, but this one still bangs.
Let Me Ride – This was the third and final single from The Chronic. Dre spends all three of his verses (with a few adlibs thrown in from his new-found patna’, Snoop) rollin’ through the streets of SoCal flossin’ in his ’64. Dre builds the instrumental around a sweet loop from Parliament’s “Mothership Connection (Star Child)” and turns it into a thing of beauty. Similar to the ’64 Impala, this song is a classic.
The Day The Niggaz Took Over – Daz, Snoop, and RBX join Dre on one of the few conscious (well, slightly conscious) songs on The Chronic. Over a dark instrumental with a pulsating bass line, Dre and company discuss the Rodney King riots and the tension between the hood and the police. This one still sounds pretty dope.
Nuthin’ But A “G’ Thang – Dre first introduced us to the smooth flow of Snoop Dogg a little earlier in ’92, with the hard-hitting “Deep Cover” from the Deep Cover soundtrack. A few months later Dre and Snoop would reunite to drop this bomb on the world, that would also be the lead single from The Chronic. Dre hooks up a smooth yet funky instrumental around a loop from Leon Haywood’s “I Want’a Do Something Freaky To You” (I love the bass line on this song), as he and Snoop tag team the mic like WWF. Bonafied classic.
Deeez Nuuuts – The title is a reference to a juvenile game one would play on a friend, where the goal is to get him to ask a question ending with “what?” or “who?” so you could respond with “deeez nuuuts”. If my memory serves me correctly, The Chronic is what made the joke popular from coast to coast back in the day. The song starts with Warren G “Deeez Nuuutting” a chick on the phone, before the beat drops and you hear a sample of Dolemite telling a joke about nuts; and I don’t care how many times I’ve heard the joke, it’s still hi-larious. Snoop acts as the facilitator on this one, as he’s responsible for the hook and introducing each party before they step up to the mic; his contribution may seem minimal to the song, but along with Dre’s beat, he’s the engine that makes this thing go. Dre bats first, Daz goes second, and Dre returns to spit the third verse, before Nate Dogg makes his debut and closes out the song, singing in his signature simple but dope vocal tone. Dr. Dre’s instrumental is a certified banger. Despite the content being a little juvenile, this song is still fun and bangs as much today as it did nearly 25 years ago.
Lil’ Ghetto Boy – The good doctor builds this backdrop around a vocal and musical loop from Donny Hathaway’s song of the same title (only Donny’s version actually uses “Little” as opposed to “Lil” in the song title). Over a calm and melancholy backdrop, Snoop and Dre speak from the perspective of young black men growing up in the hood, who are influenced by the violence, drug dealing and gangbanging in their environment. Neither Dre or Snoop try to put a positive twist or give it a happy ending, but instead just tell it like it is. One of the few serious songs (or songs that should be taken serious) on The Chronic. Love it.
A Nigga Witta Gun – To kick off the second half of The Chronic (I first bought this album on cassette back in the day, and vividly remember this being the first song on the b side), Dre takes a short guitar loop from Johnny Hammond’s “Big Sur Suite” (even though the liner notes credit the loop to “Big Sir Sweet”; the loop is actually from the same song Premo sampled for the instrumental on the interlude “24-7/365” on Gang Starr’s Daily Operation) and turns it into a nasty bass line that creates the mood for Dre’s heartless vocal and cold verses. This is a slept on (or forgotten) banger.
Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat – This one opens with a sound bite from the classic seventies Blaxploitation movie The Mack; then Olinga’s positive message is shot down when RBX (I believe) responds to the sound bite with “nigga, is you crazy?”. Then Dre’s slow thumping instrumental (the liner notes give credit to Daz for programming the drums on this one) comes in as he threatens to pop you and leave you flat on your back. Snoop assists on the catchy hook, which partially imitates the sound Dre’s gun makes when he begins to spray, which also matches the song title. This one is pretty decent, but if I had to take one song off of The Chronic, this would be the one.
The $20 Sack Pyramid – This interlude is mildly amusing the first time you listen to it. It’s kind of sad to hear The D.O.C. speak with his damaged vocal cord on this one. I wonder how many more classic albums he would have blessed us with had he not got into that tragic accident.
Lyrical Gangbang – Dre takes a simple drum loop from Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks”, and turns this backdrop into one of the hardest instrumentals in the history of hip-hop. The Lady of Rage, Kurupt and RBX each spit a verse in that order. All parties involved sound up to the challenge, but Kurupt walks away with this one. This song still knocks; and even though it might not be heralded with some of the other classics on The Chronic, it can stand up to any other song on the album.
High Powered – Am I the only one that found it interesting that out of all the members in the Death Row camp, RBX is the only one that gets a solo joint on The Chronic? I guess it’s not completely a solo joint, as Daz does some talking at the beginning and end of the track, and Rage does a little chanting at the beginning of the song. I remember back in the day everybody would go bananas over RBX’s line “have you ever heard of a killer? I drop bombs like Hiroshima” *insert explosion sound*. Dre’s instrumental (that includes his signature whiny synth keyboard sound) is solid and RBX does a solid job of spitting over it.
The Doctor’s Office – Useless interlude.
Stranded On Death Row – Bushwick Bill stops by for this one. He doesn’t kick a verse (thank God!) but instead offers up a few words of wisdom; well I don’t know how much wisdom his words contain but it sounds cool within the context of the song. Dre’s instrumental starts out with an ill organ and then morphs into and uneasy but interesting backdrop that sounds completely different from any other song on The Chronic. Kurupt takes verse one, with RBX, Rage and Snoop following in that order. All of them sound solid, but RBX takes the title on this one (yes, he actually sounds better than Snoop on this one).
The Roach (The Chronic Outro) – Dre recreates the instrumental to Parliament’s “P.Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)”, as RBX talks about the wonderfulness of the cannabis sativa for four and a half minutes. Not a great song, but I’ll give it a pass, since technically it’s an outro. Plus the instrumental is pleasant and I hear, very accommodating for those who indulge.
Bitches Ain’t Shit – This is a hidden track on The Chronic. Over a dark monster Dre backdrop, Dre, Daz, Kurupt and Snoop all kick a verse about worthless bitches they know. Snoop gets the last verse, rightfully so, as he steals the show with a heartfelt verse about a chick named Mandy May who did him dirty. Jewel wraps this one up, singing and even drops a few explicit rhymes, as the song comes to an end. Yes, most of the content is juvenile, but this one still sounds tight, and acts as a nice bow tied around this nearly perfectly wrapped present call The Chronic.
I don’t care what coast, state, country, or planet you’re from, The Chronic is easily one of the top 5 hip-hop albums of all time (I’ll let you slide if you say top 10, though). Back before Dr. Dre became a production brand name, he was arguably the greatest producer to every make a hip-hop beat, and that ability is on full display throughout The Chronic, as his crisp sonic sound would set a new standard for production excellence. No, Dre isn’t a great emcee, and it’s no secret that he doesn’t write his rhymes, but he has a decent rap voice, and Snoop and D.O.C. make him sound decent on the mic. But he doesn’t have to sound great, as Snoop and the Death Row Inmates take care of the bulk of the rhyming duties, and serve justice to Dre’s brilliant soundscape. Some of the lyrics might sound a little juvenile and not as potent as they did nearly 25 years ago, but there is no denying the power of Dre’s production, which is guaranteed to keep your face screwed and your head nodding.
In the liner notes Dre gives “a special shout out to The D.O.C. for talking me into doin’ this album”. I would like to thank you as well D.O.C. For without your push the hip-hop world may have been robbed of one of its greatest masterpieces.
Did The Source Get It Right? In ’92 they didn’t. For credibility sake, it was wise of them to go back and give it the 5 mics it rightfully deserved.