After growing tired of the shady business practices of Eazy-E and Jerry Heller, Dr. Dre would soon follow Ice-Cube’s lead, removing the broomstick from his ass and parting ways with Ruthless Records and the pioneering gangsta rap group, N.W.A. He would soon join forces with the notorious Suge Knight and help found the infamous Death Row Records. But he and Suge’s partnership wouldn’t be all peaches and cream, and after four mammoth sized releases (which included The Chronic and Doggystyle) in a four-year stretch that would help establish the label as a hip-hop powerhouse, the good doctor would leave the Row in 1996, looking for a new place to practice his musical medicine. Not to be discouraged, Dre would take the bull by the horns, partnering with Interscope and starting his own label, Aftermath Entertainment, closing out ‘96 with the label’s inaugural album, Dr. Dre Presents…The Aftermath.
The Aftermath is a compilation album that features both established and new artists with most of the production coming from Dr. Dre and his “Soul Kitchen Staff Producers,” whom the album liner notes list as Dr. Dre, Bud’da, Stu-B-Doo, Glove, and Flossy P. The elaborate twenty-page liner notes booklet comes with pics and a brief bio of each of the artist featured on the album, with one full page displaying the Aftermath Entertainment logo with their mission statement hovering above it that reads: “WE DON’T SET TRIP, WE SET TRENDS.” The Aftermath would produce at least two singles and Dre’s Midas touch would remain intact, as the album would go on to earn a platinum plaque.
I didn’t buy the album when it came out in ‘96, which is strange because I loved The Chronic and just about everything else Dre had a hand in. I bought a used CD copy for three bucks at least ten years ago, and now, twenty-seven years after the fact, I’ll be experiencing The Aftermath for the first time.
Aftermath – The album opens with the sound of a ticking time bomb that explodes right as Dr. Dre dedicates the album to his day ones and welcomes the listener to The Aftermath (“Like we always do about this time”). Then darkly sinister synth chords come in and an uncredited man with an awesome voice for voice over work (he sounds a lot like Neil deGrasse Tyson) shares the definition of aftermath, before he and a computerized female voice, that sounds inspired by the tour guide from Midnight Marauders, gives the album a co-sign and endorsement. Sid McCoy gets off a quick verse, denouncing gang bangin’ and costal feuds (this song is where the “set trip/set trends” quote in the liner notes comes from) and effectively explains the purpose and mission of the project: “Cause keeping it real means moving the cash markets…and constantly building, and stop destroying everything that we touch and leave something for our children.” This extended intro ends with an unnecessary refrain sung by Ruben Cruz aka RC, who sounds a little tone deaf, if you ask me.
East Coast/West Coast Killas – This was the second single released from The Aftermath, and a song I completely forgot existed. RBX (who apparently kissed and made up with Dre since we last heard from him), KRS-One, B-Real, and Nas join forces to forge the supergroup billed as Group Therapy. Over chaotic music filled with emergency sirens and disgruntled undertones that sound like the perfect soundtrack for anarchy, all four emcees are out to out rhyme everybody, without costal bias. Speaking of out rhyme, Nas puts down the triple beam and takes off the Escobar suit, returning to Nasty Nas form, as he easily out rhymes his counterparts.
Shittin’ On The World – Mel-Man gets his own solo joint, as he and Dre are credited with producing this relaxed-paced funky little diddly. Mel-Man, whose better known as a producer than a rapper, doesn’t have the strongest flow, but some of his humorous one-liners (i.e. “Mel go back like Emmitt Smith’s hairline,” “Buying shrimp scampi with the food stamp” and “I’m a rich nigga still getting public assistance” (shout out to ODB)) will keep you entertained, while the amusing hook will make you chuckle at least once.
Blunt Time – RBX makes his second appearance of the night, but this time he’s rollin’ solo. Dre (with a co-credit going to Stu-B-Doo) combines demented jazzy piano chords with a haunting synth G-funk riff, placed over reduced bpm drums, which is the perfect pace for RBX to take his time and get into narrator mode. RBX may have made amends with Dre, but it appears he still had a problem with his cousin, Snoop: “The metaphors are meltin’, style is beltin’, I heard a dog yelpin’ but no helpin’.” Come to think of it, this whole song might be a diss record for Snoop. Either way, I enjoyed it.
Been There Done That – This was the lead single from The Aftermath. Dre and Bud’da (who was responsible for producing some bangers on Westside Connection’s Bow Down) cook up a laidback pristine groove in the soul kitchen, stirring in a dash of subdued conga drum rolls and a touch of devious Gargamel vibes. Dre’s also on the mic and denounces the hardcore posturing of some of his contemporaries (even though he once embraced the style himself), as he flosses and brags about his money and material possessions. Dre sounds decent enough, but the incredible production and mixing of this track sound absolutely incredible.
Choices – The first R&B joint of the evening features vocalist, Kim Summerson singing about a romantic relationship that’s grown unstable and finds her contemplating her next move. The instrumental (credited to Floyd Howard, Glen Mosley, and Ewart Wilson Jr.) is built around an interpolation of Isaac Hayes’ “Look Of Love,” which is a sample you can’t really go wrong with, but they don’t include the dramatic horn stabs from the original break, and I find myself waiting for it to show up every time I listen to this song. Nevertheless, Kim gives a solid performance over the soft flowing music.
As The World Keeps Turning – The liner notes for this one are kind of confusing, but I’m pretty sure Miscellaneous is a four-man group composed of Who, Where, Soul Kitchen Staff producer, Flossy P, and newest candidate for worst alias, Poon-Skoon. Flossy P’s responsible for the boring backdrop, while Where contributes three drowsy verses. The combination makes for a very mediocre musical experience.
Got Me Open – Hands-On was a female R&B trio comprised of Lia, Crystal and Kim, who all look gorgeous in their liner notes pic, by the way. Bud’da is credited with producing this one, as he builds the backdrop around a jazzy swing keyboard riff for the ladies to sing about a man who’s got them dickmatized, while Dre drops by to get off another flossy verse that has absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand. The ladies’ vocals aren’t as beautiful as their faces, but I enjoyed Bud’da’s instrumental.
Str-8 Gone – Veteran emcee and Compton representative, King Tee makes his first appearance of the evening on this one. Bud’da hooks up a deep-fried synth trunk rattling banger (that includes discreetly placed funky organ chords during the hook), as KT finds his pocket and gets off some entertaining light-hearted bars. This was tough.
Please – Apparently, this was released as a single from The Aftermath, as there’s a whole video for it out there on the internet. Straight out of North Philly, Maurice Wilcher makes his introduction to the world over his self-produced bluesy instrumental that finds him singing the “she did me wrong” blues. Nicole Johnson plays the heartbreaker whose done Mo dirty, asking him to take her back and pleads for another chance during the hook, while he hi-lariously tells her to get down on her knees and beg for redemption. The lyrics are kind of cheesy and Mr. Lockhart doesn’t have the strongest vocalists, but it’s still a decent song.
Do 4 Love – Jheryl Lockhart keeps the R&B theme going, as Bud’da loops up the solemn xylophones and dense bass line from The Heath Brothers’ “Smilin’ Billy Suite PT II” that you’ll probably recognize from Nas’ “One Love,” produced by Q-Tip (Tribe Degrees of Separation: check). Jheryl’s heart’s been smitten by love, and he sings about it on this record that was clearly inspired by Bobby Caldwell’s classic of the same name. It makes for a decent listen, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the blue-eyed soul man’s version, who we sadly lost last week. RIP.
Sexy Dance – After a sensuous female voice asks, “Would you like a table dance?”, Dre and Bud’da keep the sensual mood going with slick seductive instrumentation. But instead of having a female vocalist get her Adina Howard on over the sexy music, RC jumps on the mic crooning for a young lady to give him a lap dance. Like the intro, RC sounds off key with his annoying nasally vocal tone, singing corny lyrics (“Your tongue…what you did with your tongue”) and nonsensical lines (“You got me open baby, cause I’m the mastermind” and what the hell is the “R&B underground”?) that sound like a freestyle. RC’s horrendous performance makes this one nearly impossible to listen to.
No Second Chance – Whoz Who is an R&B quintet that have absolutely no relation to Who and Where from Miscellaneous. Rose Griffin and Rodney Duke construct a beautifully melancholic semi-sappy G-Funk-esque groove custom made for a sad ballad. So, with the musical stage set to make a classic R&B record, Whoz Who uses the backdrop to sing about being sad and butt hurt over a chick who refused to dance when them: “I asked if she wanted to groove, she clowned me with her attitude, she found out I roll with the Who, now there’s nothing she wouldn’t do.” Not only are the lyrics and the song’s concept corny, but the fellas’ vocals are extremely hard on the ears as well.
L.A.W. (Lyrical Assault Weapon) – The spotlight shines on a Brooklyn B-Boy named Sharief, who claims to be “The beacon of light in hip-hop’s darkest hour” in his liner notes bio. Over a decent Stu-B-Doo produced backdrop, Sharief proves to be a competent emcee, but I need to hear more from him before bestowing the titles of “beacon of light” or “lyrical assault weapon” on him.
Nationowl – Christian Nowlin transforms into the emcee, Nowl, and takes center stage. His liner notes bio paints him has a reflective and spiritual young man, and his rhymes reciprocate that energy, as he effectively tiptoes with his soft-spoken voice over Bud’da’s crashing drums and tender emo-strings. This was dope, and I’d love to hear more from Nowl.
Fame – The Aftermath concludes with a remake of David Bowie’s funky seventies hit that finds RC imitating Bowie’s exaggerated theatrically delivered lyrics and taking liberties to change a line here and there, while King Tee swings by to get off another quality verse. I actually enjoyed RC’s karaoke-like performance, but Dre (with a co-credit going to Glove) is the true mastermind behind this remake, as he brilliantly twists the whimsical funk chords from the O.G. version into a possessed G-Funk groove that sounds absolutely amazing.
With the official introduction of his Soul Kitchen staff producers on The Aftermath, Dre begins his shift from being a super producer to a bonafide production brand. The Aftermath also finds Dre shedding the gangsta image he embraced from his days with N.W.A. and wore with west coast pride through The Chronic era, as he and his Aftermath artists present a message of “peace, love, lust, and prosperity” through a mixture of hip-hop and R&B music. But whether he’s wearing khakis and smoking weed in his ‘64 or denounces costal beefs while flossin’ and boasting about his riches, if Dre’s name is involved, you best believe the music is going to sound good.
With a few exceptions (Group Therapy, King Tee, and Dre), The Aftermath showcases a crop of new hip-hop and R&B acts from both coasts and all points in between. Historically, Dre’s had a knack for discovering amazing emcees, bringing us such greats as The D.O.C., Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and Eminem. Newcomers, Sharief and Nowl show potential, but none of the freshmen emcees that appear on The Aftermath have that X factor to make them standout in the crowd. The R&B acts on the album fare even worse, ranging from bottled water plain to cringe worthy. Thankfully, the overall quality well-mixed production, along with cameos from a few legends and respected veterans, helps offset the mediocre output from the fledgling Aftermath artists.
The Aftermath is a far cry from Dre’s undisputed classic compilation, The Chronic. But it still packs enough heat to make for an overall decent album, keeping the good doctor’s name unblemished.
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I bought the album late too around 2014. When I came across it at my local Goodwill. I never really heard it just the two singles. Someone posted that for the video of Been There; Done That. The scene where they do the ballroom dance. That they interviewed Dr. Dre back in 1996. He said they practiced for a whole week for that part. I heard through J Flexx that Sharief was the reason Sam Sneed got beatdown. Because he went into studio session with 2pac and the Outlawz. Got on the mic and screamed Brooklyn! This album was never released on vinyl. Only promo copy and the singles.