With some genres you don’t want to start with the masters. A lot of the time the real kings of their respective genres are also the ones who exemplify all of the purest elements of that genre and, therefore, don’t often make music that newcomers can fall into with ease. This is the reason that I did not select a Pink Floyd album for the Prog Rock day or something more extreme for my Metal selection on the first day. While I wouldn’t say that this means that it is best to start with somebody who is bad at making music in their particular genre, sometimes it can be good to start somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. When it comes to rap music the guy that I will be writing about today, Dr. Dre, is somewhere in the middle.
Here’s an interesting fact: Dr. Dre isn’t a doctor at all, he’s just a guy who makes music. His real name is Andre Young and he grew up in Compton California where he started out in the music game by DJing clubs before he joined a rap group called World Class Wreckin Cru. Dre might be best known for his work with the supremely influential and important rap group NWA where he was the resident beat cooker, or, in layman’s term, producer. As solo act following his time with NWA Dre found some pretty notable success. In 1992 he released an album which is now universally considered a rap classic called The Chronic. Haters would say that Dre fell off, but he didn’t actually release another solo project until the extremely fruitful year for art of 1999. That album would go on to be revered among the greats of hip-hop, packing its 68 minute runtime with world class instrumentals, deliciously funky and catchy hooks, and simple and smooth rhymes which even someone who hasn’t ever listened to rap could keep up with. That album is today’s pick for this month’s Musical Training Plan: 2001.
Let’s talk about why 2001 is a good rap album to introduce somebody to rap music. Firstly, the production on this album is great. Dr. Dre shines in the studio putting together a collection of instrumentals which contain some of his career’s best work. There are a bunch of buzz words I could use like sharp, crisp, or clean to describe Dre’s beats, but I think that the instantly recognizable sound of tracks like “Still D.R.E.” and “The Next Episode” kind of speaks for itself. The songs are fun and easy to listen to with enough variety to keep the 68 minute runtime from dragging too much. When it comes to the lyrics Dr. Dre doesn’t exactly shine, which funnily enough plays to this album’s strength as an introduction to rap album. The fact that Dre stays in his lane and doesn’t swing for the fences with Busta Rhymes or MF Doom level quick and clever verses is for the better. His simple bars with easy rhyme schemes go slow enough for anybody’s ear to keep up with but aren’t necessarily bad bars. Dre doesn’t shy away from getting some help either and over the course of the album you can find a number of features from all-time great rappers Eminem and Snoop Dogg, among others. The hooks on this album are on another level, too. Such an enjoyable album which does a great job capturing the essence of West Coast G-Funk Hip-Hop is, in my opinion, an incredible place to begin when it comes to listening to hip-hop music. One thing that I’m not as approving of is how this album stays in the hip-hop tradition of promoting violence and misogyny. Granted, compared to The Chronic and a number of other great rap albums, 2001 can be considered tame, and those themes don’t feel like the focus of the album at all, it still isn’t good. I’ve been able to listen to this album for what it is and enjoy it, but be warned before you listen to this record.
So there it is. Dr. Dre’s 2001 is an album that is won by its production value and offers a product which is as respectful and true to its roots as it was influential to all the hip-hop music that came out after it. It is funky, fun, and never fails to make me bob my head to the beat and sing the hooks out loud whenever I listen to it. I really like this album, despite its flaws and shortcomings, and hopefully you’ll enjoy this album too.
Hope you’re ready for the next episode, the last installment of this month’s MTP, an electro record.