In the days before MP3 downloads and music streaming platforms, artists had the pleasure of flogging masses of plastic and cardboard to bow our shelves. Early on, vinyl records were the weapon of choice. The 12” card sleeves offer a giant canvas for visual marketing, something that wasn’t fully appreciated until the 1960s.
Artists soon came to realise that sales stood a higher chance of skyrocketing if they lost the boring black and white photographs of band members and opted for sleek images of refracting prisms and flying pigs.
These avant-garde ideas morphed through the years with countless gimmicks intending to shock, pleasure and entice potential listeners. By the 1990s, hidden tracks became an increasingly common feature of albums – the latest swindle. These tracks were placed on records or CDs in a position where the average listener might overlook their existence.
On vinyl, hidden tracks are usually unlisted and placed at the end of the final side of the record with a few minutes of silence or a locked groove shielding the song from our attention.
On CDs, some artists realised the wonders of the zeroeth track. With vinyl, the remaining space between the needle and the centre label is a fairly hefty giveaway for such shenanigans, but on CD, hidden tracks were truly invisible. Track zero can only be found by starting the CD and then rewinding past the beginning of track one. Dr Dre may well have given hip-hop their finest hidden track of all time on The Chronic.
Dr. Dre’s solo mission following success with N.W.A. began with The Chronic in 1992. With classic tracks like ‘Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang’, ‘Let Me Ride’ and ‘Dre Day’, the album was an instant classic and facilitated vocal collaborator Snoop Dogg’s rise to global recognition.
To spice up the already spicy and provocative album, Dre included a hidden bonus track at the very end. The jaunty number, ‘Bitches Ain’t Shit’, bounces forth with an unsettling air of sexism and crude imagery.