Dr. Dre is not only one of the most influential figures in hip hop history, but also one of the most talented. In 1988, he masterminded the N.W.A.’s legendary debut album, Straight Outta Compton, which set the bar for hip-hop records. However, the man who had his fingerprints all over the majestic masterpiece isn’t particularly proud of his creation.
The album would show the world what West Coast rap was all about, providing a voice to people in mainstream culture that never existed before the earth-shattering release. Although gangsta-rap had been prominent to people in the States for a couple of years before the album’s release, N.W.A. evolved the sub-genre into an uncontrollable beast with their debut record.
The sheer firepower was there for everyone to hear from the moment that the needle dropped on the album as Dre combined with Ice Cube, Yella, Eazy E and MC Ren to create an all-time classic. The group were pioneers, taking gangsta rap from being a niche genre and onto the international stage.
Together, they painted a picture of what life was like on Compton’s streets and soaked the record in unbridled authenticity. Their brutal honesty gave kids from all around the world a taste of Californian life as they’d never heard it before. Critics of the record remain few and far between, but Dre, who also produced Straight Outta Compton, once denounced the project: “To this day, I can’t stand that album,” Dre jaw-droppingly said in a 1993 interview, according to the book Original Gangstas. “I threw that thing together in six weeks so we could have something to sell out of the trunk. Back then, I thought the choruses were supposed to just be me scratching,” Dre scathingly added.
Admittedly, the comments are somewhat staggering to hear, especially considering in recent years, Dre has been more than happy to get the old band back together, even wheeling out a biopic, which they named after the legendary album in 2015.
It’s likely that time has been a healer, allowing Dre some distance from his debut creation. Over thirty years have passed now, and he can enjoy it for what it is without his perfectionist ways preventing him in the way from him enjoying Straight Outta Compton.
The split of N.W.A. in 1991 was about as messy as it gets, and it’s safe to say that Dre couldn’t care less for anything that Easy-E was involved in, even if it meant disowning his own work in the process — Dre was now a solo superstar who didn’t need to cling on to his previous success. Following the release of The Chronic in 1992, Dre broke free from the shackles of Straight Outta Compton and was firmly standing on his own two feet.
As the years have passed, Dre’s stance has immeasurably softened. Even if he still holds reservations about some of the bars or aspects of the production — seemingly, he has understood just how culturally Straight Outta Compton was in 1988 and how it remains such a pivotal record 30-years later even if it has the occasional imperfection.