Safe to say, there aren’t many names in hip hop with the same gravitas as Dr Dre. Not only was he a member of the original rap renegades, N.W.A. alongside Ice Cube, Eazy E and MC Ren, but, later, he would deliver his own album of potent jams as well as giving a leg up to rap icons like Eminem and 50 Cent among a host more. It makes it even more unbelievable that, during the 1990s hip hop explosion, Dre avoided releasing an album.
Dre’s first album out on his own The Chronic was a masterpiece. It managed to capture the world that surrounded Dre and his contemporaries, much like Straight Outta Compton did, but with an evident evolution in production, style and narrative. It’s surprising then that he would wait until 1999 to release his sophomore record. Luckily, it was worth the wait.
The Chronic was a massive cultural shift. It saw the same gangster energy that had blasted N.W.A. into the stratosphere fire across all cylinders whenever the needle drop but it did it with guile and charm. It was a little more laid back but just as potent, much like the titular plant. The record didn’t ever truly feel like a solo album, with Snoop Dogg featured on every track, and it gave Dre — a not entirely gifted lyricist — a blueprint to follow.
In 1999, Dre returned and delivered an almost carbon-copy record: timeless, feature-heavy and likely to set the standard for hip hop for decades to come. 2001 is and should be still regarded as one of the greatest albums in hip hop history.
Snoop Dogg, now a mammoth star in his own right, returns to help out his old friend and features on four of the tracks. Snoop appears on two of the best songs on the album in ‘Still Dre’ and ‘The Next Episode’, so his impact is far from diminished. However, the critical introduction of a new white rapper named Eminem sealed the deal and brought hip hop into the mainstream once more.
Eminem had released his own record The Slim Shady LP with a ton of help from Dre and was ready to deliver his iconic hook and searing verse on ‘Forgot About Dre’ to capitalise further on this burgeoning fruitful relationship. In fact, Dre used many of the stars he’d help to coronate over the year. As well as Snoop and Em, rappers Nate Dogg and Xzibit also found spots on the album, proving that Dre was quite possibly hip hop’s ultimate kingmaker.
It all comes together to be considered one of the true greats of the genre. Though in 1999, not many people would have argued that 2001 could ever trump The Chronic with time, it has become clear that it should rightly be regarded as the greatest album Dr Dre has ever made.