Jay-Z is a genius, and it’s as simple as that. He’s a self-made billionaire who rose from nothing to become one of the most recognisable figures of the last 30 years of hip hop. His talent is the tool that has elevated him so greatly, penning some of the greatest records in hip hop history. It’s not just his own work, he’s even the cerebral mind behind ‘Still Dre’.
It’s an all-time hip hop classic, and in truth, it’s Dre’s distilled definition, yet, he wasn’t even the one who penned it. Somehow, Jay-Z managed to transport himself into the mind of the N.W.A. man and write bars that you’d presume couldn’t come from anybody else but, Dre. Yet, it all came from Hova.
Dre’s beat is second to none and arguably the most definitive of his career. However, lyrically it was a masterpiece that we owe to Jay-Z. When it was released in 1999, his status had grown, and the rapper was firmly on his ascent to superstardom. When it was recorded two years previously, Hov was still available to hire, and as someone who likes to surround himself with the best emerging talent, Dre decided to get Jay on board which turned out to be a masterstroke.
Even though he’s a King on the East Coast, Jay managed to leave his persona at the door and become Dr. Dre. Snoop Dogg later spoke about being blown away by Hova’s dynamic lyricism and how he pulled off such a masterclass. “He wrote Dre’s shit and my shit and it was flawless,” he told The Breakfast Club in 2020. “It was ‘Still DRE’ and it was Jay-Z, and he wrote the whole f**king song.
“Jay-Z is a great writer to begin with for himself, so imagine him striking it for someone he truly loves and appreciates. He loves Dr. Dre and that’s what his pen showed you, that I can’t write for you if I don’t love you.”
As Snoop said himself, his appreciation for Dre allowed Jay to step into his body and write a track of such magnitude. Even though he wasn’t the one spitting on ‘Still Dre’, every word in the track came from his heart.
Speaking to LeBron James and Maverick Carter on their HBO show The Shop, Jay-Z recalled, “I’m doing Dre and Snoop’s vocals. You’ve got to have a reverence for them, obviously the music they were making, The Chronic, and all that.
“In order for me to get the essence of Dre, and Snoop, it had to be a studied reverence of what they were doing. Even to put myself in their shoes, think about that record, it came out after Dre leaves Death Row.”
Ghostwriting is an art form that is frowned upon in the rap world, but it served everybody involved best on this occasion and created a stone-cold classic. Dre is a producer first and foremost, while Jay is simply more talented with a pen. Both of them together on the same track is a lethal combination and one that never tires despite the number of times we’ve all heard it.