It’s not every day that an artist releases a timeless album. Only a few artists have achieved such a feat. The 1990s saw a multitude of timeless albums, as it was one of the most proactive eras of hip-hop. Bodies of work such as Dr Dre’s 2001, Doggystyle, Ready To Die and Illmatic are rightly recognised as classic and timeless projects. The 2000s saw fewer albums of this calibre. Still, works such as College Dropout, The Eminem Show and Speakerboxxx/The Love Below are classed by many as high-quality albums.
However, irrespective of the projects previously mentioned, there is one genuinely timeless album that will forever be revered: Dr Dre’s The Chronic. Released in 1992, the producer and rapper’s debut body of work is considered crucial because it signifies something more significant than just the rapper himself. The project represents Death Row Records. It marks the inception of G-funk and indirectly reminds people of the East versus West coast feud of the ’90s.
Akin to Kanye’s College Dropout, when an individual produces and vocals an album that shifts culture all by themself, they are considered a genius. This is why The Chronic is more critical than the bible to many hip-hop fans. Upon releasing the record, Dre focused on himself and put eyes on Snoop Dogg. It was the first project released on Death Row Records, and with Dre’s debut followed by Doggystyle, eyes were fixed on Death Row. With an entire nation fixated on this LA-based label, it was easy for the late Tupac Shakur to receive exposure when he joined the roster in 1994. It is fair to say The Chronic created a domino effect that launched careers.
Speaking of legendary, The Chronic is archived in the USA’s Library of Congress, meaning it is of national importance in America. That being said, no one has dared to critique the album or highlight any minor flaws, as the ’90s are a sacred era within hip-hop. When new-generation rappers disrespect artists from the said decade, figures within the culture swiftly destroy them, so most avoid speaking. However, this article will attempt to rank the project’s tracks from best to worst. Take a look at our ranking in the list below.
The Chronic ranked from worst to best:
16. ‘The Doctor’s Office’ ft Jewell & Lady Of Rage
A somewhat tasteless addition to the project, ‘The Doctor’s Office’ skit has not aged well at all. Hip-hop has been and will always be controversial, but in a world that is aiming to be socially progressive, especially concerning women, this particular skit makes for uncomfortable listening.
The skit begins with a woman telling a receptionist she has an appointment with a doctor named Dr Dre. However, the lady is told that Young is currently seeing another patient. Insistent that she wants to be seen immediately, the impatient yet intrigued female asks what is taking him so long. The receptionist responds by bluntly stating, “Well, open up the door and see his big dick f*cking somebody.” The tone and aura of the skit allude that Dr Dre is a gynaecologist, and it is quite unnerving.
15. ‘The Roach (Outro)’ ft Daz, Jewell, Lady Of Rage & RBX
One of the album’s many skit-like songs, ‘The Roach’ is a tribute to weed. With its hefty horn section, psychedelic-sounding synths, and bumping G-funk bass, its production aimed to replicate the sensation and experience of getting high. During the intro of the track we get a short lecture from RBX concerning the plant during which listeners are told, “Cannabis Sativa, haha or in the heart of LA known as the chronic! Not to be confused with the bionic, even though it does cost six million dollars.”
The chorus of the song interpolates the P-funk track ‘Want To Get Funked Up’. However, although the melody and cadences stay the same, the lyrics are altered to “Make my sh*t the chronic, I wants to get f*cked up.” The song perfectly aligns with the album’s main subject matters, those being LA living and weed. An apt outro for the album.
14. ‘The Chronic (Intro)’ ft Snoop Dogg
Made by an angst-filled 27-year-old Dr Dre, the intro to The Chronic shows Young’s drive to prove his haters wrong and outshine Eazy-E and Jerry Heller. ‘The Chronic (Intro)’ throws subtle yet obvious jabs towards his former crew member. In the album cut, Dre clarifies that the project is “dedicated to loyal homies!”
Over a thumping G-funk beat with Dre’s signature gliding saw synth, Snoop Dogg aggressively declares, “Nine deuce! (’92), Death Row Records! Creepin’ while you’re sleepin’ / N*ggaz Wit Attitudes…nah loc…n*ggaz on a mission!” Snoop made a blatant stab at N.W.A. here. With the track’s dark bass loop and the sound of a prison cell door slamming shut, it is a rather menacing track that undoubtedly sets the tone for the rest of the album.
13. ‘High Powered’ ft Daz, Lady Of Rage & RBX
Track number twelve of The Chronic, this song epitomises the early-’90s production of Dr Dre. Furthermore, upon hearing the instrumental alone, one would immediately know it came out of Los Angeles. With its gliding high-pitch synths, it’s a quintessential 1990s track. Dr Dre provides an aura of aggression in the song that is far from his usual chilled-out delivery.
Although it’s not the best track on the album by far concerning lyrics, production-wise, it most certainly reminds one of LA in its sunny heyday. You can thank the Ohio Players for the rise and fall synth. Dr Dre’s use of ‘Funky Worm’ on N.W.A’s track ‘The Dope Man’ was the first time anyone had heard a gliding, legato electronic synth incorporated into hip-hop.
12. ‘Lyrical Gangbang’ ft Kurupt, Lady Of Rage & RBX
For reader clarification, the title ‘Lyrical Gangbang’ could be interpreted differently from what it actually means. In LA culture, to ‘Gangbang’ is to be part of a gang hence the prefix “gang” and to bang, which is onomatopoeia-derived slang for shooting a gun. Unlike ‘The Doctor’s Office’, this track is not sexual. The album cut opens with a public service announcement that declares, “This should be played at high volume in a residential area!” However, what listeners then find is a track that is not G-funk.
The instrumental for ‘Lyrical Gangbang’ gives fans a beat that is stylistically closer to New York boom-bap. This is not to say the song is bad. However, it most definitely stands out among a G-funk-filled project. Lady of Rage delivers a fiery verse over the heavy backbeat as she raps, “On the wick-wack, f*cked up suckers you can’t trust / When I pick up, I lick up, your face gets smacked up!”
11. ‘Stranded On Death Row’ ft Snoop Dogg, Kurupt & Lady Of Rage
Although The Chronic is considered a purely G-funk album, it isn’t. With a filtered fuzzy bass that punches and the screams of people meeting their maker after being on Death Row, this track is undeniably haunted. Every emcee on the posse cut raps aggressively about how they metaphorically ended up on Death Row, and what’s even better is that as each new act graces the microphone, listeners hear the clink of a key, bringing us that ever bit closer to feeling like we’re in the cell.
The lyrical content of this track is menacing and aggressive. The first verse delivered by Kurupt is chilling as he heatedly proclaims, “I’m stackin’ and mackin’ and packin’ a ten so / When you’re slippin’, I slip the clip in!” Dr Dre doesn’t actually feature on the song itself although it was produced by the musician.
10. ‘Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat’ ft RBX & Snoop Dogg
This heavy-duty record is a classic. Following a slow, progressive acoustic guitar segment accompanied by a flute, listeners are hit with a vicious vocal that screams, “N*gga Are You CRAZY?!!” After which, the track begins to bump. With a DJ scratching a horn section in the background, the track’s beauty its in its simplicity.
With plenty of space, we can hear the anger of Dre as he declares, “Sixteen switches for the niggas in my hood / Seventeen shells so I make it understood / Stay back, lay back, way back in the cut / Ya come outside, nigga, ya gettin’ fucked up!” On this track Snoop raps his well-known rap, “and I never hesitate to put a nigga on his back”, which features on “Who Am I (What’s My Name?).” It is a line Snoop went on to repeat on a number of his projects.
9. ‘The $20 Sack Pyramid’ ft Snoop Dogg, The D.O.C & Big Tittie Nickie
This skit is a playful yet gangster parody of the popular 1970s TV game show, The $10,000 Pyramid, except instead of the large sum of $100 Grand, the contestant is playing for a bag of cannabis worth $20 and a $35 gift voucher for the Compton car boot sale. In Dre’s hood take on the show, listeners hear a contestant named Duck Mouth (voiced by The D.O.C.) rack his brain over clues given to him by the host, OG Henny Loc (voiced by Big Tittie Nickie).
Online music publication Complex, named ‘The $20 Sack Pyramid’ as the best hip-hop skit of all time. A visual version of the skit is even featured at the beginning of the ‘Let Me Ride’ music video.
8. ‘A Nigga Wit A Gun’ ft The D.O.C & Snoop Dogg
The track begins with Young sending a man to meet Lucifer. Listeners then get a cacophony of mean intimidating bass riffs, vinyl scratches and an intense drum pattern. Over this evil-sounding track, Dre barks with venom about the tribulations of simply trying to survive as an African-American on the streets of Los Angeles.
Speaking about his need to carry a gun, Dre proclaims, “D-R-E, a motherf*cker who’s known for carryin’ gats / And kick raps that make snaps, adapts to any environment that I’m located at / If you see me on the solo move, believe that I’m strapped / Four-four, tray-eight or AK-47.”
7. ‘Lil Ghetto Boy’ ft Daz & Snoop Dogg
‘Lil Ghetto Boy’ is track number seven of this iconic album and is an interesting listen. The song plunges listeners into a cacophony as a man surrounded by his frustrated community preaches about how they can lift Black people out of poverty and empower them. As the clamouring continues the listener can hear him proclaiming, “”Save your money, quit paying motherf*ckers for Jheri curls / Save your money, start your own business!”
With a funky groove and an ingenious arrangement with flutes and gliding, high-pitched saw synths, ‘Lil Ghetto Boy’, as one can infer from its title, speaks to the life of an impoverished adolescent who receives a prison sentence. The chorus interpolates Donny Hathaway’s song of the same name that hears the Chicago vocalist wearily sing, “Little ghetto boy, playing in ghetto streets, what ya gonna do when you grow up and have to face responsibility?”
6. ‘The Day The Niggaz Took Over’ ft Daz, RBX & Snoop Dogg
Released in 1992, ‘The Day the N*ggaz Took Over’ is a reference to the Riots that took place across LA following the acquittal of the police officers that beat and physically abused Rodney King. The song contains audio from the news concerning the riots.
On the track, Dre and Snoop describe how despite LA’s extreme gang culture with all its loyalty, the acquittal brought African-Americans with different affiliations together to fight for a common cause. Dre speaks about this in his verse as he raps, “Sitting in my living room, calm and collected / Feeling that gotta-get-mine perspective / ‘Cause what I just heard broke me in half / It’s bloods, crips on the same squad… It’s time to rob and mob!”
5. ‘Deeez Nuuuts’ ft Snoop Dogg & Daz
A half-song and half-skit, this track opens with a funny phone conversation between a young Snoop Dogg and a lady. Following this unexpected call, a Rudy May Moore sample plays before listeners get hit with a hefty bass riff. Already laughing from the intro listeners are immediately hit with an unbelievably catchy melody.
Concerning a signature sonic, the fat, George Clintonesque synthesised bass is the backbone of Dre’s early productions. Of course, the high-pitched saw synth featured in tracks such as ‘Nuthin But A G Thang’ and later ‘Gin And Juice’ was also a key component. But this track is a prime example of Dr Dre and epitomises Young’s sound.
4. ‘Bitches Ain’t Shit’ ft Snoop Dogg, The D.O.C, Kurupt and Daz
One of the final tracks of the album, leading us up to the outro, on this track, Dre takes yet more shots at his former friend and collaborator Eazy-E. He, of course, also takes some cheap shots at his former manager Jerry Heller. Speaking in reference to his old friend (real name Eric Wright) and Heller viciously, Young raps, “B*tches ain’t sh*t but hoes and tricks / Lick on these nuts and suck the d*ck!”
He then proceeds to go even further during the chorus. Dre was the aggressive individual that bridged the brief but important period between the dissipation of N.W.A. and the arrival of Tupac Shakur.
3. ‘Let Me Ride’ ft Snoop Dogg
‘Let Me Ride’ earned Young his first-ever Grammy. The track is an ambient reggae-fused track that includes Dre’s signature, high-pitched saw synth. The backbeat of this trackis a punchy, dynamic drum pattern accompanied perfectly by a P-funk, George Clinto style bass riff.
The track describes the dark side of LA’s driving culture and highlights it’s good when you’re driving at noon down Sunset Boulevard. However, that’s not the reality of Los Angeles life. The song features lyrics such as “Creepin’ down the back street on D’s / I got my Glock clocked ’cause n*ggas want these,” The chorus hears a young female sing, “Swing down sweet chariot / Stop and let me ride”, which is followed by a reassured “Hell yeah,” from Dre — a great track.
2. ‘Dre Day’ ft Snoop Dogg
‘Dre Day’ is one of the more direct songs featured on The Chronic and is known primarily as a one of many diss tracks aimed at his former N.W.A counterpart Eazy-E and Jerry Heller. The music video for the track sees the rapper (real name Andre Young) accuse Eazy-E of cheating him out of money. Moreover in the video, an Eazy-E lookalike acts as Jerry Heller’s butler. It also shows Dre holding them both at gunpoint.
The instrumental of ‘Dre Day’ samples the George Clinton song ‘Atomic Dog’ which is also featured in Snoop Dogg’s ‘What’s My Name?’. The song peaked at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1993 but has since been certified gold by the RIAA.
1. ‘Nuthin But A G Thang’ ft Snoop Dogg & The D.O.C
An iconic song that effectively started the legendary G-funk subgenre. ‘Nuthin But A G Thang’ is an undeniably smooth and relaxing song that reflects the slow chilled nature of Los Angeles. Recorded at the Death Row studios in Tarzana, ‘Nuthin But A G Thang’ was written primarily by Snoop Dogg and produced by Dr Dre. The track samples the 1975 funk hit, ‘I Want’a Do Something Freaky to You’ by Leon Haywood and ended up becoming a smash hit for Dre.
The song was one of the first-ever G-funk tracks to enter the top ten and truly marks the beginning of an empire. The laidback melody of ‘Nuthin But A G Thang’ made it a cross-genre track that got played in clubs but also on R’n’B radio pushing Dre and Snoop into the limelight even more.
You can listen to the entire 1992 below.