At the explosion of gangsta rap was one singular atom — N.W.A. The group, led by Eazy-E but amply backed by Ice Cube, MC Ren and, of course, Dr Dre, were a seismic shift in pop culture. They reflected the street life that had enveloped many corners of America and they shone a light directly into the eyes of those trying to cop a look. Their debut album Straight Outta Compton not only changed the face of rap but of pop culture as we know it.
However, like the Sex Pistols before them, the group were seemingly so combustible that an implosion was always as likely as an explosion. Eazy-E, it soon emerged, had become more concerned with stacking his own paper than being a group leader and, when rumours of his backhanded deals to gain more points on contracts than the other group members became facts, a mutiny was afoot. Ice Cube would be the first to leave the group, delivering parting shots via diss track as he did. But, soon enough, Eazy would lose his most valuable asset in Dr Dre.
Dre took his beats and ventured into a solo career that would produce few albums but a multitude of different artists. His 1992 record The Chronic is still considered a masterpiece and reflected a tumultuous time for the producer. The album is considered one of the finest hip-hop albums of all time and ranks among Dre’s best work. Its strong affiliation with weed smoking has always made this a stoner’s choice but the LP is actually born out of something much deeper.
The record can be easily seen as Dre’s divorce from N.W.A. Not only did it feature soon to be legendary Snoop Dogg on the classic song ‘Nuthin But A “G” Thang’ but had countless references to Eazy and his former group. While there are tidbits and nuances within these songs, in a candid interview from 1992, Dre laid down his feelings for N.W.A. plain and simple.
In the rare footage below we see Dre playing around with some beats while working in the studio. Recorded in 1992, the questions soon begin to arise about N.W.A., when asked to discuss, Dre made the group feel like a simple garage band. “Even at the beginning of N.W.A., we wasn’t that serious. I wasn’t serious with it until we got picked up by a major label. At the beginning, we were just like ‘let’s make a record, sell them out the truck and get us something to eat’.”
Then the most pointed question of the conversation comes up, “how close was Dr Dre and the N.W.A. family?” It’s clear this isn’t a comfortable experience for Dre as his eyes flicker from floor to ceiling, searching for the right answer. “Back then, me and Cube was close. Everybody was kinda close in the studio because that’s where we’d spend most of our time. We’d go in the studio and be there for 12 hours, and then, after that, you don’t wanna see a motherfucker no more.”
“We still hang out every now and then,” he finishes the answer, with a knowing smile that suggests he is lying through his teeth.
Watch below as Dr Dre reflects on his time with N.W.A. in rare studio footage from 1992.