When Dr Dre said gangsta rap was “dead”
(Credi: Jason Persse)

Old School Archives

When Dr Dre said gangsta rap was "dead"

Dr Dre has always been a visionary in the hip hop world. The Compton rapper and producer is someone who is well ahead of the curve and graced with innate know-how of when to move on to another venture. In 1996, he’d even boldly claim that gangsta rap was “dead”.

Dre saying this caused shockwaves to make their way across the musical landscape. An architect of the scene, and somebody who played an integral role in putting the phrase Gangsta Rap in the public sphere, Dre left mouths wide open when he seemingly cast it over a cliff.

All good things come to an end, and four years into Dre’s partnership with Suge Knight on Death Row Records, he knew that it was time for him to move on. Primarily, this was due to Dre growing frustrated from working with the volatile Knight, and he wanted to be in complete control of his next project.

The two men did elevate the scene to unprecedented heights after founding the label in 1992 when the two moguls brought together £250,000, which was enough to get them up and running. Dre initiated a distribution deal with Interscope, and soon enough, they were the most notorious record company in the world.

During his four year stint at the helm, Death Row turned Snoop Dogg into a household name and also released projects from Tha Dogg Pound plus from Dre himself.

Death Row also released All Eyez On Me by Tupac in 1996, which was the first release by the label’s major signing. The signing and the album would turn out to be the label’s downfall later that year when Tupac was murdered. As speculation rose, Knight received a racketeering charge for his role in the murder.

Dre could tell that the tides were turning, and he exclaimed that gangsta rap was “dead”. He left the label, created Aftermath Records, and replicated the same deal that Death Row initially had in 1992 with Interscope.

In truth, things didn’t immediately go to plan with Aftermath, and his debut album on the label, Dr Dre Presents the Aftermath flattered to deceive. However, things would change after his discovery of Eminem in 1998, which coincided with the decline of Death Row Records, and soon enough, Dre was proved right for his bold claim that gangsta rap was “dead”.

Today, Aftermath still stands as one of the most respected hip-hop labels, with Eminem at the centre-fold of the roster with the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Anderson .Paak spearheading the next generation of rap, keeping the company at the heart of culture in 2021.