Revolutions: Dr. Dre's "The Chronic"
REVOLUTIONS EXPLORES SOME OF THE RECORDS THAT HAVE ALTERED AND INFLUENCED THE MUSIC WORLD.
The Rock Hall and Klipsch Audio take fans deep inside these albums to showcase their significance and impact. In 1992, former N.W.A member Dr. Dre released his meticulously crafted masterpiece The Chronic. Exposing Southern California's darker side, the record was uncompromising and struck a cultural nerve that's still felt today.
Rapper Kanye West once described Dr. Dre's The Chronic as "the hip-hop equivalent to Stevie Wonder’s "Songs in the Key of Life."
Dre’s 1992 debut is a stark, eclectic record that established West Coast hip-hop as a mainstream musical force.
The album’s influence of '70s funk and soul; synth-heavy early hip-hop; and gritty rap popularized by Dr. Dre's former group, N.W.A.
The Chronic combined these influences under the aegis of G-funk, a strain of gangsta rap marked by gouging bass lines, slinky grooves and piercing synths.
Dr. Dre recorded The Chronic both at his house in Calabasas, California, and then at SOLAR Studios in Los Angeles, which was owned by record producer Dick Griffey.
The tracks "High Powered" and the laid-back "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang," both exemplified the genre's chilled-out sonics. Like many hip-hop albums, The Chronic's foundation was built on prominent samples.
The titular hook of "Let Me Ride" comes from funk legends Parliament, and "Lyrical Gangbang" samples the drum cadence from Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks."
Dr. Dre also tapped into current events for audio samples, including snippets from the TV show Perry Mason and a documentary chronicling the turbulent L.A. riots that followed Rodney King’s high-profile assault.
To construct his desired throwback vibe, Dre used talented studio musicians to add instrumental complexity to tracks. "Lil Ghetto Boy" ends in a flurry of jazzy flute trills courtesy of Katisse Buckingham, who would go on to work with artists Prince and Herbie Hancock.
In addition to establishing Dre as a solo act, the record introduced several future hip-hop stars, most notably Warren G, Snoop Dogg and the Lady of Rage.
Snoop Dogg's easygoing, fast-talking delivery and the Lady of Rage's hard-edged rhymes were especially effective on the Isaac Hayes-sampling "Stranded on Death Row."
Dre’s debut album was his own work of art: he meticulously spliced the record together by hand in the studio so that each song flows seamlessly into the next.
The Chronic's depictions of Southern California's darker side, and its references to violence, drugs and pointed digs at rivals (including former N.W.A bandmates) were uncompromising but struck a nerve.
The album sold three million copies and made the newly formed Death Row Records a cultural force for much of the '90s.
The Chronic is a watershed moment in hip-hop, a record whose impact continues to reverberate and inspire modern artists to be both audacious and ambitious.