By Chad Hutchinson
Way before you put those eights in your trunk to bump, and 24s to scoot on in your Ford Tempo, there were ’64 Impalas hittin’ switches and the original gangsta rap album.And unless you were three years old in 1992 and never listened to anything but radio “rap” since then you probably know what album it is. If you don’t know then you need to go out today and purchase this album for your collection.
Just ask for The Chronic; even the depressed emo kid working the counter at Hastings will know what you’re talking about.
Dr. Dre’s triple-platinum album The Chronic came out in 1992 and brought gangsta rap to the suburbs of America. It also introduced Americans to Snoop Dogg, the rap diss and Death Row Records, and redesigned what hip-hop music should sound like.
Preceding The Chronic, most mainstream rap had a very up-tempo beat heavily influenced by East Coast rap, electronic beats and turntable scratching. Most people thought of Run-DMC, Grandmaster Flash and The Beastie Boys as hip-hop, but the Doctor had a prescription that changed the face of hip-hop in general.
In Let Me Ride, the third song off of The Chronic, Dr. Dre states it simple, “And no, this ain’t Aerosmith.”
The lyric is a reference to Walk This Way, a rap-rock collaboration by Run-DMC and Aerosmith. And although he does sample Led Zeppelin on the album, Dre doesn’t rap straight over rock songs. He instead relied heavily on mixing and sampling funk music, mostly George Clinton-influenced funk, for his beats.
Dr. Dre’s producing skills created a melodic feel for the songs. Since then, almost all producers have learned from the commercial success of The Chronic and incorporated or mimicked Dre’s style in one way or another.
Gone are the days of the boom box on the shoulder with the mixtape in it. In 1992, Dre ushered in the days of hard gangsta rap that touted shotguns on shoulders and pot in the pockets. This wasn’t your mom’s rap.
The album opens with one of the most infamous rap disses, F**& Wit Dre Day. Before Kanye versus Fifty, or Nas versus Jay-Z, or even the famous Tupac versus Biggie, there was Dre versus Eazy-both former members of N.W.A. Dre Day’s verbal violence was directed squarely at Eazy-E.
Until the release of The Chronic, N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton was the most widely known gangsta rap album. Before the split up of N.W.A. the group consisted of MC Ren, DJ Yella, Ice Cube, Eazy-E and Dr. Dre. The fallout of the group created a rift between Dr. Dre and Eazy, and although the two rappers got childish in their disses (with references toward both of them being gay), the threats of ruthless violence and murder (pulling a 187) set the standard for the rap diss, and it is still emulated to this day.
The rest of the album is just as gangsta, and the “G” feel is prevalent throughout the whole of the album.
Track names such as Lil’ Ghetto Boy, Stranded On Death Row, The $20 Sack Pyramid and Nothin’ But A ‘G’ Thang, show the hard street upbringings that served as the muse for the Doctor.
Nothin’ But A ‘G’ Thang became the most popular single off of The Chronic. In 1993, G-Thang went to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was later voted by Spin magazine as the “Best single of the ’90s.” G-Thang introduced America to gangsta rap, the gangsta mentality and was a huge stepping-stone for the up and coming Snoop Dogg.
The Chronic was the first of a string of successes for Death Row Records. Snoop’s Doggystyle soon followed and went quadruple platinum; Tupac’s All Eyez On Me went platinum nine times.
The Chronic opened the door for such albums and artists and it is safe to say that, without The Chronic, rap today would not be the same. Without The Chronic, rappers such as Master P, T.I., Fifty Cent, Three Six Mafia, Lil’ Wayne and countless others would never have become as acceptable or marketable to the general public. Without it, the melodic dance beat with heavy-laced bass would not be bumping in trunks or played in clubs, it would sound more like the Rick Ruben-produced rap of Run-DMC.
Without The Chronic, gangsta rap may have just faded away as a fad. If you are even a remote fan of hip-hop/rap then you should already have this album. If not, get it, because it’s been the original gangsta (OG) album since day one.