The Chronic

Dr. Dre

Interscope, 1992

REVIEW BY: Shane M. Liebler


The good Dr. Dre knows a lot.

Dr. Dre knows funk. He knows streets, bitches, blunts, etc. He made them gangsta rap staples. He knows where you live.

Dre also knows what white dudes like. His career exploiting the inexplicable suburban yearning to belong to a culture completely foreign to that audience is proof. The tenure begins with his era-defining Chronic, which kicked off a legacy that brought the undiscerning ears of mainstream listeners, particularly white guys and gals, the hydroponic humming of Snoop Dogg and the outrageous kitsch-free flow of Eminem.

The Chronic is certified classic because of its raw power more than its artistic value. “Eat a dick,” isn’t a battle cry or subtle prod to the system. The day-to-day reality that Dr. Dre so bluntly assaulted the Billboard-buying public with on tracks like “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” is still sobering 15 years on.

It’s hip-hop. It’s business. It’s life. How this made him millions and shaped the preferences of millions of pop chart purchasers in the years that followed is as puzzling as it is remarkable.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But, it worked. Even the whitest of crackers can dig self-assured rhetoric like “Now call it what you want to / You fucked with me / Now it’s a must that I fuck with you.” The confidence pouring out of virtually every verse empowers the listener; the burping synth bass and soaring keyboard riffs make ‘em dance.

“We have your motherfuckin’ record company surrounded / Put down the candy and let the little boy go,” Dre decrees on the album-opening single “Fuckin’ Wit Dre Day.”

And just like that, Compton had its full-length anthem and the rest of America had a party record. It sounded just as good in the trunk of a Detroit Cadillac as it did in a So Cal low-rider.

Dre had plenty of space to stretch out his vocal skills, but it’s the young Snoop and Nate doggs that steal the show. (Side script: Whatever happened to Lady of Rage who slayed on “Lyrical Gangbang” and “Stranded On Death Row?” Seriously.) The Chronic made “feat.” after song titles household shorthand.

Even with all the pompous fun in birthing rap vernacular like “bootylicious” and “shiznit” and skits like “Deeez Nutz” and “$20 Sack Pyramid,” there’s a dark cloud over The Chronic, released in the shadows of the L.A. riots. “Lil’ Ghetto Boy,” “A Nigga Witta Gun” and “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat” all vividly depict the fucked-up reality in South Central. Naturally, Dre offers no apologies or solutions.

“You really don’t understand, do you? Hey man, Don’t you realize in order to make this thing to work, man, we got to get ride of the pimps and the pushers and the prostitutes and then start all over again clean?” a voiceover asks on "Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat." “Niggas, you crazy??!!” interrupts Dre.

Call it punk. Call it art. Call it a hit record. Outside of his unmatched ability to draft and craft superstars like Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre’s other MO is in readapting R&B and funk classics. Standards from George Clinton, the Isley Brothers and Donny Hathaway were all mangled for the greater good on The Chronic.

The Chronic ushered in a new era for hip-hop. An era without M.C. Hammer. An era beyond N.W.A. It will resonate forever; as great as it is obscene, as grand as it is disturbing.

Rating: B+

User Rating: A-



© 2006 Shane M. Liebler and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Interscope, and is used for informational purposes only.