Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope, 1999
REVIEW BY: Ben Ehrenreich
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/11/2006
This album is no exception and was one of the most highly anticipated albums of all time, and after taking a seven-year hiatus Dre makes 2001 one of the top ten hip-hop records ever. When breaking in new speakers or blazing down the highway in your new ride, 2001 is almost unanimously the album for the job.
On 2001, Dr. Dre trades in the funk samples of The Chronic for organs and synthesizers. Dre brings in Mr. Lean Back, Scott Storch, and his right-hand man, Mel-Man, for help on the production level. 2001 is full of highlights on production; from Scott Storch’s piano assisted “Still D.R.E.,” to the Halloween sampled “Murder Ink,” to the infamous layered sound of “Xxplosive,” fans of production will not be just impressed, but astounded.
2001 does not just set the bar productionwise, but is the landmark lyrically for gangsta rap. “The Watcher” is a great example of the lyrical potency a great gangsta rap song can have. Dre reflects on how hip-hop has changed since The Chronic and how he himself has changed. Gangsta rap these days basically has become a stereotype for hip-hop. The images of excessive violence, mistreating women, and gaudy jewelry have infiltrated the mainstream’s perception of hip-hop today, when in reality gangsta rap is defined by the attitude it possesses. Dr. Dre and Ice Cube made this genre popular with their rebellious raps and bass-heavy beats. I’m not going to pretend that the stereotypical elements are not present on this album, but it’s the way they are presented that separate 2001 from everything else.
Both “What’s The Difference” and “Murder Ink” contain elements of stereotypical gangsta rap, especially excessive violence. “What’s The Difference” is a lyrical gangbang consisting of two Dre protégés, Xzibit and Eminem. All three MC’s brag about how much better they are than everyone else, but it’s precisely this bravado that makes the song so special. The bravado brings the music back to the good days of gangsta rap, when it was about the attitude and not the image. “Murder Ink” features Hittman and Ms. Roq, who deliver a verse each, layered with such detail and interesting nuances that the listener is left confused as to how a song about violence could be so infectious.
The only weak part of the album is shallow “Xxplosive”. The subject matter and content are by far the worst on the album, but honestly it doesn’t even matter because the beat is that good. This is probably the most famous beat on the album and rightfully so. With so much emphasis on the production the lyrics often blend in and seem unimportant to enjoying Dre’s brilliance.
The real beauty of 2001 is the marriage of the lyrics to the beats. The songs just sound like they fit and each beat is carefully constructed to fit the individual’s style. 2001 truly sounds like each song is a whole, instead of one beat and one vocal, as on “Still D.R.E.” The album is laced with great guest appearances, most notably the relatively unknown Hittman, who shows up on nine songs, the standouts being “Bitch N*****” and his solo song “Ackrite.”
2001 is Dre’s best work and is better than his classic The Chronic. While no individual song compares to “Ain’t Nothin’ But A G Thang,” as a whole 2001 is more complete. If only we didn’t have to wait another seven years for his next album.