Classics: The Chronic by Dr. Dre


American Water Classics: The Chronic by Dr. Dre

Thirty years. It’s been THIRTY years since Dr. Dre’s masterpiece, The Chronic was released. Some of you may think, “Wow. I wasn’t even born yet.” And then there’s some of us whose reaction is, “Oh no. I got so old. What happened?!”

For me, The Chronic was a highly influential body of work. From the videos that served as a style bible, showcasing an upgraded West Coast hip hop fashion aesthetic that seemed more evolved than the simple workwear and all black Raiders inspired attire that dominated the N.W.A. era, to the cover art bitten from Zig Zag rolling paper packaging that screamed, “Hey kids, weed is cool and you should smoke it too.” Things had sure come a long way from when Rob Base let everyone know that he, “Don’t smoke Buddha, can’t stand sess.” 

As hip hop junkies, my friends and I in the rough and tumble town of Saginaw, MI were also obsessed with this new Snoop Doggy Dogg character after he debuted on the song “Deep Cover” off of the soundtrack for the 1992 Lawrence Fishburne film of the same name. We wanted more of this guy. Badly. He didn’t sound like anyone else that existed and had a hypnotic quality. Plus the cassingle for the track acquired from Camelot Music at the Fashion Square Mall was getting excessive play on repeat and could pop at any minute. Remember, this is before the internet, kids.

Side note: “Deep Cover” was originally slated to be included on The Chronic, but it was pulled due to its “187 on an undercover cop” mantra that echoed sentiments on Body Count’s “Cop Killer” which was recently banned. To be fair, “Deep Cover” was thematic to the film and not purely directed aggression towards the police.

The Chronic starts with a self-titled intro track that gave people like me what we want: Snoop Doggy Dogg. Just straight talking sh*t. Dominated by a high-pitched whine sampled from Ohio Players’ “Funky Worm” off of Pleasure from 1972. The Chronic would also influence me to start digging into where hip-hop samples came from and give encouragement to get into bands like Ohio Players and Parliament Funkadelic, who were leaned on by every artist who jumped onto the G-Funk bandwagon. It also exposed me to comedians like Rudy Ray Moore and other “Chitlin’ Circuit” dirty joke slingers who served as inspiration for a large portion of Dre’s humorous bits that were spread across his body of work. I started digging for CDs & vinyl at the local indie record store to find these offerings, which sent me down a lifelong rabbit hole. Again, there was no internet yet to just look this stuff up. 

Even now, listening to “Funky Worm” makes me realize how much he borrowed from those “old people funny voices” on skits like “Commercial Blues” from The D.O.C.’s No One Can Do it Better. It’s my personal all-time favorite hip-hop album, as well as my favorite MC. He wrote on a laundry list of tracks in the Dre universe and...anyway, let’s save that for another time or this article will never get done.

After the intro, Dre comes out swinging immediately on the single, “F*ck with Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)”. It’s clear that the new Suge Knight captained Death Row Records’ version of Dre is not afraid to fire shots as he and Snoop take turns pulling the trigger on Ruthless Records executive producer Jerry Heller, Eazy-E, Uncle Luke, and Tim Dog. Remember Tim Dog? Probably not for several reasons, including his already shoddy career being buried here. Jerry & Eazy can’t complain. It’s estimated that due to contract disputes with Dre, they still earned a couple million dollars off of The Chronic.

To expedite the process, let’s move into a bullet point structure as you may have attention deficit issues, as do I, lest I drone on for another 25 pages dissecting every scrap of hip-hop minutiae that fills my trivial brain. If you’d like to talk about this in further depth over several beverages, comment on this thread and tag me

  • The single “Let Me Ride” comes up next, dripping with Parliament, and puts a stamp on Dre being the godfather of “G-Funk.” Let Me Ride also introduces us to RBX who, despite a massive amount of guest appearances and being heavily featured on The Chronic, never really gains traction as a mainstream artist. I could go into more depth, but c’mon, let’s not waste precious time on RBX, you guys.
  • We move to the fourth track, “The Day the N*ggaz Took Over” which I view as an extended intro to what’s coming next, seamlessly transitioning into one of the most iconic and well-crafted hip-hop offerings of all time.
  • “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang.” That video with Dre, Snoop, and The D.O.C. riding in a drop-top Impala. Snoop’s weed hat. The picnic. The Leon Haywood sample. Oh my god. Everything attached to that song is just, everything. See, this is why we’ve moved to a bullet point structure or I’ll never be able to get lunch. You know what I’m talking about, I don’t need to drone on here.
  • “Deeez Nuuuts.” Rejoice! We’re first introduced to Warren G and more importantly, yet briefly, Nate Dogg, for the first time in mainstream on this comedy interlude. Accompanied by a Rudy Ray Moore sample, we’re gifted with a punchline to be passed down through generations.
  • “Lil’ Ghetto Boy” comes in as the sixth track and offers a heavy dose of introspection and street reporting. Part of what makes the album so near perfect is its balance. There’s a constant push and pull of humor, violence, sex, serious tones, and face-value light-hearted party bangers. The curation pushes the record beyond the boundaries of being an album and into being a true work of art.
  • “A N*gga With Gun” follows up and goes down a darker road with the glorification of violence that gives contrasts to the more introspective side of the coin on “Lil’ Ghetto Boy.” It is menacing, brooding, and does not care about you.
  • “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat” continues this trio of threatening tracks. Dre, knowing we’ve probably had enough of the bullying, once again gives us a break with…
  • “The $20 Sack Pyramid.” It’s filthy. It’s as hilarious as any great sketch you’d see on SNL or In Living Color. We desperately needed this comedy relief. Unfortunately, it gives us a clear representation of just how badly The D.O.C.’s larynx was damaged in an auto accident and solidifies that his voice will probably never be the same powerful machine that it once was. Major bummer. 
  • “Lyrical Gangbang.” This is a straight trunk banger made for your kicker box. It definitely serves a purpose, but other than that it doesn’t do much for me. Not that it doesn’t do its job very well.
  • “High Powered.” Very RBX heavy. The P.Funk sample saves the day, but I’m sorry, RBX just isn’t going to be a thing, man. Ain’t nobody waiting for an RBX album.
  • “The Doctor’s Office.” I’m going to go out on a limb and say that hearing Dr. Dre’s aggressive grunts and groans during intercourse was something no one was asking for. That being said, I always laugh thinking about him recording it alone in the booth with ten other dudes watching in the studio, stoned out of their mind like, “Uhhhhhh, I’m gonna go get a sandwich or something. I don’t need to hear this.”
  • “Stranded on Death Row” swirls and pounds your ears to close out the album (presumably) with a classic “posse cut” feel. Backed by a familiar Parliament sample and the same Honey Drippers drum loop used on the opening track, Snoop’s verse is so good, it may be what inspired Dr. Dre’s sexual excitement on the previous track.
  • “The Roach (The Chronic Outro)”. Okay, now this is the end, right? A little wrap-up with RBX smoking some weed and speaking in prose bitten from a 70’s pimp film. All tied together thematically to the album with a Funkadelic sample. Brings the plane in nice and smooth.

WAIT! WHAT?! There’s another song?! This isn’t on the back of the CD! This isn’t on the back of the cassette! A hidden track! The title is concerning in nature (which this sensitive author will refrain from typing so as to not offend my mother who will somehow find this and I don’t want the phone call about it) is the secret cherry on the sundae. For good measure, final shots are fired at the individuals who chose to not bow down to D.R.E. And despite the content, it’s really, really good, and is exactly how fans should be left at the end of an album; wanting another Dr. Dre record, that unbeknownst to them, they’re going to have to wait quite a while for.

I feel the way about The Chronic that your father might have felt about Pet Sounds or Led Zeppelin III. Not that I don’t enjoy those, but for me, records like The Chronic are the sound of youth, and will always be my “classic rock.” 


Mike Burns

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