Our "Classic Rotation" series revisits classic albums on the anniversary of their release. Today we take a look at Dr. Dre's classic album, "2001", which dropped fifteen years ago on November 16, 1999.
It was 15 years ago today that Dr. Dre released 2001, his 20-track, star-studded, cinematic LP.
“It's a movie, with different varieties of situations. So you've got buildups, touching moments, aggressive moments…It's got everything that a movie needs,” Dre said of the album.
There may not be a better-executed concept in hip-hop. For 68-minutes, Dre & co. take you in to the minds of some gangster, holding back nothing as they tell some of the most violent, misogynistic, gory and all-around inappropriate tales on an LP that truly earned it’s ‘parental advisory’ tag.
The album was birthed out of the media making Dre feel like he had something to prove.
“For the last couple of years, there's been a lot of talk out on the streets about whether or not I can still hold my own, whether or not I'm still good at producing. That was the ultimate motivation for me. Magazines, word of mouth and rap tabloids were saying I didn't have it any more. What more do I need to do? How many platinum records have I made? O.K., here's the album – now what do you have to say?” said Dre.
Boy was the media wrong.
There are 48 different musicians credited on 2001, which is a great testament to what Dre was: an elite producer. The album contains a number of classic beats, many of which keep young MCs inspired to freestyle 15 years later. “Still DRE,” “What’s The Difference” and “Forgot About Dre” are just the tip of a rich album that maintains its playability in 2014 for its all-around unique approach.
The album begins with a cinematic deep note before Xzibit and Tray-Dee wil’ out over Dre’s hydraulics. This sets the scene for the ‘movie.’ We’re in South Central, in the same neighborhood that NWA came from, but with a futuristic sound. This is 2001…in the future. It doesn’t take any intro bars before Dre comes in with the infamous, “things just ain’t the same for gangstas.” Eminem, who also sings the chorus, helped ink Dre’s bars in the tune, a theme that would carry on throughout the album.
The next song takes on a new topic, women. The introductory voicemail braces you for the pimpin’ Devin the Dude and Snoop Dogg enlighten you on. They spare no details as they tell x-rated tales of their sexual encounters.
“Cut your backyard, don’t have to act hard to get the cock
And if I'm going too far, I take it out and wipe it off
And put it back up, and keep going
You tryin to hide it from your husband but I know he be knowin”
“Still DRE” follows up, a song that Jay Z actually wrote. The fact that Shawn Carter wrote this song without having a verse on it is a sentiment to the idea that Dr. Dre is a rap conductor. He doesn’t necessarily play the cello, but rather knows exactly what to tell the cello player to do. He writes the beats and extracts the best out of the likes of Shawn Carter, Calvin Broadus and Marshall Mathers.
“Xxplosive” is a fine work of beat-making as Hittman, Kurupt, Nate Dogg and Six-Two bless the mic with some more pimp talk. The verses are completely x-rated, something your mother would never have let you listen to. But that was the appeal of Dre’s music of this era, along with the likes of Eminem, Xzibit and Snoop Dogg. As a kid, which most of our readers presumably were 15 years ago, it’s as classic as sticking your hand in the cookie jar. The rush of doing something you’re not suppose to be doing was equally as fulfilling as the warm gooey cookie!
Nate Dogg also makes an appearance on “Xxplosive,” and really ties the whole thing together. Some of his smoothest crooning falls on these lines…
“All my real doggs still kick it with me
All my down hoes still tricking with me
All the true gangstas know
Nate ain't never love no hoe
All the hoodrats still shake it for me
All my true fans still checking for me
All the real smokers know
Nate ain't passing nothing but dro indeed
Real trees, chronic leaves, no seeds”
The album goes on to showcase Dre’s ace-in-the-hole of the time: Eminem. Marshall Mathers steals the show with his verses on “What’s The Difference” and “Forgot About Dre,” but his input isn’t limited there as he is credited with contributing writing skills to 5 songs.
This album was released at the beginning of Shady-mania, and helped the MC find his more serious, more maniacal voice that transitioned his artistry from the Slim Shady LP to the Marshall Mathers LP. The move that transformed Eminem from a whacky teenager to a grown MC.
There’s no shortage of now-classic moments on the album. About half the songs have a line or two that are practically a part of pop-culture. How many times have you and your homies emulated “heyayayay…smoke weed everyday”?
It's no big surprise that the samples on the album are top-notch, both perfect and obscure. Imitated but never duplicated, one fine example of sampling comes on "The Next Episode," where Dre flips a funky David Axelrod joint. "What's The Difference" dives in to French music, while "Xxplosive" sticks to soul.
The skits, like any good skit, truly compliment the album. They offer a sense of humor on the non-humorous content. Pimps and gangsters and murders aren’t funny, but like the great movie-makers of our time, Dre paints a picture worth listening to, again and again. “Ed-Ucation” tells the other side of the sexism. Much like the rest of the album, it’s a controversial, contrary way of looking at a touchy situation. But like Dre said, it is not meant to be taken too seriously.
However, just because it isn’t meant to be taken seriously doesn’t mean it isn’t, and that’s a downfall of the album. It is largely (and hopefully) unrelatable and generally disgusting if taken seriously, which music usually is. It’s kind of like the ‘Saw’ movie series in that it is a gnarly story, and maybe one you enjoy watching. But you won’t be able to relate to it on any sort of personal level like you may be able to do with Friday Night Lights.
The lack of understandable content hurts 2001's staying power, but ever-so-slightly. It is still one of gangster raps finest moments, an opus by a spearheading figure in the genre and culture. Although Dr. Dre has swayed his attention towards the headphone game (and who could blame him), he delivered a couple of fine albums over his tenure. Two perfect ones, to be exact, and a whole bunch of other dope jams -- playing an integral role in the explosion of Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and many more.
Thank you Dre.