Considered by many to be hip-hop’s greatest producer, Dr. Dre (b. André Young, February 18, 1965) pioneered gangsta hip-hop and his own variation of the sound, dubbed G-Funk. His very early albums were violent but cautionary tales of the criminal mind, but Dre’s records with NWA celebrated the hedonistic, amoralistic side of gang life. Being around during the birth of west coast hip-hop during the early 1980s, Dre found himself performing at house parties and clubs with the World Class Wreckin’ Cru around South-Central Los Angeles. Wearing a Doctor’s mask when he preformed, he called himself Dr. Dre, Dre being a nickname from André. In 1986, Dre met Ice Cube. Instantly becoming good friends, the two MCs began writing songs for Ruthless Records, a label started by former drug pusher Eazy-E. Initially they were rejected by the record-buying public, but Eazy formed NWA’, with Dre, Cube, and newcomers M.C. Ren and DJ Yella, releasing their first album in 1987. Then, in 1989, with distribution from Bryan Turner and his Priority Records label (now a part of EMI), N.W.A. delivered “Straight Outta Compton,” a vicious, violent, and misogynistic record that became an underground hit with virtually no support from radio, the press, or the still hip-hop-free MTV. N.W.A. became notorious for their violent lyrics, which resulted in the FBI sending a warning letter to Ruthless and its distributor, Priority Records, suggesting that the group should watch their step. Dre would have several bad falls with the police during his life. While it seemed that the group was strong, Ice Cube suddenly departed in late 1989 amidst many financial disagreements with Dre. Suddenly the the music was in Dre’s hands. Dre left the group the next year to form Death Row Records with Marion ‘Suge’ Knight. Knight held NWA’s manager at gunpoint and threatening to kill him if he refused to let Dre out of his contract. Dre didn’t know how he got out, nor did he care, he was making music. Then Dre discovered Snoop Dogg through his stepbrother ‘Warren G’, and he immediately began working with the brilliantly talented MC. Snoop would become great friends with the Doctor and was on Dre’s 1992 debut “The Chronic” as much as Dre himself. But trouble was soon to follow. Dre grew frustrated with Knight’s strong-arm techniques. At the time, Death Row was devoting itself to Tupac Shakur’s label debut, “All Eyez on Me,” and Snoop was busy recovering from his draining murder trial. Dre, fed up, left the label in the summer of 1996 to form Aftermath, declaring gangsta hip-hop was dead. Soon thereafter, both 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. were murdered, putting a sudden end to the East Side/West Side hip-hop war, and Suge was later arrested and sent to prison. It would be at least three years before anything big came out of the great producer. It wasn’t until he began working on his 2001 album, and discovering an underground MC by the name of Eminem that Dre would make his comeback.
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