Hip-Hop Evolution

Dec 15

HHE Transcripts: DJ Jazzy Jeff, LL Cool J, Ice Cube & More Reflect On Dr. Dre's 'The Chronic'

On December 15th, 1992, 27-year old Dr. Dre released an album that would change the entire soundscape of the West Coast, and all of its history to come. While it wasn't the first G-Funk album to be released (shout-out Big Hutch & crew), it certainly had it's impact.

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LL Cool J: "I think The Chronic was really important. I was in the studio with them when they were recording that. And I remember, you know, sitting in there, watching Snoop and them, Snoop sitting there freestyling. You know, and Dre and just everything. And I just thought it was great music, you know what I’m saying? Yeah, a lot of records like that, you know what I’m saying? This is great music. You know, that Mobb Deep album that had “Shook Ones” on, was great music. I think that the difference with The Chronic is that it really blew the doors off of the suburbs. You know what I’m saying? It was extremely impactful in the suburbs, you know what I’m saying? I think that that is the difference. You know, like a guy like Snoop, Snoop is huge in the urban community, but he really touched the suburbs in a huge way. Just the melodies, the funk, the grooves, the drawl, the California slang, which was a little easier to understand. Not quite as complex as some of the New York styles. It was a little bit more palatable but still, the subject matter was really strong, it was very focused, it was like, yo, it’s like he said, I’m gonna make a record for the projects period. And then every suburban kid got to be a fly on the wall. So they’re all in the window like, oh, look at them, you know what I mean?"

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DJ Jazzy Jeff: "One of the things that I will say about The Chronic changing the landscape of hip-hop, had a lot to do with sales. It had a lot to do the expectations. You know, hip-hop was something that, no one really cared. You know, in the beginning, we were sampling all kinds of shit, and nobody really cared. Until hip-hop started. It’s, you know, some of the hip-hop records started out-selling the records that they were sampling. And then people kind of raised up. And, you know, it kind of changed it. And I think The Chronic was one of those records that not only from a sales perspective, but a controversy perspective. You know, once you kind of make people talk about something, and you, you know, put a level of controversy on it, then people who don’t know anything about the music start to listen. And then once you started getting those ears in, then it changes everything. That was one of the greatest hip-hop records of all time, you know, to me. It was just, it was, you know, it was Dre being Dre. It was his chance of showing what he can do and how he does it, and you know, it’s like, listen, there’s Snoop and it was, I’m gonna introduce you to a whole new group of people that became household names. Like, and that... when you, any time you can go back 25 years, and people are still talking about a record as being one of the best records of all time, you did a good job."

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Yukmouth: "Dr. Dre put it on the map. Snoop and them put it on the map. I think, like when I was sellin’ dope in the ‘80s, I was on some conscious shit like yo, if you smoke weed, nigger’s a gateway drug, you gonna be smokin’ crack, you be sellin’ this shit, so I never smoked no weed at all. I started smoking weed when I became a rapper, like start going to the studios and shit. It was a part of the culture. Even before Snoop and then came with The Chronic, it was part of the studio culture. Everybody had a joint. This is before niggas had blunts. It was joints, period. Blunts is comin’ ‘til like the mid-’90s, literally. So this is before blunts. Niggas is hey, joint, anybody got a joint and shit? And liquor, it was Tanqueray or gin and juice, you know, bumpy face Seagram. So when Dre and then came with The Chronic and the gin and juice, we related, because that’s what the hood was off at the time. And then the fucking rap world, you know what I mean, just all swarmed around the weed and shit. You come with Cypress Hill, and then you got us comin’ and then you got Redman and the Method Man. Then you got... I mean, so many niggas that came up under that, but it took Dre and them to kick that shit off first. Nobody was... When the conscious days was popping in the ‘80s, Run-D.M.C. and them did not rap about weed. Kool G Rap weren’t rapping about weed. Big Daddy Kane ain’t never said shit about twisting up nothing. So that shit came with Dre, I think. And that’s popping right now because that nigger Wiz has got it licked. I mean shit! You got Wiz, you got Berner, you’ve got the fucking Curren$y, you’ve got Smoke DZA, just all of these niggas with these weed, just crazy, still got Cypress Hill. B Real was still at the helm of this shit."

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Cheo H. Coker: "The Chronic was the first record to. - and this kind of the genius of what The Chronic did - The Chronic figured out how to make a hardcore hip-hop record that was hard in sound. So hard in sound and so real in sound, that the lyrics didn’t have to be profane. And so you could get a real hip-hop record on radio. So for example, you can’t play any curses on radio. But the genius of a record like Gin And Juice, the genius of a record like "Ain't Nuthin' But A G Thang," the genius of a record of "What’s My Name," the genius of record like "Doggy Dogg World" is that all those records, "Let Me Ride," all those records were able to play on mainstream radio with no profanity, but the sound was uncut. The sound was hardcore and real. And so everything was kind of primed between those records getting huge MTV play and getting crossover play, all of a sudden The Chronic and Doggystyle are the fastest selling records in hip-hop history. The East Coast, for once, is left behind. Wait a minute. What are we gonna do? How are we gonna sound?"

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Brian Cross: "Okay, so 'It’s Not About A Salary' ostensibly ends with... the colon is put on the end of it, as The Chronic comes out. I interviewed Dre for the book. He’s working on The Chronic. You know, a Dre solo record, you know, it was gonna be an important... culturally it was going to be an important moment, no question. What’s so significant about it in retrospect and how it completely changed the music forever, is in a number ways. Okay, from the perspective of sonically what happened, around The Chronic, I think the Japanese group, Major Force said it best, and they said it afterwards. Which was that, it’s the first time somebody made a hip-hop record that sounded better on CD than it did on vinyl. Now, that might not sound like much, but what that meant is that, ostensibly, there’s a whole sonic architecture in The Chronic that really didn’t exist prior. You know, like what Marley Marl was doing, what was happening on the East Coast, what DITC, all those cats were doing, what Pete Rock was doing. When Dre come along with The Chronic, the bar is just raised infinitesimally. It’s just a whole new environment, ostensibly. And you could feel it. It wasn’t like something that only engineers knew about. It was everybody knew about it. So it sounded better, in ways that people weren’t prepared for. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is, nobody was really prepared for a hip-hop record at that moment that was gonna sell—that was that hardcore—and that was gonna sell on the level that it did, and have the kind of mainstream appeal that that record did. Obviously it makes a superstar out of Snoop Dogg, but Snoop Dogg becomes, overnight, becomes a huge pop figure. And that, that was new. That didn’t happen yet. And that’s largely, you know, this is really, this is about Dre, the power of Dre, and Dre’s music, really. This is the moment where suddenly it’s not just this sort of ragtag bunch of bad street characters. This is something that’s like, huge in pop. This is hip-hop as a popular cultural force. Not just something happening beneath the surface off to the side. So what it does is, it brings, it opens up the possibility now of, you know, hardcore rap records being played on daytime radio. Pop radio. Not college radio, pop radio. And this is huge. And then MTV falls in line. And so now, you know, it’s really the beginning of the golden era, really, this. It’s the beginning of the kind of moment where, you know, what African-American youth were doing has the potential to, you know, now there’s a crack in the door. But there’s another number of other elements to it. But the fact that Dre was doing something which was so unapologetically hardcore, if you will, that was new. You know, like Will Smith could have a breakthrough, MC Hammer could have a breakthrough, but they were... it was music that was made to work in that kind of format. This was music that was made to work in your car, in the hood, first. And it was clearly that. And so that’s the kind of, you know, that’s what’s important about The Chronic, really. But I just love the clarity with which Major Force knew it. Which is that it’s the first time a record sounds better on CD than it does on vinyl."

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Kurupt: "Oh, when The Chronic dropped, I knew then. I was like, you know what? I’m a star (laughs). I’m a star. None of us was signed. Only people signed was Rage and, no, Rage and Snoop. Rage and Snoop were the only two people signed. RBX, me, Daz, all the rest of us, we weren’t signed to Death Row. The Chronic was almost like a trial, a try-out. And if the streets like you, if the people like you, off of The Chronic, you earned a record deal. If they didn’t like you, recognize you, you’re done. You’ll never be around again. And Stranded On Death Row, Lyrical Gangbang, Bitches Ain’t Shit—these things made my future, made my career. That’s the... how I got signed to Death Row, from those particular records and making it on The Chronic. It was like the whole Chronic was strictly a trial period for all of us besides Snoopy and Rage."

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Chuck D: "I think The Chronic’s legacy was -- aesthetically, musically -- Dre had the, the smarts and the wherewithal to go in the opposite direction. And I think that’s one of the things that signified Dre, that he would go in the opposite direction against what was just popular. He wouldn’t be crazy. He would try to take the safe, popular route, but make it totally different than what was happening. I think somebody like Hank Shocklee is totally different. Hank is like Frank Zappa, you know, he will just go way to the left and says I’m gonna make you hate this, and you’re gonna end up lovin’ it. So, those are just two different techniques you know. One technique is popular. It’s for big business. The other technique is advantageous for the art."

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Ice Cube: "Well, you know, in working on this movie, 'Straight Outta Compton,' we talked about all that. And he said that he was doin’ the album during that time. And you can hear it, you can f…, you can feel it. You know, you can feel, you know, how dangerous the times are in that record. To me, the record really helped LA heal. You know, The Chronic record helped LA heal because, you know, out of the dynamic, you know, the beautiful thing that happened out of the riot, was the gang truce. The Crips and Bloods would get together in the park - you know, 800, 900 people just with nothin’ but love for each other now. They used to kill each other, but they been knowin’ each other… they used to go to school with each other, and now they back to where it’s love and it’s respect. And then this Chronic album comes out and lets everybody know that L.A. is still a party, you still can have fun no matter what obstacles you facing. We still can, you know, unite, and and have fun and celebrate the kind of life we got here in L.A. Well, it was a record that was, for the first time, not using samples as its main, um, base. It was being played. It was instruments, it was actually, you know, good production. It was the first time, you know, hip hop had accepted melodies and, and singing, and the, the merge, the true merge with hip hop and R&B in a lotta ways, so. The music was bigger and better than everybody else’s. And it was crisp, cleaner. And the grooves were more acceptable by everybody at that time. So, it just was the perfect record at the perfect time. But, it’s far from a pop record. It’s, I think, the mainstream finally accepted hip hop all the way, and just pulled it on over and wasn’t afraid of it anymore."