REVOLT TV presents 'The Produce Section,' a column where we put the spotlight on the men and women behind the beats we love so much and their contributions to the culture as a whole. From profiling and interviewing the hottest producers of today to acknowledging the greatest producers of all-time and delving deep into their discographies, The Produce Section is the hub where beats, rhymes and life connect.
Producers have long been the backbone of rap music, providing emcees and rappers alike with the sonic backdrops over which they bare their souls and share their stories. Rap artists may get much of the fanfare and are front and center. However, without the producer toiling away behind the scenes, crafting the instrumentals; the lyrics would be reduced to spoken word and hip hop would be nonexistent as we know it.
In this edition of "The Produce Section," we cover iconic west coast producer Dr. Dre, who helped pioneer the sound of rap coming out of California over the past three decades. Born and bred in Compton, Dr. Dre became one of the founding members of N.W.A., who revolutionized hip hop with their seminal debut, Straight Outta Compton, as well as their 1991 sophomore effort, Efil4zaggin. While this period of Dr. Dre's career is essential in documenting the evolution of rap as a genre and hip hop as a culture, it would be his tenure at Death Row Records that mainly defines his legacy. Defecting from N.W.A. in early 1992, Dr. Dre would partner with Marion "Suge" Knight and found what would become the most notorious label in rap. Home to acts like Snoop Dogg, 2Pac, Tha Dogg Pound, Lady of Rage, RBX and other acts; during its prime, Death Row was a juggernaut and moved tens of millions of records that kept the west at the top of the rap food chain. And behind it all was Dr. Dre, who composed many of the label's most successful hits, which have gone on to become regarded as some of the quintessential songs of all time. While Dr. Dre's time at Death Row was ultimately cut short due to internal friction, it yielded some of his most magical moments to date and will always be remembered as his peak years as a creative.
In our latest installment of our series, we highlight 11 of Dr. Dre's most iconic beats of the Death Row Records era that define his excellence behind the boards.
1. "Deep Cover"
Compton's sonic doctor made one of the definitive beats of his career with this track, which doubles as his first ever collaboration with Snoop Dogg and song post-N.W.A.. A vocal sample of "(I Know) I'm Losing You" by The Undisputed Truth immediately jumps out at listeners, while drums from "Sing a Simple Song" by Sly & the Family Stone are outfitted with guitar strings and searing synths. All of these ingredients add up to a soundtrack cut that singularly jumpstarted the Death Row dynasty.
2. "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang"
Already regarded as one of the premier producers in hip hop history, Dr. Dre's legacy would be solidified with the creation of this languid composition. Based around Leon Haywood's "I Want'a Do Something Freaky to You," Dr. Dre adds his own wrinkles to the mix, including an amalgam of vocal samples lifted from records from acts like Public Enemy and Kid Dynamite. Released as the lead single from The Chronic, this game-changer of a record rose to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and solidified the west coast as a superpower in hip hop.
3. "The Day The Niggaz Took Over"
Dialogue from the film Birth of a Nation precedes the collage of chaos that Dr. Dre creates with this frantic track, which channels the pandemonium of the 1992 L.A. Riots. Pilfering drums from Clarence Reid's 1973 release "Living Together Is Keeping Us Apart," Dre chops and loops up the sample, pairing it with a sample of "Mr. Dream Merchant" by The Ice Man's Band. Those elements, along with clips of commentary from KCAL Action News correspondents Bree Walker and Michael Tuck, makes this backdrop one of the most underrated on Dre's resume.
4. "Bitches Ain't Shit"
For the close-out selection on The Chronic, Dr. Dre went out with a bang, building a sound-bed for him and Snoop Dogg to spin tales of betrayal. Led by tumbling snare drums, the beat also incorporates an interpolation of a bass-line from Funkadelic's "Adolescent Funk," as well as a vintage sound effect from Juice Crew member MC Shan's 1986 single "The Bridge."
5. "Who Am I? (What's My Name)"
Emerging as a bonafide star with his performance as Dr. Dre's trusty lyrical sidekick on The Chronic, Snoop Dogg needed a hit of his own to live up to the hype and elevate his stock even more. His mentor had just what the doctor ordered, delivering this jamboree of a record, which topped the Rap Songs chart and gave Snoop his first Top 10 Pop hit as a soloist.
6. "Gin & Juice"
A riff of George McCrae's "I Get Lifted" is slowed down and paired with drums snatched from "Long Red" by Mountain for this feel-good banger, which extols the joys of gin mixed with another refreshing beverage. The track became the most commercially successful single from Doggystyle, reaching platinum certification and serving as additional evidence of the boardsman's Midas touch.
7. "Doggy Dogg World"
With assistance from Chris "The Glove" Taylor on the keys, Dr. Dre crafts this smoothed out backdrop for Snoop Dogg and his Dogg Pound cohorts to style over. George Clinton's "I Didn't Come Rhythm" gets looted for its drums and gets paired with searing synths from Kool & the Gang's "Summer Madness," a combination that proves to be addictive.
8. "Tha Shiznit"
Snoop Dogg's debut presents listeners with a murderers row of bangers. But, this rollicking selection boasts some of the best grooves on the album. Lifting drums from Sons of Champlin's "You Can Fly" and layering them with an interpolation of a guitar riff from Billy Joel's "The Stranger," Death Row's chief maestro concocts an infectious ditty that coaxes a riveting rhyme spill from Tha Doggfather.
9. "Murder Was The Case"
A sample of Santana's 1969 track "Fried Neckbones" gets picked apart by Dr. Dre for this ominous soundscape inspired by Snoop Dogg's infamous murder trial. Pairing eerie organ keys with percussion from Carl "Butch" Small for added reinforcement, this track is a bright spot in Dre's discography, despite being regarded as one of the most bone-chilling instrumentals in hip hop history.
10. "California Love"
Joe Cocker's 1972 single "Woman to Woman" gets bolstered with revamped instrumentation on this selection, which marked the occasion of 2Pac's induction into the Death Row family. Originally a solo record produced by Dre and intended to be the first single from his Aftermath compilation, the beat was ultimately gifted to Pac, who recorded the version that topped the Pop charts -- the same version that we know and love today.
11. "Can't C Me"
Dr. Dre retrieves scraps from his own stash of hits for this collaboration with 2Pac. Sampling drums and other elements from Snoop Dogg's "Who Am I (What's My Name)," the beatsmith flips the original into this raucous jam from All Eyez on Me with Pac himself acknowledging his and Dre's undeniable chemistry.
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