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Dr.Dre Reflections #2

September 3, 2013

In a different look at Dr. Dre as a music culture phenomenon, I am thinking about how layered, complex he is as an image–a  performer, producer, composer, mentor, visionary businessman. I really need a book length project to consider much of this, but will try to conflate a few more thoughts into this last post on him without being too simplistic or dismissive of the more questionable aspects of who he is in music today.

Dr. Dre’s media popularity soared during and several years after the demise of the controversial, yet somewhat socially conscious rap group NWA, a group he helped organize.  Several Hip Hop scholars have examined his early popularity and musical acuity, noting that he seemed to know the music’s potential to reach its market long before mainstream experts sensed its marketing possibilities. 1 Dre has always seemed to know good talent and marketable music.

Most people from the Hip Hop generation, “those with birth years between 1965 and 1984″2  followed Dr. Dre from his soft electro-funk persona to his hard core Compton hood thug NWA bad boy through his gangsta, O.G  street roller success as part of Death Row Records.

Dre’s use of videos captured a generation of urban street grit spinning off glimpses into aspects of ghetto reality embedded in the ground breaking album “The Chronic.” Getting beyond the opening use of expletives was difficult. Its use was intentional. If you couldn’t handle its raw language, you shouldn’t be listening to it anyway. You was posing. You was eavesdropping.

Once into the album, nuggets of gold appeared. Use of the wandering phrase from old Negro spirituals–“Swing Down Chariot Stop and Let Me Ride” –with the automobile as the new chariot rolling through the temporal sorrow land of ghetto life and innovative use of samples to dialogue with elders(George Clinton, The Geto Boys, etc.) reflected conversations happening all over the hood between young impatient angry brothers and some less angry, more hopeful older brothers (Civil Rights) and some angry still (Black Nationalist). This discursive strategy  made “the Chronic” an urban community hit album before the general public was aware of it’s existence. Then, he rolled on through Death Row Records into a label more under his control.

We’ve watched him reinvent himself  as rapper, producer, “media bad boy” and rising mentor. An in depth examination of Dr. Dre as a businessman would yield fascinating insight into his progression in the industry over the last two decades from artist to mega-market brand.  Today’s youth know Andre Romelle Young,(Dre) primarily for his Internet beats and various other products‎ .

I saw a commercial for one of his newest ventures. The images and music made me feel like getting out of my mid-summer malaise, getting up on my floor and dancing.  It was fresh and 21st century hip. The Pill . . . .double entendre perhaps? Music, personal portable, with a “live” ambiance . . . a better pill, a better medicine for what ails your restlessness?  Massive media biltz the Hip Hop culture motto of livin’ large. Electronic media has opened new horizons for Dr.Dre as he carries his vision of music to a new generation.



1. Hip Hop scholars are growing in number since Tricia Rose and Jeff Chang examined the socio-cultural aspects of the genre. Books and essays on hip hop contribute to understanding its complex relationship to contemporary American popular culture. Two who note the importance of Ganagsta rap as a subgenre of rap and Hip Hop are: Eithne Quinn,   Nuthin’ but a “G” Thang: The Culture and Commerce of Gangsta Rap” (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004) Todd Boyd Am I Black Enough For You?: Popular Culture From the “Hood and Beyond, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997),  I will post a hip hop bibliography after my final series entry on the genre.

2. Bakari Kitwana. “Young Blacks in Crisis in African American Culture the Hip Hop Generation (New York: Basic Civitas  Books 2002) as quoted in Akil Houston, Beyond Blackface: Africana Images In Media,( Kendall Hunt Publishing, 2005)

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