With the release of his first album in nearly 16 years only hours away from our consumption it only seems right that we review his last body of work, 2001. Dr. Dre is a musical staple and his first two albums have more than shown why. From the moment that his sophomore album opens with its cinematically themed introduction, you are introduced to the idea that a lot has changed since the last time he released his own collection of songs. The first song ‘The Watcher’, is a basically compiled list of all the changes that Dre has witnessed and experienced. It’s not a speculation to say that you know you are listening to a song by the doc when you hear one. The intense, hard-hitting nature of his production is what defined an entire genre and his skill still is no doubt still with him. Dre made sure there was no room for slacking in terms of production. The instrumentals could honestly compose an album all their own. Even though I’m sure many of you actually have, forgotten about Dre, the project fills any void of space left from his hiatus.
Dre. said himself that he wanted to use this album as an opportunity to show his fans that he’s still got it; time was not a detractor but rather a meditation. The energy contained within this project is so potent that it can hardly be put into words. Its beats are as charged up as its subject matter. Dre is claiming his stake, which he shouldn’t have even had to do after his involvement with N.W.A. But in time, his fans started to question his legitimacy and fueled his fire which manifested itself as 2001. Resentment plus anger proves to be a lethal combination.
And he’s not alone. With a feature list that looks about as long as a Lollapalooza lineup, the dynamic is constantly changing. From a trademark lyric-driven verse from Eminem on ‘What’s The Difference’ to a pitchy hook from Snoop Dogg on ‘Still D.R.E.’ your enjoyment is guaranteed. This is also one of the projects only detractors, he is able to craft beats that he sounds good over every time, but his collaborators struggle at times. Some of the features could have been easily dropped or moved to songs that were left off of the final album. It can get exhausting to constantly have to think about who’s voice you are hearing or listening to artists cover different topics, or topics differently within the same song.
Dre fills his verses with the words of a soldier ready to fight. Each bar is spoken with the confidence of a haymaker punch and the conviction of a man who is not ready to give up. It ends up as a collection of music suited to amp you up and bump at an extremely high level of sound, with no thought given to decibels or frequency. There is a line where misogynistic words can become far too much. This album gets close enough to poke that line with a short twig. The songs are all undeniable listenable but listening to all the ways women are objectified in this LP can go from entertaining to draining quick. Luckily, topics to switch relatively quickly from song to song and the production is some of the best this genre has ever seen. The music was created at the highest level that music has ever been created and it shows.
There is a reason that damn near every song on this project is still considered relevant in some sense. The beats aren’t simple, but their complexities are cleverly separated enough to enjoy each intricacy all their own. Dre was one of hip-hop’s earliest innovators when it came to beat construction. From combing soul with deep-bass and heavy percussion he has inspired countless artists in the new generation. The album’s classic status is merited by its beat selection alone but it’s lyrics leave things to be desired. Remembering that Dre had been out of the music game for about nine years, as far as writing his own material goes at least, it is understandable why his content sounds like it is stuck in the early 90’s. Covering the ground-driven topics of early gangster-rap, drugs, gang-banging, violence and sex are the go-to topics. By the end of the album, you may have heard depictions of the same gangster lifestyle ten different ways but you are not bored. Again, I do not say it lightly when I say that this album’s production is top tier, bar and trend-setting stuff. If reading this review has been your re-introduction to the doctor of hip-hop, make sure, whatever you do, you don’t forget about Dre again.