September 15, 2009

Dr. Dre - 2001 (November 16, 1999)

After Dr. Dre escaped the sinking ship that was better known as Death Row Records, he ended up on dry land at Interscope Records, where label head Jimmy Iovine rewarded Andre Young for his talent and hard work with a vanity label of his own, which he called Aftermath Records. Once this news hit the hip hop media, it was wholly expected that Dre's first release was going to fucking blow our collective minds, due to its inherent awesomeness and the fact that Death Row's output had declined in quality almost immediately following Dre's departure, a fact that had to help the man sleep more easily at night.

However, what we ended up with is a crappy compilation album entitled Dr. Dre Presents The Aftermath, marketed as a sampler of all of the artists Dre had signed after decorating the new offices. (None of whom would ever release their own album, but that's a story for another day.) Only one track was credited to Dr. Dre the rapper: that was the mild MTV hit "Been There, Done That", in which the man who popularized G-Funk gangsta rap (note: I didn't say he created it) denounced his former sub-genre, choosing instead to focus on positive messages, living life to the fullest, and, oddly, ballroom dancing (at least, that's what I learned from the video). Fans were satisfied by the track itself, but the compilation tanked, since the rest of it pretty much sucked (save for one other song, Group Therapy's "East Coast West Coast Killas", which featured Dre on the hook surrounded by KRS-One, B-Real, Nas, and RBX, who was the odd man out in this cry for hip hop solidarity), and Aftermath Records was damn near written off as yet another failed investment for Interscope.

Then, two seemingly unrelated events occurred. First, Dr. Dre was flipping through some demo tapes and independently-released albums that somehow found their way into his collection, and came across an EP by an unknown artist named Marshall Mathers, better known as Eminem. Impressed with the craziness he heard (Dre was listening to The Slim Shady EP, after all), he quickly signed the white boy from Detroit and helped him take over MTV, a reign of terror which still continues to this day, as two nights ago he somehow won an award at the VMA's for "We Made You", and both that song and video suck balls. But I digress.

The other event that happened was more of an attitude shift for the unlicensed Doctor. After leaving Death Row Records, a label which owed its very existence to violent and sexist rap music, he vowed to leave it all behind him and move on to other topics. Dr. Dre claims that, late one night, his wife found him in a slightly depressed funk, wondering where his musical career was going to take him, and gave him the green light to start talking about murder, bitches, hos, and murdering bitches and hos again, all for the sake of entertainment. (I'm quite afraid of what Dre's wife considers to be horrific if she finds those topics fun to listen to, but whatever.) Andre quickly pulled his white lab coat and stethoscope out of his storage unit in Compton, and began recording what was tentatively called Chronic 2000, ostensibly a sequel to his breakthrough "solo" album The Chronic, with the help and encouragement of his two most successful apprentices, Snoop Dogg (who escaped from Death Row Records himself shortly after the Dre debacle) and Eminem.

Suge Knight, who was clearly not bitter about losing his cash cows to rival labels, took out his anger on Dre and Snoop every chance he got. He threatened both men with physical violence and lawsuits, often at the same time. He released a DVD, Death Row Uncut, which included, alongside uncensored (read: chock-full of female nudity) music videos from Death Row's vault, very specific directions as to how to find both Dre and Snoop's respective houses (which was a low fucking blow). He signed rappers to the label, talent be damned, specifically to trash talk these two men, whom, for the most part, they never actually had the pleasure of meeting. (Crooked I, now of the supergroup Slaughterhouse, was one of these signings, although he actually wielded some skill behind the mic, unlike the Snoop Dogg soundalike Top Dogg, whose career went nowhere and left him fighting for extra hours at Del Taco.) Finally, in one of the most unsurprising moves in the history of hip hop, Suge Knight released his own album entitled Suge Knight Represents: Chronic 2000: Still Smokin' (why it's "represents" and not just "presents" remains a mystery), a double-disc label compilation fully intended to strip sales away from Dre's own comeback project. Suge's album featured numerous potshots at both Dre and Snoop by many interesting names, including Soopafly, Daz Dillinger and Kurupt (also known as Tha Dogg Pound), Tha Realest (a 2Pac soundalike), 2Pac (older recordings), Dre's baby mama Michel'le, Treach from Naughty By Nature, and E-40.

It didn't work one fucking bit.

Even though Dre's original title for his project had been stolen by his former business partner, he proceeded undeterred, releasing his first album in seven years, now simply titled 2001, in 1999. It was easily the most anticipated hip hop release of that year. Building upon the same recipe from The Chronic, Dr. Dre used 2001 as a way to introduce lesser-known artists such as Hittman and Six-Two to the mainstream (much like he did with Snoop, Tha Dogg Pound, Warren G., Nate Dogg, and The Lady of Rage on The Chronic), except this time around he also featured many of the rappers whose careers he helped build (such as Snoop, Kurupt (strange in that he also appeared on Suge Knight's album), Nate Dogg, and Eminem) and others who he just admired (such as Devin The Dude, King Tee, and Xzibit). (2001 also originally boasted guest appearances from Redman and Sticky Fingaz (of Onyx) in its print ads: the Sticky Fingaz track would end up on Eminem's second Aftermath album The Marshall Mathers LP, but any Redman Dr. Dre-produced song has been securely locked in a vault, as it has never leaked.) Dre, never really one to write his own lyrics, looked to the likes of Eminem, Snoop, Jay-Z, and an uncredited Royce da 5'9" to craft his words (information as to why Ryan Montgomery is uncredited can be found below), and took his time creating every single beat on 2001, save for the final one, which he purchased from Lord Finesse.

2001 has since sold more than seven million copies, earning a ton of critical and commercial praise, and is generally considered as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time. Dr. Dre would also go on to win a Grammy for Producer Of The Year (Non-Classical), which is a big fucking deal for a hip hop artist. His follow up, Detox, has yet to be released, after being promised for the past ten years. But hey, Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Part II and Chinese Democracy from Guns 'N Roses both came out, so I still have the slightest amount of hope.

Dre allegedly stole the theme that announces a film is being shown in THX-quality sound to signal his return. (My understanding is that George Lucas was pissed about this.) Instead of playing the “like we always do about this time” vocal sample again, though, Andre decides to show that 2001 is on a different wavelength and, after some lowrider sound effects (and some terrible acting by an easily impressed Xzibit), he goes straight into the first song.

Dr. Dre uses this song to reconfigure himself as a gangsta rap icon-slash-music producer extraordinaire-slash-family man, one who never technically disappeared from the spotlight: instead, he has been laying low, watching others make their mistakes while calculating the right time to emerge from the shadows. Or at least that's what he wants you to think. In reality, this is just an above-average Dre solo track, one which successfully sets the tone for (at least the first half of) 2001. Eminem, who barely appears on the hook, swiped the beat for “The Watcher 1.5”, a blah freestyle, and Dre himself gave “The Watcher 2” to Jay-Z and Rakim.

After a long answering machine message intro, a funky groove kicks in and Dre, Devin the Dude, and Snoop begin proceedings on introducing the other primary theme of 2001: sex, and lots of it, with a double helping of misogyny. Dre's “head clinic” line is hilarious in that he doesn't really sound convincing when he says it, but Devin's verse (and sung hook) are literally awesome. Snoop is also alright, I suppose. There was supposed to be an all-female rapper response to this song released soon after 2001 hit store shelves (it was discussed both online and in XXL): what the hell happened to that song?

Dre's “comeback” single (not so much, mind you: it's not like he wasn't working constantly), which was written by Jay-Z. Snoop only appears in a hook and ad-lib capacity, which was frustrating when this dropped, but the song is still entertaining enough. The plucked strings that dominate the instrumental have a way of getting stuck in your head, which is frustrating in an entirely different fashion. The Hype Williams-directed video for this song wasn't memorable in the least (except for Eminem's brief cameo): kind of a waste of money on Interscope's part.

The Chronic's “The Day The N----z Took Over” had the benefit of being informed by the riots of the early 1990s. “Big Ego's” has no such luxury: Dr. Dre rolls around trying to justify his place in gangsta rap (which is especially boring when you realize that he doesn't write his own rhymes), and Hittman, who was supposed to be Dre's newest protege, sounds okay, but nothing on here would lead any label to believe that Hitt could move Snoop numbers.

This beat was originally for a Dr. Dre solo song titled “The Way I Be Pimpin'”, which featured (and was written by) Royce da 5'9” on the hook. That concept was scrapped immediately following the fallout caused by Royce's manager blabbing to the press that his client was writing 2001. (The original song can be heard here.) Instead, Dre surgically removed his vocals entirely, and added on multiple guests who were all obsessed with sex and ejaculation, not typically in that order. (The soulful groove that lies beneath the rolling drums probably had something to do with the selection of the subject matter.) Listening to Kurupt's opening verse, it's entirely questionable how he was inducted into The Four Horsemen in the first place, as all he's doing is vomiting profanities as if he ate some bad shrimp earlier, and yet, I still like this song, especially because of Nate Dogg's hook. Kanye West has also freely admitted that he stole the drums from “Xxplosive” for Jay-Z's “This Can't Be Life”: anybody interested in a quick comparison can click here and here, but hurry back: this is a long album.

When Dr. Dre's future marching band anthem first hit the Interweb, it featured Hittman instead of Xzibit. The good Doctor even took it upon himself to trash former N.W.A. Member MC Ren (“Claimin' they nonviolent, talkin' like they Ruthless”: Eazy-E had already passed away, and he sure as hell wasn't talking about the Atbann Klann). Hittman was obviously the rookie of the bunch (although Eminem was still technically brand new to the mainstream when 2001 dropped), but his verse was still entertaining as hell. When 2001 finally dropped, though, Hittman was replaced in favor of Xzibit, whose verse I could never get into (although it sounds alright, I liked Hitt better on this beat), and Dre's inflammatory comments were deleted. The song itself is still pretty good, and Marshall's first few bars (before Slim Shady takes over) are actually kind of sweet. The original version of “What's The Difference” can be heard online if you look hard enough: maybe a kindhearted soul will leave a link in the comments section.


Dre really seems to think that having had a hand in The Firm's incoherent mess of an album is an accomplishment. (He also mentions something similar on “Forgot About Dre”.) His beat on here is pretty good, but this song, whose pretense (thanks to the preceding skit) is that Dre and Hittman are in a bar picking up chicks, and the verses are their loquacious pick-up lines, is ultimately ridiculous.

For a short period of time in late 1999/early 2000, “Forgot About Dre” was both mine and my wife's song, and we were only half joking. Dre's Marshall-penned lyrics are recited remarkably well over this faster, bouncier beat, and Em himself, in full-on Slim Shady mode, steals the song entirely, with his running commentary regarding Charleston Chews and trying to park a Dodge into a two-car garage while intoxicated. I've also always loved Dre's line “Now you wanna run around talkin' 'bout guns like I ain't got none/What, you think I sold them all?” The video for this track ended with a preview of a Hittman solo song, “Last Days”, that ended up being locked up in the Aftermath vaults after Hitt was dropped, although you can find it online if you know where to look.

Uses the same beat as Tash's “Fallin' Up”, but by that I mean it uses the same sample source (David McCallum and David Axelrod's “The Edge”). This was a surprise choice for a third single, since it's such a short track (two verses total, plus an outro by Nate), but this shit knocks in your ride, and, fuck it, it's Dre and Snoop! Although Dre should have done the right thing and also invited Tash to spit as well (he got Defari to appear on 2001, but Tash was too busy? I don't buy it), this song still rocks. Not bad considering Snoop fans have been waiting for a song with this title ever since it was falsely promised on the back of cassette copies of Doggystyle.

What the hell? This shit is corny as fuck, especially when Dre brags about taking ecstasy (obviously Eminem's influence). Kurupt sounds fairly decent, but everyone else on here will cause listeners to hit the 'next' button, right after they pick their jaws up off of the floor. Once again: what the hell?

Dre places a weird pronunciation around the phrase “murder weapon” that is distracting. A Master P reference is also made, which was unnecessary (and it also inadvertently informs listeners of the offender, Six-Two, and his musical tastes). Although I enjoyed the sample from Audio Two's “Top Billin'”, this song was pretty fucking boring.


Do you think Dr. Dre regrets populating this John Carpenter's score to Halloween-sampled instrumental with two rappers who ended up making absolutely no dent in the music industry? Hittman's distorted vocals are okay, but not great, and Ms. Roq is no Lady of Rage. What was Andre thinking? I'm sure Snoop could have made himself available for a verse on here. Sigh.

Eddie Griffin takes over a track on 2001 and delivers a bitter rant against women. This is much angrier than you would expect, throwing the entire tone of 2001 under a bus for the duration of this interlude.

MC Ren introduces this song, which is the reason why Dre's barbs were removed from the earlier “What's The Difference?”. (Ren and Dre kissed and made up almost immediately after that song was recorded.) I still don't know why Lorenzo couldn't just buckle down and write a verse, but whatever. This West Coast posse cut focuses its attention on artists that mainstream audiences (read: MTV) wouldn't be familiar with (save for Xzibit, possibly), which was a good move, and Defari probably thought it was fucking Christmas morning when he was invited to contribute, although I have to admit, for a guy who I normally don't care for, he sounded good over Dre's production.

A wholly unnecessary skit, included merely to remind listeners that 2001 is still a gangsta rap album. (A similar interlude appeared on The Chronic, and, of course, sex played a big role on the N.W.A. Albums.) This is entirely stupid and unnecessary, but hearing one of the women in this interlude yell “You got it in my eye, you bastard!” to the porn star Jake Steed was kind of amusing.

I always get this song confused for “Ho's A Housewife”, from Kurupt's solo debut Kuruption!, mainly because Kurupt uses the same opening verse on both. I never felt that this song fit in on 2001, but I will say that Hittman sounded alright. Rappers need to stop quoting the “hotel, motel, Holiday Inn” line from the Sugarhill Gang's “Rapper's Delight”, but the fact that Kurupt also quotes “Bitches Ain't Shit” was interesting, since this song is essentially an inferior sequel.

Hittman is rewarded for his multiple guest appearances with a solo track of his own on 2001. Unfortunately, Dre reserved an instrumental for him that is boring as shit, rendering his three sort-of interesting verses and sing-songy hook obsolete. Sigh.

This was asinine. It's almost as if Andre distilled the very essence of gangsta rap and found the one element that is consistent (the sound of gunfire) and laid that element into the beat multiple times, making this shit sound terrible. The vocals on the hook are also fucking awful. On a positive note, I liked Dre's verse, but as a whole, this shit is a mess.

Dr. Dre lets Lord Finesse craft the beat to this ode to his late brother. This track was allegedly written by Royce da 5'9” (he receives no such credit in the liner notes, though), but this is the closest to the real Dr. Dre that we'll probably ever get to hear on record. Mary J. Blige's hook could have been better, but whatever. You won't bump this in your car, but it's alright. The outro with Tommy Chong fucks up the atmosphere, though.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Okay, here's the rub: 2001 is no The Chronic. My feelings are that the seven years that passed between Dr. Dre's two solo albums caused critics and fans alike to heap praise upon the album without ever really listening to it straight through, so here's my take, ten years later: The first half is damn near brilliant, but Dre's heavy reliance on third-tier rappers drags the project down in its second half. (Some will probably argue that The Chronic was also stacked with no-name rappers, but those guys ended up being Snoop Dogg and Tha Dogg Pound, among others who you actually still hear from today.) The instrumentals are consistently head nodding (indeed, when Aftermath unleashed an all-instrumental version of 2001, I was the first person at Circuit City to snatch it up), for the most part, and the star turns by Eminem, Snoop, and Devin the Dude rock, but 2001 is actually much worse than I remember. Not because of the violent overtones (they're too prevalent to be undertones) and the blatant misogyny: sadly, I've grown to expect that in my gangsta rap albums. No, 2001 doesn't work as a cohesive album because the second half is pretty much terrible. Back in 1999 and early 2000, when I spun 2001 on the regular, I used to switch out discs after “The Next Episode”: I now remember why.

BUY OR BURN? I'm going to recommend a tentative “buy” only because of the first half of the album. Nostalgia and blindness have caused many bloggers, critics, and fans to proclaim this as an instant classic. If you fall into that category, before you leave comments (because I'm sure they're coming), I recommend that you sit down with this disc and listen to it all the way through without skipping any tracks, and if you still think 2001 is perfect, then more power to you. You're not going to change my mind, though.

BEST TRACKS: “Forgot About Dre”; “The Next Episode”; “Fuck You”; “Xxplosive”; “Some L.A. N----z”; “The Watcher”; “What's The Difference?”; “Still D.R.E.”


Dr. Dre – The Chronic


  1. Alright, thanks! (though I'm sure I'm not the only one who requested it)

    I've had this on tape since (ironically) 2001 (I had to make my own cover for it because it didn't even come with one. Yeah, it's that cheap in East Africa). According to your review, I should only play Side A. Fair enough.
    Wouldn't say the second half is terrible; that word is too strong. I'd probably use one of your faves ('meh'). But you did get the best tracks spot on, which was what I was waiting for anyway.
    I actually knew a guy who disliked "What's The Difference?". 'Knew' being the key word.

    Thanks again.

  2. This album is all filler and no thriller! What was so special about this album again? I would recommend that people use this album as a frisbee. I think you will get more satisfaction out of it.

  3. i STILL haven't listened to this album. and now... thanks to you, i STILL don't want to. that may sound like i'm trashing you, but i'm not. this just doesn't catch my attention like it used to. this may make some people think i'm crazy, but i don't consider dre to be such a fantastic producer. besides The Chronic, everything was just whatever to me. thanks for cementing my thoughts on this album.

    p.s. no "Gut Reaction" to Q-Tip's "Kamaal the Abstract"? and u call yourself a tribe fan...

  4. that intro was a little long, don't you think?

  5. I've always felt that this album is memorable for its beats rather than its lyrical content. I agree with your review in the sense that this album is not an instant classic and that nostalgia might be more of a factor in "2001" being described as such. That said, I really like "Bang, Bang," and disagree with you calling it "terrible."

  6. also speaking of lord finesse, where's the funky technician review? you mean you didn't review it yet? well get on it, nigga!

  7. yeah, max star reviewing the DITC solo projects, including the Showbiz N AG albums oh yeah about this album, its kinda entertaining but boring though

  8. I generally agree with the review, except I really like Housewife. It's a good album and it has some classic tracks, and the nostalgia effect is the key to its sustained relevance.

  9. everyone that listen to hiphop should listen to it.. the second part is weak but it stills a very good album.. (and i don't think " bang bang" is terrible at all)

    you should definetly do the "funky technician" review

  10. It's an alright album, the tracks that are fire are straight fire, although most of this album is skipped tracks for me.

    However I do like Murda Ink & Housewife, I thoroughly enjoyed the beats. Plus I thought Hitman on Murda Ink sounded really ominous, at lot more creative then that stupid bitch's verse.

  11. Good review Max
    Yea Keeshawn, I agree with him not being such a fantastic producer, a lot of his ouside work sucks ass (like Nas is coming), although that being said he always gets so much hype that the songs may always fall short of expectations.


  12. yeah whenever i listen to this album, i just fade and switch records around the same time you do. Good review Max

  13. Cory Is Bang On

    Housewife is brilliant and Still D.R.E. is wayyy better than you give it credit for

  14. It's far from a classic but try saying that to someone who's blinded by the sub-par music of today. And does Mel-Man not get any credit for likely producing at least 60% of this album?

  15. This sounded better when it was released. Now the forumale has been abused more then those bitches of 2001.

  16. I try really hard to like the track Xxplosive but those sex references are a little too much, but lucky Nate Dogg was on the track or I'd just get the instrumental

    OOO and weres Tip's new(old) album?

  17. eh there
    the review is spot on (even if it's still worth havin compared to the nowaday "mainstream" hip hop).
    as for "what's the difference" i haven't heard the version u're talkin bout but i'm pretty sure the person he's talkin bout in the final one is dj yella.
    anyway, very good blog man =D
    dola billz

  18. what are most of you on about? This is one of the greatest albums of all time. If you are a true hip-hop/rap fan then this album should appeal to you. The lyrics aren't as good as they are on some other albums but the production on this album from dre is absolutely spot on. You could easily listen to the whole album all of the way throgh without skipping a single track apart from maybe 'Pause For Porno'. But even that skit is as funny as hell the first time that you hear it.

    If you haven't listened to this album before then I recommend it highly. It is such a great album, It was really one of the last great rap albums to come out there hasn't really been anything that good since this album dropped, one of the last great rap albums.

    Hopefully detox will be as good as this album was, or still is.

  19. Max, as per your wondering why MC Ren didn't drop a verse on Some L.A. Niggaz, he DID; according to the Bruce Williams (former Dr. Dre right-hand man) book "Rollin' With Dre," Ren came through, put down his shit after everyone else did, but one MC (I would definitely put my money on Defari) was supposed to get his verse cut to make room and bitched and whined until Dre said fuck it, nevermind, and kept Ren on just the intro.


  20. Yea i try hard to like the Xxplosive track as well and kurupt sounds suitable for that track n the beat but he goes off.. "bitch nigga yu more of a bitch than a bitch!" lol but good review overall.. alot of the second half i did skip but if you got the instrumental version it flows through well because Dr. Dre knows how to incorperate sounds and put everyting together.. put it this way.. i always thought he was a dope producer until i found out Detox hasn't hit shelves yet.. but more with people suing him over rights on countless tracks... I now consider him more in between a brilliant engineer and an executive producer but what prolly classifies him as a REALLY good producer is his ear.. his consistency in making tracks sound like Dre tracks is what makes him brilliant (hence: the hard drum patterns inc. w/ funk/synth sounds) so this album is genius musically 4 1/2 stars!

    P.S. It's been exactly 10 years since this album came out!

  21. Your line about saying Dre felt it was an accomplishment making that The Firm album...what are you talking about? He clearly takes a jab at having a hand in it by saying "...and Firm Fiascoes - assholes" I read this before and now reading it again I still think the same thing. Even on Forget About Dre line, "All yall niggaz said that I turned pop, or The Firm flopped, yall are the reason that Dre aint been gettin sleep no more" Still don't see it. He sounds more pissed off about The Firm then anything, he knew it was bad (we all knew it was bad). He's mad because fans started to doubt him, and he's just proving the haters wrong with 2001.

    Just my two cents. Still a good review, and I agree for the most part. I enjoyed Ackrite, I thought it was engaging and the beat knocks the parties I play em at, and the ladies agree. Murda Ink I also thought was good; Hittman, to me, sounded really convincing and Ms. Roq's line "...and jack my nigga off, till his dick get soft" is funny.

  22. I found the beats on this album to be very repetitive and I have NEVER liked Dr. Dre's lyrics he sounds riduclous. Very poor album.

  23. cant believe it..this album is straight fire..track after track fire..dont listen 2 anyone that says otherwise they must be asleep

  24. I can't be the only person to think Ed-Ucation was fucking genius? The album as a whole has been killed to me, but that skit is pure pant-shitting hilarious.

    Wouldn't play it anywhere near my g/f though.

  25. I've never liked this album. I don't understand people who vastly prefer it over The Chronic.

    1. I'm sure they exist, but I've never known anyone personally who prefers 2001 over The Chronic. I like a lot of 2001, but The Chronic is, well, The Chronic.

  26. Kurupt's verse on Xxplosive was so explicit that his verse was removed entirely on the edited version of the song and skips right to the late, great Nate Dogg's singing verse. Also, the linear notes of 2001 has a few rappers flipping the bird(Eminem, Xzibit, etc.) constantly and chronic was shown around the studio and elsewhere. The edited version of the album has the censored bar on all of the "suggestive" material.

    1. Having never bothered listening to the clean version of 2001, I find this hilarious. And now I'd love to hear a version of "Xxplosive" with Kurupt's existence denied to him.