Legendary producer and entrepreneur Dr. Dre celebrates a birthday today. Born Andre Romelle Young in the Los Angeles County of Compton in 1965, Dre’s early forays into music led him to join the old school Hip-Hop troupe World Class Wreckin’ Cru alongside DJ Yella. Formed in the early 80’s and influenced by the rapidly changing rap scene emerging from the east, the crew had a short run before Dre met Eazy-E and a teenaged Ice Cube.
The late 80’s spawned the birth of Dre’s seminal group N.W.A, with MC Ren joining Eazy E and Ice Cube along with Yella assuming DJ duties. Their debut, Straight Outta Compton, exploded onto the scene and became a success despite a lack of commercial and radio support. With Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records becoming a powerhouse in the industry by way of N.W.A’s high sales, Dre went on to produce for other acts on the label such as the D.O.C. and Above The Law.
1992 saw the reemergence of Dr. Dre after left Ruthless to join Suge Knight’s Death Row Records. His debut solo album, The Chronic, still remains as one of the most influential releases of all time. It also marked the beginning of the relationship between Dre and Long Beach rapper Snoop Dogg (their first song was “Deep Cover” from the Deep Cover soundtrack). The West Coast G-Funk sound was mimicked by many afterwards, cementing Dre’s place amongst the greatest producers ever. During his time on Death Row, Dre also helmed the production of Snoop Dogg’s debut Doggystyleas well.
Leaving Death Row in 1995, Dre formed his own label Aftermath, releasing the compilation Dr. Dre Presents The Aftermath in 1996. In 1998, Interscope head Jimmy Iovine suggested to Dre that he sign a rising white rapper out of Michigan. Eminem’s debut, The Slim Shady LP, was Aftermath’s biggest smash to date and once again affirmed Dr. Dre as part of the cultural landscape.
Dre’s second solo album, The Chronic 2001 (actually released in 1999) was one of the most anticipated records of the time. With Snoop returning along with rappers Xzibit, Devin The Dude and Tha Dogg Pound featured heavily on the album, 2001 was another hit and went on to sell over six million copies.
Dre’s focus on production led him to work with a bevy of artist such as Mary J. Blige, Eve, Gwen Stefani and he continued to work with Eminem as well. 2003 ushered in a new level of success for Aftermath after a joint collaboration between Dre’s label, Em’s Shady Records and Interscope helped propel the release of 50 Cent’s Get Rich Or Die Tryin’which catapulted the Queens rapper to stardom. Dre produced the album’s lead single “In Da Club” as well other songs on the debut.
Although fans have been waiting on Dre’s final opus Detox for well over a decade, Dre has since taken a well-deserved leave from music. He has shifted his focus on his successful Beats By Dre audio line and enjoyed the trappings of his fame with his family. While the details behind the delay didn’t satisfy salivating for Detox, Dr. Dre should be saluted for not only his influence, but also his longevity. Dre’s contributions to music are invaluable and if he never returns to making tunes, he has left behind an impressive body of work.
Happy Birthday, Dr. Dre!