Today we celebrate the birth of one of the most influential figures in Hip Hop. Not only was this man the first rap billionaire, he was an instrumental part (literally and figuratively) in the creation of a new sub genre of rap known as G-Funk. The living legend being described is none other than Dr. Dre.
Andre Romelle Young was born in Compton, California on February 18, 1965. He was the first child born to Theodore and Verna Young. His father had a history in music and was a member of an amateur R&B group called The Romells from which Dre gets his middle name.
Dre’s love for music started in the mid 80s when Hip Hop was first beginning to get national commercial coverage. He started off DJing at a club called Eve After Dark under the stage name “Dr. J” (based after Julius Erving, Dre’s favorite basketball player). At this club is where Dre met soon to be N.W.A. member Antoine Carraby aka DJ Yella.
In 1986, Dre met O’Shea Jackson aka Ice Cube while collaborating on some music for Ruthless Records. Ruthless Records was famous record label founded by N.W.A. member Eazy-E and west coast rapper Ice-T. These two are widely credited with starting the gangster rap movement in the West Coast. This meeting, and the addition of MC Ren birthed one of the greatest music groups of all time, N*ggaz With Attitude.
N.W.A., like most should already know, grew to be one of the most controversial along with one of the most successful rap groups in history. During the 1980s the influence of this group created a culture in Hip Hop like nothing the genre had scene before. They single handledly switched the focus of rap music from the East Coast, mainly New York, to this new West Coast sound with their attitude and dangerous appeal.
After a disagreement with Eazy-E, Dre decided to leave N.W.A. to build his own musical empire. Due to advice given to him by his close friend and fellow rapper, The D.O.C. and his body guard at the time, Suge Knight, Dre became the flagship artist of Death Row Records, a label started by Knight in 1992. On Death Row Records, Dre released his first solo album titled The Chronic. This album cemented Dr. Dre’s place as one of the top rappers out of California. While working with Death Row, Dre produced the majority of new artist Snoop Dogg’s music helping him in his rise to super stardom, along with tracks for 2Pac who was also a label member.
In ’96 due to a disagreement between Knight and Dre, Dre left Death Row to build his own label called Aftermath Records. This changed the path of Dre’s career forever. The growth began when the head of Interscope Records, Jimmy Iovine, suggested that Dre sign white rapper Eminem. The success of Eminem’s music made Dr. Dre not only one of the most respected rapper/producers in the game but also one of the more powerful moguls.
Dre released his second album 2001 on November 16, 1999. This project received a ridiculous amount of commercial support due to the gap that Dre created between releases. Although this album brought about some legal trouble for Dre, it also filled his pockets handsomely.
What came next was the rise of Dre’s professional career as a label owner. Eminem’s success as a rapper did nothing but gain publicity for Aftermath as a whole. This allowed Dre to sit back and focus more on running a well oiled machine and selectively produce hits like Gwen Stefani and Eve‘s Let Me Blow Your Mind and Family Affair by Mary J. Blige. In 2003 he made another powerful addition to Aftermath by signing rapper 50 Cent from Queens, New York. The success of his debut album Get Rich or Die Tryin’ added yet another mark to his list of success. That year he also signed Los Angeles rapper The Game who’s first album The Documentary did very well.
Dr. Dre was set to release his third album Detox in 2007 but decided to not and instead produce for other artists. Since then Dre has been mostly behind the scenes shaping the current state of rap music. Most recently he produced the uber-successful N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton which has created a rise in N.W.A. support from a new generation. His third studio album Compton was released shortly after the film and finally ended the long wait for more work from Dre.
This past week on February 12, Apple released that they will be making a television series starring Dr. Dre reflecting his life. He will also be a producer on that show.
The life and career of Dr. Dre is one that has been able to make Rap and Hip Hop what they are today. Without his influence, who knows where rap music would be today. From everyone at The Source, Happy Birthday Dr. Dre, may you have many more success filled years.