Dr. Dre's iconic production is woven into the DNA of hip hop. Dre has always had a prophetic vision of hip hop's future and was key in the genesis of gangsta rap with N.W.A., created the G-Funk genre, and discovered Eminem and 50 Cent. He is a documented perfectionist and studio guru whose work ethic is mythical.
With a catalog of work that spans 30 years, Dre's beats act as a landmark for each generation of hip hop. In no particular order, here are 10 of his most iconic beats.
"Deep Cover" - Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg (1992)
A single from the soundtrack for the 1992 film "Deep Cover," Dre and Snoop bounce back and forth on this sparse, haunting beat. This song was the world's introduction to the Death Row era that would solidify Dre's spot in hip hop and plant the West Coast's flag as the genre's pioneers of the 90's. This is also Snoop at his meanest, finding the rapper aggressively turning the line "1-8-7 on an undercover cop" into a battle cry for the youth.
"The Real Slim Shady" - Eminem (2000)
After all eyes were on Eminem after his first single, "My Name Is," the follow up paved the way to make the bleach-blonde into one of the biggest names in rap ever. The whimsical harpsichord dancing throughout the song was the perfect accompaniment to Em's tongue-twisting flow. Fun fact: this song is Dre's first collaboration with Mike Elizondo, a bassist and multi-instrumentalist who he would collaborate with for many years after.
"Straight Outta Compton" - N.W.A. (1988)
A tapestry of all of Dre's inspiration, the beat for "Straight Outta Compton" features samples from Funkadelic, the Gap Band, Ronnie Hudson, Wilson Pickett, and more funk pioneers. A middle finger to the music industry and society at large, the intensity and urgency of this track is just as powerful 30 years after its release.
"Forgot About Dre" - Dr. Dre Featuring Eminem (1999)
What makes the beat for "Forgot About Dre" so interesting is that it doesn't sound like any of his other beats but it also works as the perfect example of his production style. Sounding like a Timbaland beat from the dark side, the mid-tempo bounce and sporadic guitar mixed with Em's erratic flow gives you a delightfully uneasy feeling.
"California Love" - 2pac featuring Dr. Dre (1996)
An ode to the funk maestros before him, Dre's beat for "California Love" celebrates everything West Coast and features talkbox pioneer Roger Troutman of Zapp and Roger. This beat finds Dre is a transitional period, moving on from the G-Funk sound he created and into his explosive Aftermath phase.
"F**k Tha Police" - N.W.A. (1988)
One of the most direct and powerful political statements in music history, "F**k Tha Police" is a raw examination of the abuse five young men, still teenagers, from impoverished South Central, LA, faced by authorities. Concise and straight to the point, their message of rage gave voice to the voiceless and spoke about the experience of the unseen to mainstream America. Dre's beat provided the gasoline to this blazing song that still remains just as relevant as it did 30 years ago.
"In Da Club" - 50 Cent (2003)
Dr. Dre proved again his ability to catch lightning in a bottle with 50 Cent's insanely popular hit "In Da Club." The beat was initially offered to D12 who didn't know how to use it. Luckily, 50 Cent was able to create a club banger that mixed his machismo with pop sensibilities that made him a mainstream success.
"Gin & Juice" - Snoop Dogg (1993)
"Gin & Juice" may be the greatest party rap song of all time. Snoop's appeal has always been his ability to be simultaneously dangerous and fun at the same time and this track puts that on full display. A sample of George McCrae's "I Get Lifted" provides the driving bassline and drums but Dre's dense production makes this lush, hypnotic beat a classic.
"Still D.R.E." - Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Dogg (1999)
This song represents a rebirth for Dre. The track moves away from the uptempo, run-and-gun production of his N.W.A. days and builds off his smoke-fueled Death Row-era signature style. Hip hop is a young man's game but Dre was far from over and he set out to create a new vision of the West Coast sound with "Still D.R.E." It's bright strings mark the dawn of a new era of hip hop as Dre and Snoop expertly flow over the beat.
"Nuthin' But A G Thang" - Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg (1992)
Possessing one of the greatest bass lines in hip hop history, "Nuthin' But a G Thang" marks Dre's first breakout solo hit. A timeless song, Dre used his influences and a Leon Haywood sample to create a sound that was entirely new. Play it today and it still sounds as fresh and innovative as it did in 1992.
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