Producer: Dr. Dre
Album: Deep Cover
Label: Epic

"Deep Cover" inaugurated the Death Row era, a period that would not only ratify Dre's position as the supreme maestro of hip-hop production, but would relocate hip-hop's creative capitol—at least temporarily—from New York to Los Angeles.

Over the course of the releases that followed, Dre learned how to wrangle his new musical innovations for the mainstream audience, but "Deep Cover" captures the Death Row aesthetic in its raw, protean state. The song imagines Los Angeles as a noirish netherworld in which suspicion and adrenaline are the dominant conditions, and the air is suffused with illicit odors.

This is Snoop at his least friendly, juicing off casual murder and turning the numerals 1-8-7 into a rallying cry for trigger-happy youths. The beat is eerie and unhinged, but never elusive: this is an in-your-face song with an unstoppable ghostly attack. Cultural sociologists and rap historians will for decades debates the true meaning of the term "ill," when all they really need is this one song, for it is the last and living embodiment of the word.