The Best Dr. Dre Songs

We've narrowed down the best Dr. Dre songs of all time for your listening pleasure.


the best dr dre songs

This feature was originally published on February 18, 2015.

Dr. Dre is a hip-hop titan—the genre's first true super-producer. He’s the first whose uncompromising production aesthetic was as much a pop phenomenon as a hip-hop one. He maintained viability in the music industry as long as it was flourishing, and transitioned to electronics sales when the music business softened. Now known to a generation as the guy behind the world's most popular headphones, Dre's catalog as an artist has arguably become a bit underrated. What Kanye West was to the 2000s, Dre was to the 1990s: A rapping producer who changed the sound, style, and values of popular hip-hop.

But Dre's career transcends The Chronic—by far his most influential singular moment. From his early days in the World Class Wreckin' Cru to N.W.A, from The Chronic to 2001, Dre's career as a recording artist in his own right deserves to be celebrated. Even though he was never considered to be the greatest rapper—after all, his work has long been rumored to have incorporated co-writers, from Ice Cube to Jay Z to Eminem—he was always a great rap artist with a uniquely bold, uncompromising approach.

Without further ado, here are The Best Dr. Dre Songs.

21. Dr. Dre "Keep Their Heads Ringin'"

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For 1995's Friday soundtrack, Dre provided a rare one-off single, the catchy, Sequence-interpolating "Keep Their Heads Ringin'." The song ended up as a pretty massive hit, thanks in large part to its memorable chorus, which conflates heads ringing with the sound of bells. At least it probably wasn't his lyrics; "Keep Their Heads Ringin'" found Dre reaching somewhat boilerplate status. Nonetheless, the song felt huge. At this point, it was readily apparent that G-Funk had longer legs than anyone realized initially, as the public's unquenchable thirst for heavy bass and whirring synthesizers reached its popular apex.

20. Scarface f/ Too Short, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube "Game Over"

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In the lull period between the stumble of Dr. Dre Presents the Aftermath and the arrival of 2001 three years later, Dre didn't disappear completely; he dropped beats for Nas, the Firm, LL Cool J, and Cali legend King Tee. One of his most slept-on records and verses, though, was for Scarface's The Untouchable album. From the quivering guitars to the drum sounds and synthesizers, it sounds of-a-piece with mid-'90s Dre beats like "Can't C Me." The new style he'd introduce on 2001 had yet to develop. Yet it contains one of Dre's best verses, opening for a murderer's row: "Some try to salt Dre, it's still cavi/I'm eatin' steak while they struggle to break the slave mentality," and "I push a Rover, shift platinum before the session's over."

19. The World Class Wreckin' Cru "Surgery"

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From Egyptian Lover to JJ Fad, from Uncle Jamm's Army to Arabian Prince, the early 1980s were prime time for the Los Angeles electro scene. And though at the time no one could have known how far Dre would go, the World Class Wreckin' Cru were undeniable stars already. While some would argue for the inclusion of the classic "Turn Off the Lights"—not only referenced by Dre in "Still D.R.E." but the source for Master P's "Ice Cream Man" hook—"Surgery" best captures the archetypal up-tempo Cru sound. And of course, it includes one of Dre's most unusual boasts: "I'm Dr. Dre, gorgeous hunk of a man/Doing tricks on the mix that no others can." Of course, Eazy E and Luke Campbell would mock Dre's sartorial choices in this era as well, but in retrospect, this was a pretty fly time for hip-hop.

18. Eminem f/ Xzibit, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Nate Dogg "B**** Please II"

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For Eminem's second Dr. Dre-endorsed album, Dre re-made his classic "B**** Please" and opened the record with one of his best verses: "Just let me lay back, and kick some simplistic pimp s*** on Slim's s***/Start riots like Limp Bizkit." But its greatest strength is in its production—a perfect example of how a minute, understated approach can have such mileage. With a few staccato horn tones, "B**** Please II" became a four-verse rap classic.

17. Dr. Dre f/ Knoc-Turn'al "Bad Intentions"

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Perhaps the most outright "ignorant"—in the party-loving, drug-abusing, model-using sense—record in Dre's consistently ignorant catalog, "Bad Intentions" utilized the distinctive drawl of rapper Knoc-Turn'al and a flute-driven beat to craft an exotica banger nonpareil. The song also has some amusingly memorable lyrics, like when Dre rhymes "Take a X pill" with "How the s** feel?" Andre Young even manages to make a sensual record sound like the most belligerent possible experience on planet Earth.

16. Snoop Dogg f/ Dr. Dre and D'Angelo "Imagine"

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A rare moment of reflection—and, at least at the time, a rare moment of D'Angelo—Dre's "Imagine" is a powerful moment in his catalog. Dre envisions alternate futures—"Imagine Biggie with his son/Imagine Pac being called 'pops' by one"—before celebrating hip-hop's power to change lives, as it has for Dre himself, and as he's done to his many millions of listeners over many generations.

15. Dr. Dre f/ Eminem "Guilty Conscience"

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Conceptually, it's one of the most clever records in Dre's catalog, and it shows a definite debt to the grim, twisted humor of Eminem's Slim Shady LP material—think "My Fault." With Dre playing the angel on one shoulder and Em the devil on the other, the song runs through a few scenarios before Em and Dre end up rapping at each other, that is, until Em calls out Dre for slapping Dee Barnes, which, to be honest, is a pretty wild thing to have ever made the song.

14. Dr. Dre f/ Ice Cube "Natural Born Killaz"

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A reunited Dre and Cube amped up the horrorcore elements on this caustic post-G-Funk record that ultimately appeared on the Murder Was the Case soundtrack. With a beat that sounds as if it were made from chainsaws, "Natural Born Killaz" found the two N.W.A vets bringing some of their most demonic lyrics. Examples: Everything from Cube's "Terror illustrates my era!" opener and Charles Manson threat ("I snatch him out his truck, hit him with a brick and I'm dancin'!"), to Dre's "Born to be a killer since I came out the nutsack!" and "It's like a deadly game of freeze tag, I touch you with the .44 mag and you're frozen inside a body bag." Musically, the track wed the aggressive N.W.A style of old with the synthesizer and bass-driven sound Dre pioneered with The Chronic.

13. Dr. Dre f/ Snoop Dogg "Still D.R.E."

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While 1996's Dr. Dre Presents the Aftermath wasn't quite as bad as its "flop" status would make it seem, "Been There, Done That" was surely ahead of its time thematically, if not musically—after the Firm foundered, Dre was in need of a reinvention. "Still D.R.E." was only a modest hit when it was introduced, and it's arguable that Dre only really found his footing when Eminem became his new Snoop Dogg. But the song is undeniable regardless, from Scott Storch's keyboard loop to its Jay Z-penned verses. At this point, Dre had again completely reinvented his sound. Out were the old soul loops and whining synthesizers; in was a taste for precision and space, a sound so clean that it felt as if it'd been sprayed with disinfectant. But what makes "Still D.R.E." resonate is the confidence with which he asserts his space: "How, n****, my last album was The Chronic?" We let that pass on a technicality, and because he really sells it.

12. N.W.A "100 Miles and Runnin'"

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By this time, Ice Cube had left N.W.A, but the group soldiered on. Some would argue they fell off, but their chaotic energy remained potent, if not quite as pointed. "100 Miles and Runnin'," to this day, stands up as one of the best N.W.A records ever released. Dre—who raps twice—alludes briefly to Ice Cube's departure, but the song is primarily concerned with tempo and tone. Over a fast break-beat and post-Bomb Squad wall-of-noise texture, "100 Miles and Runnin'" radiates urgency, the logical outer limit of demonstrative aggression. Dre's next step would be to discover understatement.

11. Dr. Dre "What's the Difference"

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Dre uses "What's the Difference" to address old alliances, some of which are still strong (the D.O.C.) and some that he has no interest in repairing (DJ Yella). But it's the verses in aggregate over the cocksure, almost whimsical beat that make this record a standout in Dr. Dre's considerable catalog. Xzibit threatens to "hang Hollywood n**** by their Soul Train laminates" before boasting that the difference between him and you is "five bank accounts, three ounces, and two vehicles." But Eminem steals the show: His closing verse, which jumps from a tongue-in-cheek affirmation of his love for Dre to imagery about shooting up rappers in a hot tub so the bubbles rise, from threatening to "drop the sawed off, and beat you with the piece it was sawed off of," to screaming "I Just Don't Give a F***" and seeing who means it, is a tour de force.

10. N.W.A "Express Yourself"

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While the aggressive sound Dre masterminded for N.W.A's "Straight Outta Compton" and "F*** tha Police" helped both records change the world, Dre himself took a backseat to Cube, Ren, and Eazy on the group's most iconic songs. But at the time, the Dre feature "Express Yourself" actually did better on the charts, in part thanks to its non-profane, radio-friendly sound (and a substantial sample from Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band). "Express Yourself" might sound a little more dated today, and not just because Dre takes an anti-weed stance that would look patently ridiculous just a few years later in the Cypress Hill and Chronic-dominated early '90s; even its primary thrust regarding censorship (Dre's against it) feels a bit out of step with the arguments that we have about popular music now. But it remains an important and charming milestone for an artist whose background differed somewhat from his bandmates.

9. Dr. Dre "The Watcher"

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How does gangster rap mature? Dr. Dre approached the intergenerational passing of the torch on "The Watcher," the opener from his 1999 album, 2001. Few rappers before or since have so explicitly addressed the anxieties and ambivalence of aging in the art form; it seldom allows for that kind of reflection. For Dre it's always been a chess match: Watching fortunes rise and fall, he's played the long game and emerged as a dominant figure in spite of it all.

8. Dr. Dre f/ Eminem "Forgot About Dre"

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The second single in the lead-up to Dre's 2001 covered similar thematic territory as "Still D.R.E.," but this time around there was one major difference: Eminem. Equally vituperative and venomous, but with a wiseacre attitude and quick wit acting as a complement to Dre's bulldozer flow, Em helped Dre break back into the Top 40 for the first time since "Keep Their Heads Ringin’" five years earlier. And though Em's tangent-driven verse about drunk-parking "right next to a humongous truck in a two-car garage" was unforgettable, it was the way his hook unfolded that lodged the song in my brain and that of every other kid in our high school class—more verse than chorus, but catchier than any R&B hook singer we'd ever heard.

7. Dr. Dre "F*** Wit Dre Day (and Everybody's Celebratin')"

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The audacity of making your diss song one of the biggest party records on your album helped "F*** Wit Dre Day" also become one of the most well-remembered diss tracks in rap history. In retrospect, it's wild that Dre had kids across the country rapping along with lines about [censored] and [censored], just because it happened to be over one of the fattest bass lines to ever hit rap music. As a 10-year-old kid, I had little invested in the beef among Death Row, Eazy E, and Luke Campbell. But if the battle was about aesthetics, there was no question about who won. Nothing in hip-hop at the time was touching the swaggering, disaffected cool of Snoop and Dre. Whoever was right or wrong didn't matter; it was a musical arms race, and nothing on radio sounded as cool as "Dre Day."

6. Dr. Dre f/ Snoop Dogg "Deep Cover"

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"Deep Cover" didn't just introduce one of the biggest superstars in hip-hop history to the world; it also announced the arrival of Mach 3—now an employee of Death Row Records. While his attitude was as pugnacious as it'd ever been, the dangerous feel of “Deep Cover” came not from the outward release of aggression, but from its coiled threat. To soundtrack this menacing mood—and a brand-new rapper with a game-changing drawl—Dre gave the track a bass line worthy of a Raymond Chandler flick, highlighting his protégé’s substantial narrative talents. The violence all occurs off screen, as Snoop focuses, instead, on the small details that lead to his targets' grim demise.

5. Dr. Dre f/ Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg "The Next Episode"

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Outside of "Nuthin’ But a G Thang" and maybe "California Love," it's difficult to think of a single Dre record that has sustained better than "The Next Episode." Before "In Da Club" became "The Birthday Song," "The Next Episode" was known as "Smoke Weed Every Day," but it easily transcends that unforgettable closer. (Side note: If you still haven't figured out the timing on that final line, it's probably best to just give up now.) It may not have been the only record to sample "The Edge"—Tash's "Fallin On" did so that same year—but let the record show that no rap artists (before or since) have done so as perfectly. Like its cinematic music video, "The Next Episode" was a celebration of opulence and imperial success, a vision of hip-hop omniscience in musical form.

4. Dr. Dre "Let Me Ride"

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With the chorus' interpolation of Parliament's "Swing down, sweet chariot" from "Mothership Connection (Star Child)," a serene flute sample layered over synthesizers, and typically blunt baritone vocals, Dr. Dre's "Let Me Ride" was one of the most evocative records on 1991's The Chronic. Like "G Thang," it advertised a lifestyle that was born in violence but not without its own populist glamor. "No medallions, dreadlocks, or black fist," Dre argued, letting the world know that he'd just ushered in a controversial changing of the guard. Gangster rap would reign, and it did so by undeniable musical means. This was Kool and the Gang's "Summer Madness" for the new generation.

3. 2Pac f/ Dr. Dre "California Love"

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Although Pac and Dre would fall out soon after recording—Pac memorably found Dre's slow pace anathema to his own fervent prolificacy—it's tough to think of a more well-regarded record in either catalog. With a replayed Joe Cocker sample, Dre and Pac are on equal terrain, united in appreciation for their home state. Both verses are eminently quotable, with Dre getting off as many classic lines ("pack a vest for your Jimmy in the city of s**!" and "lookin’ like I robbed Liberace!") as Pac. If the record fails in any way, it's only that, in burning as bright as it has, other, equally accomplished cuts in both artists’ discographies have been hidden from view.

2. Dr. Dre f/ Snoop Dogg "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang"

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No song had so effectively conveyed a California subculture to the outside world since the Beach Boys. It's hard to imagine now, but at the time, "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" was so surreptitiously revolutionary that before you knew it, entire styles of hip-hop became relics of a forgotten past. In prioritizing melody over noise, Dre (and a stop-start bass line courtesy of Leon Haywood) helped sell an underground, street rap style as the most natural pop music in the world, transforming the sound of not just Los Angeles, but hip-hop coast-to-coast, nearly overnight. Since that time, "'G' Thang" has soundtracked everything from bar mitzvahs to wedding receptions all over the country, in one of the oddest juxtapositions between popularity and hardcore content in music history—at least until Nelly rapped about his street sweeper.

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