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Label: Death Row/Interscope/Priority Records
Before Detox became industry folklore. Before "In Da Club" ruled the airwaves and 50 Cent bullied his way onto the scene. Before "How We Do" and "Westside Story" and "Higher" cemented The Game's debut. Before the Grammy win for "Producer of the Year" in 2001. Before 2001. Before he was known as the architect of the West Coast sound. Before Eminem became America's most hated and beloved white boy. Before Doggystyle and Aftermath Entertainment and Jimmy Iovine. Before gangsta rap rose up and ruled the '90s. Before "California Love" swaggered its way onto MTV and rattled the trunks of every lowrider cruising down Crenshaw Boulevard in 1995. Before Suga Free asked the rap game, "Why you bullshitin?" Before DJ Quik perfected his perm. Before Kendrick Lamar put Compton back on the map and told the music industry, "Bitch, don't kill my vibe." Before Dom Kennedy and Nipsey Hussle and Ty Dolla $ign. Before we lost Nate Dogg. Before 2Pac went out in a flurry of bullets on the Las Vegas strip that fateful September night. Before it all, there was the sound, the foundation, the album that made every rap album that came after possible. The Chronic.
It's hard to know where to begin, really. Any of the 16 tracks act as an entry point into the life and times of Andre Young. Released seven months after the L.A. riots, and recorded just one month after four LAPD officers were acquitted of beating Rodney King within an inch of his life and the city nearly burned to the ground, The Chronic was a means to a bigger message.
This wasn't just music or simply gangsta machismo, this was survival of the fittest for a new generation of black kids with dreams of making it out the hood.
It was never just about hip-hop. Dre, Snoop, Warren G, Nate Dogg, The D.O.C., Kurupt, and Daz were rebels with a cause. Warrior Gs that banged to the beat of their own microphones, black Locs, and black baseball caps their armor of choice. This wasn't just music or simply gangsta machismo, this was survival of the muthafukin' fittest for a new generation of black kids with dreams of making it out the hood. Metaphors be damned, this was "the day the niggaz took over."
The Chronic is an ugly, unflinching portrait of navigating 1992 Los Angeles—wild and uncertain and thump-crazy. Yet for all of its G-funk brilliance (Dre masterfully flipping a live version of Parliament's "Swing Down, Sweet Chariot" as the sonic framework of "Let Me Ride") and its made-for-mythologizing street grit ("Lil Ghetto Boy," "Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat"), The Chronic was a success because it was able to be what it wanted: fun, but also socially aware.
That's the thing about great albums; artists have a way of finding purpose in the worst of times. South L.A., and its surrounding communities, had just begun to get back on track by December '92. The riots had turned the city into a smoggy, palm-tree'd wasteland—53 people were dead and there was over $1 billion in property damage—but here came Dre and Snoop and the whole crew, rolling down Slauson, fat beats and blunted rhymes, letting everybody know, "Ain't nuthin but a G thang." —Jason Parham