What can be said about Dr. Dre that hasn’t been said?
G-Funk bad ass?
Master of the game?
Plenty has been written about the man, but for my money all I find myself wanting to say is, “Dr. Dre is the pimp daddy of gangsta rap…and he’s back.”
Back in vicious fashion. Some might think that Dre, older now, would be mellowing with age and status. Not at all. Dre takes his mature family-man attitude and filters it with strength and flair into 2001.
Musically, 2001 is about as close to brilliant as any one gangsta rap album might possibly get. The hip-hop rhythms are catchy, sometimes in your face, sometimes subtle, but always a fine backdrop for the power of Dre’s voice.
And Dre’s voice is still one of the strongest in the industry. Something about the raspy, heavy edge of his delivery elicits visions of a proud godfather. Dre is the master. His rhymes are quick, his delivery laid back yet full of punch. His maturity seems to have done nothing but elevate his status to the master of all he purveys, a voice and a message to which all other artists will certainly be compared.
Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and many others are on board for the ride, and their collective presence is felt for the entirety of the album. Snoop Dogg whisper/sings on many tracks, but it’s the frantic rap of Eminem that truly stands out, perhaps only because he’s the freshest voice on board. No guest threatens the funk mastery of Dre himself, though, and the plethora of guests give the album a social, party feel, excellent for the hip-hop party tunes that litter the offering.
Dre hasn’t lost any of his edge, but unfortunately this also means the standard gangsta rap lyrics are back for more. One stamp of gangsta rap is the bludgeoning lyrics concerning hoes and bitches, and there’s plenty of that here. Most of it I take as tongue-in-cheek and find curiously humorous—the lyrics seem more like a caricature of an ethos than a reflection of any true prevailing beliefs. The religious right certainly wouldn’t agree with this line of thought, for the lyrics are anything but subtle, yet they are punctuated by moments of clarity and beauty among the gunshots and the profanity. “The Message,” the 22nd track and 2001‘s finale, reminds us of what gangsta rap can be when it stops bragging about the male organ/ego and castigating females as cheap and stupid. This last track, with Mary J. Blige on board, is downright beautiful, a eulogy for Dre’s departed brother. “The Message” is a classic of modern rap. Dr. Dre has made his return unfettered, for good or bad, there’s no doubt…
...so what can I say about 2001, then?:
If you like rap/hip-hop, buy it. You won’t find a better album for a long while, maybe not until Dre himself launches back onto the scene again. Until then, though, you’ll be rockin’ well into the California dawn with Dre and 2001.
// Notes from the Road
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