On this day, November 16, in hip-hop history…
1999: It took seven years for Dr. Dre to make a worthy follow-up to his game-changing 1992 masterpiece The Chronic but the Good Doctor was able to exceed expectations when he finally released his sophomore album 2001 in November 1999. In February 1999, Dre had enjoyed a career revitalization when his struggling Aftermath Entertainment imprint landed a young Detroit rapper by the name of Eminem whose chart-topping The Slim Shady LP was produced under the auspices of Dre’s watchful eye. The album not only launched Eminem’s supernova career but proved that Dre was still relevant in the rap game. Nine months later, Dre was ready with his own new album and it was a monster in its own right.
At its core, 2001 updates the formula created by Dre on The Chronic. Lyrically and thematically, Dre is as gangster as he ever was, delivering song after song of O.G. anthems about money, weed, guns, low-rider Cadillacs and women. That isn’t a knock on the album, either. Since the days of N.W.A, gangster music is Dre’s calling card and return to the genre he helped pioneer was welcome especially after Dre’s aborted attempt to be more mature on his label’s introductory compilation, Dr. Dre Presents… The Aftermath, a few years earlier. Songs such as “Still D.R.E.,” “Forgot About Dre,” “Xxplosive” and “The Next Episode” are absolute classics in the gangster rap canon and continue to set the party off when they are played to this day.
While the album might not be breaking any new ground subject-wise, the real innovation of 2001 was Dre’s sonic perfection. Dre eschews the classic G-Funk beats of his Death Row days for a more cinematic sound on 2001. The production features more ominous strings, minor key piano riffs and soulful vocals making the album sound as relevant as ever. Even the album’s title, 2001, seems forward-looking as if Dre was looking two years into the future to predict hip-hop would sound like in the near future.
14 years after its release, 2001 remains one of Dre’s calling card. A signature achievement for a career that started in late 1980s with the advent of gangster rap music. We will never forget about Dre.