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Perfection Is Perfected
December 14, 2012 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Dec 15th, 1992 : The Chronic, Dr. Dre's first solo album, is released.

The Chronic turns 20 tomorrow.

"Before I got with Interscope, I recorded the entire album, artwork and everything and went into almost every label, and everybody was slamming doors on my, talking about, “This isn’t hip-hop; you’re using live instruments.” It had me second-guessing myself. I remember being on my balcony with Nate Dogg, listening to my record like, Is this shit good or not?"
- Andre "Dr. Dre" Young, in a 2008 interview with Vibe

"If [other tracks] didn't come out, Dre did it for a reason. A lot of that shit was spontaneous. But I did [another] song 15 times before I got it right. Had a toothache at the time and couldn't spit it out. He was, "Do it the next time, I don't like how it sounds. Do it again, you had too much energy." I'm like, this motherfucker is a precisionist." - Snoop

LA Weekly: The Making of The Chronic

Why The Chronic is the Greatest Album in Rap History "The first single, "Nuthin' But A G Thang"'s infectious sound is a combination of biting synths inspired by The Funky Worm", plus samples from Leon Haywood's "‪I Want'a Do Something Freaky With You‬" , "Uphill (Peace of Mind)" by Frederick Knight (or possibly the Kid Dynamite version), "West Coast Poplock" by Ronnie Hudson and the Street People, and Public Enemy's "B Side Wins Again".

Did a truce between Crips and Bloods set the stage for "Nuthin' But a G Thang' as that summer's anthem? "Just as the early 1970s gang truce in the South Bronx, N.Y., helped create the conditions in which the proto-hip-hop party scene there could flourish, in Los Angeles, the post-riots, truce environment was also ripe for elation."

Review in The Source

Rolling Stone's review

Robert Christgau weighs in.

How Dr. Dre Made Gangsta Rap Mainstream


Peanut Butter Wolf shares his "total Dre Chronic-era ripoff" (previously unreleased)

Interview with Dre - unreleased footage from the "Rhyme and Reason" documentary:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Eazy-E interviews Dre
posted by dubold (36 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's amazing how much staying power this album has. I'm dumbfounded at the modest beginnings of such a successful album. You have to wonder whether the conditions exist for a similar album in 2012. I doubt it.
posted by anewnadir at 10:16 AM on December 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Great post, great album. I remember the halls of my school being totally abuzz with kids talking about The Chronic the week it dropped. Last year, I talked with some high school students of mine about rap albums, and they all knew and loved The Chronic. That kids in schools today are still into the album is a perfect testament to its staying power.
posted by broadway bill at 10:24 AM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


20 years since the release of The Chronic?????

Holy shit, I'm old.
posted by Kitteh at 10:33 AM on December 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


You have to wonder whether the conditions exist for a similar album in 2012. I doubt it.

Kids these days!
posted by Bovine Love at 10:35 AM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man, I knew I forgot about something.

Seriously, great post, about a great album.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:50 AM on December 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yay for a twenty years on post that isn't a day late on Metafilter.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 10:56 AM on December 14, 2012


You have to wonder whether the conditions exist for a similar album in 2012. I doubt it.

Kids these days!


Not a matter of "kids these days." A matter of: no album would have that kind of staying power anymore. The long-player album itself -- as a cultural artifact -- is arguably a relic of a bygone time. Dr. Dre himself has not come anywhere near that level of ubiquity with an album release since and it's been 20 years. You can say that 21 has pushed more units than The Chronic (which it has), but which of those two albums will be remembered in 2032?
posted by blucevalo at 11:01 AM on December 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess I'm in the minority here, but I think The Chronic is actually pretty overrated.

Dre's masterstroke, to my ears, is his production on Doggystyle, the album that I think is the real game-changer.
posted by Dr. Wu at 11:24 AM on December 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


April 1993: I inform the other cook on duty on the US Coast Guard Cutter Forward that if he plays The Chronic even one more time, it's going to the bottom of the sea. He informs me that if that happens I'm going with it. This seems like a small price to pay to never hear it again.
posted by chronkite at 11:25 AM on December 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's too bad Walter Cronkite died before he and Dre were able to finish their collaborate album, The Cronikite.
posted by kmz at 11:27 AM on December 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's the complete album on YouTube (and for a comparison, Doggystyle in full on YouTube)
posted by filthy light thief at 11:35 AM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dre's masterstroke, to my ears, is his production on Doggystyle, the album that I think is the real game-changer.

I'd agree with that. But one wouldn't have been possible without the other.
posted by blucevalo at 11:39 AM on December 14, 2012


GEORGE PRYCE: The day that I [went in to interview with Knight] he said, 'Look I'm gonna interview you when I can, but it may take a while. So I sat for seven days in the lobby, between all of these huge hip-hop types. ... I sat for seven days -- a solid week. ... On the last day I finally saw Suge. He came down the aisle and said, "Hello, how are you? I'm gonna see you in a few minutes, but first I've got to have a staff meeting. As a matter of fact, come on in to the staff meeting." So when the meeting was called to order, the first words out of his mouth were "Everybody, I'd like you to meet George Pryce -- he's the new publicist, the head of communications and media relations for Death Row Records." No contract, no conversation about salary, nothing. But I knew it was gonna be OK and that's just the way Suge is.

That's fucking awesome.
posted by four panels at 11:47 AM on December 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


DEEEZ NUTS
posted by Renoroc at 12:52 PM on December 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


The 20th anniversary edition should include a 20 dollar sack of endo and a 35 dollar gift certificate to the Compton swap meet.
posted by dr_dank at 1:12 PM on December 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


The Chronic and Doggystyle both sound as muddy and juvenile today as they did then. Compared to other stuff that was on the scene at the time like Black Sheep, The Pharcyde, or hell, Mc 900 Ft Jesus, these albums were a sidenote at best. Way, way, way overrated.
posted by chronkite at 1:52 PM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


these albums were a sidenote at best.

Well, that's just wrong. Overrated or not, The Chronic was massively, massively influential in a way those other acts weren't. I'm not talking about quality, but in terms of impact, it's simply wrong to call The Chronic a "sidenote".
posted by Sangermaine at 1:54 PM on December 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


"wrong" is generous
posted by neuromodulator at 2:01 PM on December 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: Way, way, way overrated.
posted by ReeMonster at 2:13 PM on December 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Like anything it depends on who and where you are. To me they're a sidenote. They were influential, for sure, just not on anything I give a shit about..mostly gangster and stoner hiphop, the further degradation of women, and the trend towards aggrandizement and glorification of the ego.

And it's funny to me that of all the amazing albums that came out in 1992 (it really was a great year for music), *this* is the one that would be called "perfection is perfected" or "the greatest album in rap history".

Please.
posted by chronkite at 2:52 PM on December 14, 2012


You're seriously gonna bash The Chronic? Son, move along.
posted by iamck at 3:02 PM on December 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'd say this album's sound is hugely influential. It took a couple of years...
posted by Catblack at 3:38 PM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


And it's funny to me that of all the amazing albums that came out in 1992 (it really was a great year for music), *this* is the one that would be called "perfection is perfected" or "the greatest album in rap history".


Regarding my choice of "Perfection is Perfected" for a title:

It's part of the lyrics for "Nuthin' But A G Thang", referencing the Snoop/Foesum track "Let 'Em Understand Perfection", so it's a nod to Dre's perfectionist approach to his music, while simultaneously namechecking other work by Snoop.
posted by dubold at 4:28 PM on December 14, 2012


From the Christgau review linked in the OP-

The world he hears in his head isn't the up-to-date P-Funk fools say they hear--that would be too hard. Instead he lays bassline readymades under simulations of Bernie Worrell's high keyb sustain, a basically irritating sound that in context always signified fantasy, not reality--stoned self-loss or, at a best Dre never approaches, grandiose jive. This is bell-bottoms-and-Afros music, its spiritual source the blaxploitation soundtrack, and what it promises above all is boom times for third-rate flautists--sociopathic easy-listening. Even if it's "just pop music," as some rationalize, it's bad pop music. C+


And before you go all LOL OLD OUT-OF-TOUCH-WHITE-GUY, check out some of his contemporaneous-ish reviews of Too Short, NWA, Ice Cube, Ice-T, all of them put out records he liked a lot more than this one.
posted by hap_hazard at 7:04 PM on December 14, 2012


Christgau makes a couple relevent points, but by bashing P-Funk on his way over to bashing Dre just means that he and I will never see eye to eye on this.

And while I don't care as much for Parliament as I do for Funkadelic, anyone who's going to dismiss the contributions of George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, and Eddie Hazel as bellbottom shit is not worth listening to, as I don't consider him fully human.
posted by elr at 8:40 PM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Important album. Great post. But my god wait until one day someone puts together a Bay Area rap post from that same period. Y'all are gonna poop.

The Coup
The Click (including E-40 & B-Legit)
Too Short
Digital Underground
Dre Dog aka Andre Nickatina
Hieroglyphics (including Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Casual and Souls of Mischief)
Hobo Junction (featuring Saafir)
Living Legends (including Sunspot Jonz, Murs, Grouch)
Richie Rich
Mac Dre
Too $hort
2Pac

THAT was a rap golden age o.

N.W.A. & G-funk? Nice. Historical and pivotal for sure. It's goofy but Dre is rap's Thomas Edison getting credit for inventing electricity.

But the Yay Area underground rap scene 1987-1995 (that's Too $hort's selling 100k units of Born to Mack out of the back of his trunk to E-40's Sick Wid It roster signing to Jive Records) is an unrecognized era of rap's Steinmetz, Curie, Hertz, Tesla, Marconi, Braun, Armstrong, and Bose really mastering electricity while at the same time inventing something called radio.
posted by Mike Mongo at 9:27 PM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm not Christgau, but his Clinton-related reviews are mostly all A's and B's- he's not dissing them, he's dissing the use Dre made of 'em. To my ears, 'sociopathic easy-listening' sort of nails it, and much as I love Bernie Worrell, describing that sound as 'irritating' isn't necessarily a dis.

Then again, I've never been a fan of The Chronic- not when it was ubiquitous on MTV and in my neighborhood, not now, I try but I just don't get it. But I assume that's at least partly my fault, and I don't want to do a big hater-derail, so I'll stop.
posted by hap_hazard at 9:44 PM on December 14, 2012


Yeah, if The Chronic was as massively influential as claimed, you'd think it would garner more than 27 comments here..hell, the "driving in Russia" post has 102.

The Chronic sold a lot of copies for sure. 12 million worldwide. That same year ABBA's greatest hits sold 28 million copies, and let's see...Whitney Houston's "The Bodyguard" soundtrack sold 45 million.

So, it's an album that blatantly rips off the most annoying parts of Parlament and Funkadelic, is soaked to the brim with homophobia, violence, petty infighting and misogyny, is named after weed (the cover looks like zig-zags LOL! SUCH GENIUS!)

I mean, even Dre knew in his heart that it was garbage.."I remember being on my balcony with Nate Dogg, listening to my record like, Is this shit good or not?"

No, it's not.

It's hip hop's most glaring example of The Emperor's New Clothes. No one wants to admit it's shit because that means a thousand albums downstream of it are also shit.

Funny how the usual gang of metafilter commenters that are outraged by homophobia and violence are silent on this post..I suspect it's pretty awkward to admit one of your favorite albums glorifies the exact kind of thinking and behavior you claim to despise.
posted by chronkite at 8:08 AM on December 15, 2012


You know what? I was going to let this go, but since you came back for another round, what the hell.

Chronkite: it's okay to not like the album. It's okay to dislike the aesthetic, and it's definitely fine to take it to task for all sorts of lyrical issues, whether it be misogyny or glorification of violence or celebration of narcissism or flat-out juvenilia. That's okay, and were you expressing that, I would have no argument to make.

But instead you're trying to enforce your opinion with supposed facts about it that are either objective or place it in some sort of historical context. That's what calling it "muddy" is. You're not content to not like it and have that be your subjective opinion; you're trying to back that up with semi-objective bullshit like saying it's poorly mixed that just doesn't hold up. Yesterday, I was reading an interview with Peanut Butter Wolf about the album, about how it was the album to compare to for mixing, for compression, EQ, etc. About how he still thinks of it to compare things to today. About how Dan the Automator used it as a point of comparison while working on Dr. Octagon. So this idea that "it's muddy sounding" is about as demonstrably false as a semi-subjective statement like that can get. You are contradicted by the experts. You are contradicted by experts in different genres. Their contradictions are enforced by the longevity of the esteem with which they regard the album. (Then I watched a clip with Big Boi talking about his admiration for the album, about it being one of his favourite albums, which wasn't about the mixing, but whatever.)

And then you pull this "sidenote" thing. Stronger than that, "sidenote at best". And the thing is, language like that is about historical context. Let me say that again: language like "sidenote" is about placing things in a historical context. But when you get called out on that, instead of acknowledging that you were mistaken or that you misspoke, you claim you meant it a strictly personal context. "To me they're a sidenote". That's nonsense. You started talking about things in a cultural-historical context, and it's not totally honest to pretend that you always meant something like a "personal cultural-historical context" when you get called on it, because "personal" and "cultural" don't really go together.

But even all that's fine. I thought about explaining why I thought your arguments were flawed, but then I decided neither of us would probably gain much from the ensuing discussion.

But then you come back with this:

Funny how the usual gang of metafilter commenters that are outraged by homophobia and violence are silent on this post..I suspect it's pretty awkward to admit one of your favorite albums glorifies the exact kind of thinking and behavior you claim to despise.


And this? This makes me fucking angry. Because that phrasing, "claim to despise", you're accusing us (me) of being secret homophobes and misogynists.

You don't know me. You don't know what goes through my head when I listen to stuff like this, that I always struggle with issues of lyrical content with things like The Chronic. And that I've come to believe that if I care about hip-hop history and production, I have to be able to separate my reaction to certain aspects of things from other aspects of them. And you know what? I assume most if not all people in this thread have a similar relationship to it. We're a pretty good community here, and I'm willing to extend that courtesy because I think it's more productive than, say, making semi-backhanded accusations of homophobia.

Now, because your reaction is based on values I really do think are important (not liking violence and homophobia and misogyny), I do want to extend a bit of an olive branch here, and I'm sorry I feel the need to express anger before doing so. I understand taking issue with those things, and I understand feeling like their presence interferes with things you might otherwise enjoy. I really do. And I do feel like I'm making a compromise when I parcel those things off, and it does trouble me to feel like those are things I can compromise on. But The Chronic exists; I didn't make it. And I think it is important and I can acknowledge it and take it for what it is, and I'm not sure what ignoring it on matters of principle accomplishes.

But as for your conflation of your subjective, personal opinion with semi-objective (accusations of it being poorly mixed or mastered), historical (sidenote) perspectives, I think you're just wrong, and you'd be better off (from the "legitimacy of your argument" standpoint) keeping your perspective about your personal perspective.
posted by neuromodulator at 10:53 AM on December 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, and presenting artistic self-doubt as "knowing in his heart it was garbage" is, again, not something I would agree with, to put it gently.
posted by neuromodulator at 11:04 AM on December 15, 2012


There are so many hilariously appropriate usernames attached to these comments that I can't single any one out.
posted by spiderskull at 12:21 PM on December 15, 2012


So you're willing to listen to words you despise at top volume repeatedly because Dan the Automator and Big Boi said it's good? Great! They are the experts! Maybe you have the discipline to separate the vile and juvenile lyrics from the stolen beats and samples, maybe you can ignore awful content for the sake of "appreciating art"..I doubt many of the kids listening to it today take such an academic approach.

But it's great that the kids are still eating this stuff up, right? What staying power the album has! It's a "piece of history",right? GANGSTA RAP, WHAT A NOBLE GENRE! I mean, screw Slint..screw PJ Harvey. Forget Nina Simone. Who cares about Arrested Development..that was a TV show, right? Forget about a thousand other bands that actually wrote their music, and strove to communicate something other than the lowest basest parts of themselves. Let's focus on the glory of The Chronic!

Because despite its blatantly disturbing lyrics and derivative (at best) musical content, it has some kind of holy status in some peoples heads. Trust me..get just a little bit outside the hip hop universe and you'll find that calling The Chronic a sidenote is being very generous indeed.

And it's not like Dr. Dre turned out to be some kind of prolific genius..he did a few more forgettable albums and talked about his dick a lot if I remember correctly.

If you like The Chronic by all means go ahead and like it. It, as you say, exists. So does the Human Centipede. Would you watch that hundreds of times, just because it exists? "No no, I ignore the fact that it's people with their mouths sewn to assholes...I just like it for the CINEMATOGRAPHY!"

I'd never claim to "know you", but if you think you are not a misogynist or homophobe and yet you listen to albums like this again and again happily you might just want to take a look at that. Hitler did a few very nice watercolors and drawings that (darn it!) I just can't enjoy because HITLER. It's a wide world out there..lots to listen to. You might find you like original, hate-free, violence-free music! Give it a try!

And finally, it is indeed hypocritical of the community here to be so vocal and dedicated to issues like homophobia and respect for women and cultural diversity right up until they have to face it in music they like to dance to, but I suspect it's more that they saw the title of the post and skipped on by..just like I probably should have.
posted by chronkite at 12:22 PM on December 15, 2012


what
posted by neuromodulator at 1:31 PM on December 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


And it's not like Dr. Dre turned out to be some kind of prolific genius..he did a few more forgettable albums.

Yeah, like that Eminem stuff. Totally forgettable.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:16 PM on December 16, 2012


I mean, even Dre knew in his heart that it was garbage.."I remember being on my balcony with Nate Dogg, listening to my record like, Is this shit good or not?"

This is silly logic. It's quite common for artists to experience self-doubt, especially when they're close to submitting their art to their audience.

Even Paul McCartney went around between the recording and release of Revolver concerned that it didn't sound as good as he'd originally thought.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 6:59 PM on December 18, 2012


Noz just wrote this excellent thing and this follow up about offensive material in rap music and it makes a nice response to chronkite.

Also, having read some recording engineering Internet forums in my time, I can confirm that engineers absolutely adore the sound of The Chronic and even more The Chronic 2001. From what I can tell as an outside observer on the whole technical side of mixing and mastering, they're pretty much considered the gold standard for that and they're routinely used as benchmarks.
posted by chrchr at 11:51 PM on December 28, 2012


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