Chronic samples: The collected source material for Dr. Dre's opus
Dr. Dre's "The Chronic" is one of those albums that has inspired so many words, any discussion of its merits involves reiterating well-worn cliches. It kick-started the G-Funk era and the reign of Death Row Records. It provided a poignant look at L.A. in the aftermath of the riots. It offered most of the world's introduction to Snoop Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound and Warren G. It ended the career of Tim Dog. It is responsible for the widespread dissemination of the words "skeezer" and "busta."
It was one of those rare records that any West Coaster of a certain age remembers with a permanent nostalgia. Listening to it provides instant transport to the era when schoolyard fashions canted toward khakis and absurdly oversized shirts with chronic leaves, Raiders and Kings caps and an AM/FM stereo blaring Power 106 and the late 92.3, the Beat. And blank tape in the cassette deck ready to record the latest hydraulic-ready hit burrowing out of South L.A.
Two summers ago, I made a Summer Jam mix that represented my best attempt to capture the brief window when G-Funk ruled the world (the download link is still active, F.Y.I.). After all, the higher the mercury goes, the better Dr. Dre's masterpiece sounds. It may have been released in December 1992, but it was recorded the previous June, right in time for the stifling furnace of the Los Angeles summer.
Nearly 20 years after its release, "The Chronic's" only flaw is that for most of us, it has been played so many times that it's impact has been blunted. While it's impossible to go back to a time before most us heard it, the collection of samples from "The Chronic" done by local hip-hop blogger Hip-Hop Is Read allows for a new window into the genius of the record. Specifically, Dre's reworking of classic soul and funk records to create something wholly new.
For those looking for something ferociously funky on a scorching summer day, there is little better than listening to vintage Parliament/Funkadelic, Leon Haywood, Donny Hathaway, Willie Hutch and Joe Tex. You may even catch something you didn't notice the first time. I've probably heard both a hundred times, but I never before caught that the drums from "Lyrical Gangbang" were swiped from Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks." And while you're at it, you may want to dig up that old copy of "The Chronic" -- like you always do about this time.
-- Jeff Weiss
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