Category: Dr. Dre

Ice-T gets back to hip-hop roots in ‘The Art of Rap’

In the new film ‘Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap,’ Ice-T reels in artists like Dr. Dre, Kanye West and Eminem to tell the story of hip-hop’s gritty beginnings.
Ice-T“Look around you,” says Ice-T. “Where are the Bentleys?”

Even amid the pleasantly neutral setting of a Hollywood press day, there’s still one topic that gets the 54-year-old rapper-actor riled up, and it’s not his 12 seasons on NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

“In rap, everyone is driving a Bentley and drinking Cristal,” says Ice-T, born Tracy Marrow. “That’s not reality. We have a war, we have a black president, we have people unemployed, we have people losing their homes, we have some pretty serious stuff and music is not reflecting it. It’s like everything is Lady Gaga and life is perfect.”

To remind the public of a time when hip-hop more regularly addressed societal concerns comes Ice-T’s directorial debut, “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap.”

The documentary -- out this week -- offers candid interviews with Dr. Dre, Eminem, Grandmaster Caz, Kanye West, Mos Def, Nas, Rakim and many others, probing the masters of the genre on their inspiration. The film stops short, however, of presenting a thesis. Still, Ice-T had a mission: To capture secrets of the craft from as many artists as possible, and remind artists, fans and moguls that rap is more than “money, cars, girls, jewelry or beefs.”

The film is arriving at a time when other hip-hop pioneers are taking a preservationist view toward the genre. In L.A., acclaimed indie artist Murs is staging a six-month-long hip-hop performance series, “Through the Mic,” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Superstar Jay-Z has also become a curator of sorts, and is programming a multi-genre, two-day festival in Philadelphia over Labor Day weekend.

As one of L.A’s groundbreaking rap pioneers, Ice-T specialized in bringing a moralistic bent to inner-city tales. His 1988 single “Colors,” from the film of the same name, captured the toll L.A. gang life has on a family, and 1992’s “Cop Killer” was a ferocious reaction against the LAPD following the beating of Rodney King.

The latter, recorded with his rock band Body Count, galvanized those who fought for explicit content stickers on albums, and the violence-in-lyrics controversy ultimately led to his split from Warner Bros. Records. His 1993 “Race War” addressed whether any lessons had been learned from the L.A. riots (they had), and now “The Art of Rap” culls stories from many who had a hand in hip-hop’s countercultural beginnings.

Today, Ice-T’s acting and celebrity persona have arguably eclipsed his rap roots. His résumé ranges from the tough 1991 film “New Jack City” to the blithe, unscripted E! series “Ice Loves Coco.” But despite venturing out of the studio and in front of the camera, Ice-T’s plea to return substance to the pop charts isn’t just talk.

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Rodney King, John Singleton on 'Uprising: Hip-hop and the L.A. Riots'

In Mark Ford’s new documentary, "Uprising: Hip-Hop and the L.A. Riots," which airs tonight on VH1, the music coming out of South L.A. in the early '90s was more than just news, or what Chuck D of Pubic Enemy called the "black CNN." The explicit and furious hip-hop and gangsta rap that flowed out of that community was a warning about the riots that would erupt there on April 29, 1992.

“Ironically, I was working at the real CNN at the time. I remember being baffled by the violence and not really having a frame of reference for it,” Ford said. “But as I studied hip-hop, I saw that it was music with very specific grievances. Some people took a song like “F… tha Police” as inflammatory, but it was the truth.”

Watch a clip from the documentary, which does contain mature language and scenes of rioting, here.

On the 20th anniversary of the riots, Ford’s documentary examines the cauldron of anti-authoritarian rage cooking in what was then called South-Central L.A. in the years leading up to the riots, seen through a lens of the visceral hip-hop music being made across the area. Interviews with performers such as N.W.A., Snoop Dogg and Ice-T illuminate the prescience of albums that re-defined a genre, made big headlines, and drew condemnation from the FBI with their brash imagery.

FULL COVERAGE: Remembering the riots

For those who knew the perils of being a minority in L.A. at the time -- police harassment, a violent drug trade, gang warfare to rival any military occupation --  records such as  “Straight Outta Compton” were strong representations of conditions on the ground. The early era of gangsta rap was an artistic primal scream from a community that felt victimized by the LAPD, by drugs, by an institutionalized poverty right at the doorstep of L.A.'s extreme wealth -- a corrective to mainstream media depictions of life before and after the riots, which oscillated between sensationalism and demonization.

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Coachella 2012: Dr. Dre, Snoop, Eminem, Tupac hologram end Week 1

Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg

It's tempting to say up front that Tupac Shakur stole the show on Sunday night when his likeness appeared alongside Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre to cap off the first weekend of Coachella, but that would just be for a cheap laugh. Making a "cameo" as a hologram projected onto the stage and the jumbo screens above, the late Los Angeles rap icon was the least dynamic of the parade of rappers young and old who held the mike.

But in his defense, he was just a hologram. 

Already in the set, Dr. Dre, who put Los Angeles rap on the map in the late 1980s when he and his peers in N.W.A burst out of Compton to help invent gangsta rap, had stood alongside his one-time protege Snoop Dogg (nee Snoop Doggy Dogg) to offer sing-along anthem after sing-along anthem, each one a 1990s ode to Southern California living and rapped in unison by tens of thousands.

COACHELLA 2012 | Full coverage

They'd swapped hits to a crowd who grew up with them, and did so with 20 years of friendship and collaboration between them, so that when they traded lines it was like they were finishing each other's sentences. And, in a sense, they were: The 1991 classic "Deep Cover" was Dr. Dre's first post-N.W.A release and it featured Snoop's first-ever appearance on record.

It's hard sometimes to remember how strange and wily Snoop's first recorded rhymes were: they slithered through Dre's G-funk beats with a laid-back grace that was the polar opposite of the aggrieved New York style of the time as put forward by Public Enemy, LL Cool J and Brand Nubian. Snoop's flow was as immediately recognizable as Dre's beats, and it's one reason why he's remained relevant for two decades. 

Those rhythms were at the center of the night, of course, and were highlighted through cameos that illustrated the breadth of Dre's sounds. Young weed-rapper Wiz Khalifa came out to join Snoop for "Young, Wild, and Free" -- and share a joint the size of a Sharpie --  and Compton lyricist and MC Kendrick Lamar stood alongside Dre for "The Recipe," Lamar's new cut produced by Dre.

New York rapper 50 Cent arrived to do bits of his early classics -- "Wanksta," "P.I.M.P." and "In Da Club" -- and the masses were enthusiastic and welcoming to our East Coast guest. Eminem waltzed out casually, his hoodie pulled up, to salute Dre's work with some verses -- the best of which was a snippet of "Forgot About Dre," a Dre track from 2001. Snoop and Dre honored the late singer Nate Dogg, the soulful singer who provided hooks on some of G-funk's classic jams as well.

The Tupac hologram? A red herring, unnecessary and ill advised. His abs still looked great, it's true, and there was a certain spring in his step as he and (the living) Snoop rapped their collaboration "2 of Americaz Most Wanted." But when the hologram rhymed the line, "my intention's to get richer," well, we know how that ended up.

Regardless, Dre and Snoop closed Coachella 2012, Part 1 on a high note (no pun intended), and delivered the California vibe to a lot of its happy citizens and visitors. 


PHOTOS: Coachella 2012

PANORAMA: Coachella virtual tour

TIMELINE: Coachella through the years

SHARE: Tweet us your photos and stories

MOBILE USERS: All you need to survive Coachella

-- Randall Roberts @liledit

Photos: Rappers Dr. Dre, left, and Snoop Dogg perform onstage during Day 3 of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Field on Sunday. Credit: Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Coachella.

Coachella 2012: Beats by Dre provides a savvy retreat


Product placement and branding abound at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, but if we had to pick the best of the blatantly marketed products on the field it'd have to be those by headliner Dr. Dre. The rap producer is behind the successful Beats by Dr. Dre headphone line, and in a tiny tent tucked away next to the festival’s mobile charging station you could experience (if only for a few delicious minutes) what it's like to be someone who can actually afford $399 headphones.

All that was needed was a valid driver's license to rent a pair of Dre’s high-end signature headphones to catch all the action on the mainstage, courtesy of one of four high-definition televisions inside the tent.

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Beats by Dr. Dre to sever ties with Monster Cable


Beats by Dr. Dre is parting ways with Monster Cable Products at year's end, according to a report from Bloomberg Business Week.

Dr. Dre and co-founder Jimmy Iovine partnered with the company to release their line of high-end headphones in 2009. Together they have released a host of hot-selling headphones, and even teamed with other artists such as Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga and Sean "Diddy" Combs for their own branded lines. Beats accounted for 53% of 2011's $1-billion headphone market according to market research company NPD Group, surprising given the explosion of celeb-fronted headphones from Quincy Jones, RZA, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z and now 50 Cent.

At the end of the year, Beats’ five-year contact with Monster will end and Dre and Iovine have decided not to renew. Though both companies maintain the split is amicable, Bloomberg Business Week reported the two had been in disagreement over revenue share and who should take credit for the original concept.

Rumors that Iovine quickly dismissed to Pop & Hiss on Friday.

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Critic's Notebook: At Coachella, a rebellious spirit

The booking of Pulp, with its ‘Common People' anti-1% screed, typifies Coachella '12. 

Critic's Notebook: At Coachella, a rebellious spirit

One of the great, universal rock anthems of the last two decades — Pulp's “Common People” — bypassed the U.S. when it exploded out of England in 1995. But if and when a reunited Pulp plays the song at this year's Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., its artful and catchy screed against the 1% couldn't be more timely.

At a moment when jobless kids are cracking open piggy banks and digging deep for a Coachella ticket to see 120-odd bands over one weekend at the Indio festival, Pulp seems the most relevant among veteran acts that also include Refused, Mazzy Star, At the Drive-In, Company Flow, Madness and Squeeze. But Pulp's arrival isn't the biggest name coming out of the desert's festival, which runs two consecutive weekends. This year's roster, which was announced Monday afternoon by promoter Goldenvoice, will feature Dr. Dre and Snoop, Radiohead and the Black Keys as headliners, while dozens of other acts will occupy the festival's five stages, including Grammy-nominated names such as Bon Iver, Florence and the Machine and David Guetta. An undercard includes dance, hip-hop and rock upstarts SBTRKT, M83, Azealia Banks and Feist.

Pulp's arrival at Coachella this year, however, typifies the festival, its ever-evolving and maturing aesthetic, and its place in the culture right now.

“Common People” is a lyrical conversation with a rich girl longing to slum it with the commoners. With bitterness in his voice, Pulp's Jarvis Cocker tells of her desire to “sing along with the common people,” then replies that she could never truly do that because inherited wealth blinds her to the realities of the paycheck-to-paycheck life. “You'll never get it right,” he sings, conjuring the spirit of both Ray Davies and Bob Dylan, “'cos when you're laid in bed at night/watching roaches climb the wall/if you call your dad, he could stop it all.”

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Coachella 2012: Dr. Dre, Radiohead, the Black Keys to headline


Rapper Dr. Dre will close the 2012 edition of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, to be held for the first time over two consecutive weeks in mid-April. Headliners for the multi-weekend, six-day affair include rock acts the Black Keys, Radiohead and the Shins, as well as hip-hop and dance acts Snoop Dogg, the Swedish House Mafia and Kaskade, among many others.

Coachella, run by AEG-owned concert promoter Goldenvoice,  will be held over two consecutive weekends -- April 13-15 and April 20-22. The lineup was unveiled on the Goldenvoice and Coachella Facebook pages Monday.

PHOTOS: Coachella 2011

Modeled after major long-running European festivals such as Denmark's Roskilde and England's Glastonbury, Coachella is coming off its second-consecutive sell-out year, hosting approximately 90,000 people per day. Tickets for the 2011 edition went in a record six days, and the event, held at the Empire Polo Grounds, is considered the unofficial kick-off to the summer festival season. More to come ...


Stagecoach Festival 2012 is sold out

Sinead O'Connor, Ian McCulloch to play Hollywood Forever

Elvis Costello and the Imposters announce West Coast tour dates

-- Todd Martens

Watch Snoop Dogg, DJ Quik, D.O.C. work on Dr. Dre's 'Detox' album


For an inevitable summer blockbuster like Dr. Dre's "Detox," it was inevitable that some form of outsourcing would come into play. After all, only so many people can fit into one studio, and Dre albums have always been closer to coastal statements of purpose than the purity of one man's vision.

So it's instructive to watch these clips of Snoop Dogg, DJ Quik, and D.O.C. packed into a Southland studio attempting to work on "Detox" -- without the imprimatur of the good Doctor. Judging from these YouTube clips from Snoop Dogg's "Doggumentary Television" (watch Part 1, watch Part 2), no one but D.O.C. has heard the full extent of what's been recorded for the mythically delayed "Detox." At various junctures, Snoop points to the man who authored large swaths of "The Chronic" and says, "He's the only one who knows what [Dre] has. We can't come below the bar."

Though Snoop is often portrayed as the goofy avuncular stoner, this is the side of him as the true artist, surrounded by lauded producer DJ Quik, who arrives with a black box that he describes as "every drum machine you ever wanted in your life, rolled into one." Beaming, Snoop picks it up and tells the camera: "This is the cheat sheet, straight from DJ Quik's living."

The reason for the studio work is two songs for Snoop's next solo project and two for "Detox." Yet it's the latter that haunts the proceedings. Like most Dre-related work, there are live guitarists and drummers, mixed with machines both analog and digital. In between the blunt smoking and conversations with members of Guerillas in Tha Mist (!), there's the ineradicable emphasis on topping the past.

Snoop readily references "Still D.R.E" and the wild reaction it continues to get from crowds even a dozen years after its release. He describes it as the "[last stuff], it was perfect. We need to find something flawless for Dre and he ain't listening past the first 10 seconds." At one point, he mentions that "we got time."

So for those looking to analyze this film with Zapruder-intensity, what's clear is that "Detox" is still being recorded and Snoop, D.O.C., Quik, and the longtime West Coast linchpin Batlecat might have a sizable involvement. But we'd have to ask Dre to find out whether any of the songs made that day will make the final track list.


Dr. Dre and Snoop: Back Together Again

Dr. Dre to develop sound systems with Chrysler

The Detox Cycle: Longtime Dre affiliate Soopafly returns

-- Jeff Weiss

Photo: Rapper Snoop Dogg at the Rolling Stone Lounge last week in Hollywood. Credit: Michael Buckner / Getty Images

The Detox Cycle: Longtime Dr. Dre affiliate Soopafly returns

 Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg
In this week in "Detox," we bring you the latest developments from the opaque and dank world of Dr. Dre, the West Coast's most indelible sonic icon, weightlifting enthusiast and O.C.D. perfectionist. According to Hip Hop DX, Priest "Soopafly" Brooks, the renowned ex-Death Row keyboardist, has returned to work on the mythologically delayed album from Andre Young.

The news suggests a back-to-basics approach to the construction of the album. After all, reading the rumor-laden Wikipedia page for the album is about as entertainingly byzantine as a Pynchon novel. Here's an abbreviated list of the artists on the record, at one time or another: Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Warren G, Mary J Blige, The Game, Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, Raekwon, Ice Cube, Lady Gaga, Just Blaze, R. Kelly Common, Wayne Newton, Lil B, and Big L's ghost.

The last three are not actually true, but they well may be for all we know about "Detox." The first rule of "Detox" isn't don't talk about "Detox," it's tell the world that it's a masterpiece and it's almost finished. That way, journalists write blog posts speculating about the content of the record and thus continue to foster its mythological status and public interest in whatever Dre's doing. (Wait a minute...)

July brought forth the news that Snoop Dogg and the D.O.C. were back in the mix, and now the return of Soopafly (the man who played keyboards on "Natural Born Killaz," Tha Dogg Pound's "Doggfood" and several hundred other records of the post-Death Row years) would seemingly imply that they're throwing their hands in the air and waving them as if they care -- and are very confused about the record's direction. Not so, according to Soopafly, who told DX that "Snoop Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound, and [me] are making sure it got that finishing touch on it."

Later, Soopafly added that "[Detox] sounds good. I haven't even personally worked on anything yet. Dre's a perfectionist, so he takes his time. But, I listened to a lot of stuff [and] it sounds good. That’s all I’ma say."


The Detox Cycle: Dr. Dre and Snoop are back together again

Dr. Dre to develop sound systems with Chrysler

Dear Dr. Dre, Forget "Detox," focus on "The Planets"

-- Jeff Weiss

Photo: Snoop Dogg, left, is embraced by Dr. Dre at the BMI Urban Awards in August. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press


The Detox Cycle: Dr. Dre and Snoop are back together again


Dr. Dre is all alone. All of the great mythologically delayed records have been released. Guns N' Roses' "Chinese Democracy," Chef Raekwon's "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2," the Who's "Lifehouse," all for sale on the open market in some form.

No tears need be shed for Andre Young, who is selling headphones and soda and cars in steroidal numbers. Occasionally, he drops a single that receives radio play but that no one really seems to like. And he toils on to make "Detox." Endlessly, so we're told. Even though the first rule of "Detox" is that you don't talk about "Detox." However, when you ask anyone off the record who has heard the project, they will assure you of its excellence with a weird Benedictine reverence.

What Dre really needs is someone following him around to make the hip-hop "Lost in La Mancha." Unfortunately, that will never happen. So we mainly get a series of awkward interviews done by someone shoving a camera into Dre's face at an opportune moment. According to the news from the latest interview, Snoop and Dre are back working in the studio together.

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