Dre Day, our annual bluntsmoked, brass monkeyed, and ingeniously tended get-down in honor of the one and only, was started by the local design firm Burlesque of North America nine years ago Saturday, when those multi-disciplinarians were banded around Life Sucks Die Magazine. And for all the ridiculousness, rumors, and low profiling, Dre still deserves it.
So in honor of the day and the man, we've put together a look back at why anyone gives a shit.
The World Class Wreckin' Cru
Before the word became semantically saturated, Compton was an actual place, with real problems, real parties and real people making serious moves. People like the completely freaked-out World Class Wreckin' Cru, who featured a nineteen years young, (slaying) turntablist named Dr. Dre (formally Dr. J, after the Laker Julius Erving). Dre ended up selling 50,000 copies of the self-released single for "Surgery" around LA -- remember when that was small potatoes?
N.W.A. And Ruthless Records
In 1987, with a believable sprinkle of myth, Eazy-E founded Ruthless Records using a considerable amount of drug cash. Probably. Ruthless Records had been simmering for a while in Eazy's head; the diminutive shark longed to carve a big jagged chunk out the rap game in the West Coast's name. In a calculated bit of modesty, Dre said about the time: "People talk about how revolutionary N.W.A. was and how we had all these big ideas about how to change rap. But we were just making it for the neighborhood." Two years later, after the release and massive success of Straight Outta Compton, local news stations in the Midwest (at least) were running segments about the danger of gangsta rap while the FBI was knocking.
The record label founded in 1991 by a giant bodyguard was the platform that shifted Dre from successful to completely ubiquitous. Suge Knight was a gangster motherfucker, famously securing Dre's release from Ruthless by threatening Eazy-E -- oh to be a fly on the wall -- and hanging Vanilla Ice off a roof for a Soprano-style discussion that's still really hard to square with actual reality. Either way, Death Row ruled with an iron first throughout the nineties, releasing rap keystones The Chronic (!), Doggystyle (!), and Tupac's All Eyez On Me (!!). In 1995 Dre left the label due to the same volatility that Suge had used to secure him on the label in the first place. Three years after that Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac were dead, Suge Knight was in jail, and Death Row had nothing but a long, had slog towards to bankruptcy.
Aftermath, Or: Hi, my name is Jimmy Iovine
After the dissolution of Death Row, the Doc had big plans for Aftermath Records that culminated in...not much, at least initially. Dre's new label began with a strong string of talent which put out quickly forgotten records, like the Firm's The Album and Dr. Dre Presents The Aftermath. Then Jimmy Iovine happened (again). Iovine is the one responsible for Eminem's introduction to Dre (and more recently, Lady Gaga's introduction to the world) and subsequently, Aftermath's many platinum plaques. Business-wise, much of Dre's success throughout the '90s can be traced back to Iovine's curation.
After signing Eminem to Aftermath Dre had another missile up his sleeve, 1999's 2001. The record was a massive success at a time -- that we can relate to -- when many were wondering where the hell he'd gone. The record went platinum six times and marked Dre's recession into the studio for the next decade.
We sorta forgot about Dre
Dre has spent the last decade in the studio, bringing 50 Cent to the world, dealing with the tragic loss of his son, Andre Young Jr., in 2008, and selling headphones.
"Kiss my indecisive ass"
Dre's appearance at the Grammys this past weekend was hopefully/likely a prelude to the release of Dre's long-delayed final album Detox.
Dre Day takes place this Saturday at 9PM at the Triple Rock (Facebook page for the event here). Below is a mix from Mike 2600 the Dre Day King with which to whet your whistle...