I read a headline today in Daily Variety (motion picture industry magazine) that said: "Straight Outta Compton
chronicles the origins and history of N.W.A. ("Niggaz With Attitude"), arguably the most influential hip hop group in the history of American music. The title is taken from the title of their 1988 debut studio album, and it is due to blast into cinemas on August 14, 2015."
Bravo! Excited for Dr. Dre... it's been a long time coming. No, not as long as his much anticipated Detox
album (the sequel to the hip hop classic album The Chronic
); but, getting a movie about his formative years with N.W.A. to the big screen is something he's worked on for a long time.
The headline took me back to my last meeting with producer and former N.W.A. founding member, Dr. Dre when I turned in a final draft of a screenplay that he hired me to write called, "Please Listen To My Demo." It was a biographical drama that chronicled the origins and history of a young hip hop music producer and a hip hop group that caused a seismic shift in the music world.
For those of you who don't know, Andre Romelle Young (born February 18, 1965), known by his stage name Dr. Dre, is an American record producer, rapper and entrepreneur. He is the founder and current CEO of Aftermath Entertainment and co-founder of Beats Electronics.
When Dre and I collaborated on writing "Demo" he had just started Aftermath and began a new chapter of his dramatic life... steering away from the gangsta rap that he is known for and towards a more innovative form of hip hop music.
Dr. Drethe sonic mastermind who introduced the world to Snoop Doggy Dogg, Eminem, 50 Cent and The Gamehas never done things the usual way. For Dre, hip hop is more than a music genre consisting of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping, and a rhythmic and rhyming speech that is chanted... he brings elements (foundation music samples and elevated beats) from jazz, classical, motion picture scores and even the cosmos.
Consequently, fully realized SOOC, in addition to being dramatic music and on-stage fire and passion, it will be a realistic vision of a creative music group from an American city (Compton, CA) based on the experiences of Dre and a gangsta rap/hip hop group called N.W.A.
The movie will be a complicated dramatic social psychological story and a musical tour de force; it will contain elements of a crime drama where the criminals are not always motivated by profit or a desire to harm others, it will contain many characters who are trapped in their existence with human qualities ...where the police and others in authority are sometimes the criminals.
For those not familiar with the city, Compton is a city in southern Los Angeles County, situated south of downtown Los Angeles. Compton is one of the oldest cities in the county and on May 11, 1888, was the eighth city to incorporate. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a total population of approximately 100,000. The overwhelming majority of the city is working class with some middle-class neighborhoods, and it is home to a relatively young community, at an average 25 years of age, compared to the American median age of 35.
Since the 1980s, the city of Compton has become well-known in American popular culture due to hip hop groups and rappers originating from the community, including Dre's gangsta rap group. The city of Compton as well as southern Los Angeles County in general is known for its high unemployment and black and Hispanic gangs, including the Bloods, the Crips, and Surenõs, which all originated in the Los Angeles area. However, contrary to music and media-influenced popular belief, the majority of residents of Compton have high aspirations and substantial initiative.
Life and art often does a peculiar dance... and gangsta life in Compton is the dance reflected in Dre's music. It also helps to know that in the 80s, America witnessed an urban drug invasion and related unemployment, broken homes, gang life, homicides, and pornography that reversed many of the nearly two decades of social economic change and progress (especially for the black community). All of this (drama) like the blues in a Billie Holiday
song is reflected in Dre's music.
Given the periodic breakdown in effective policing in the war on drugs (reflected in some N.W.A. song lyrics); and, the recent rash of national race-charged police shootings, I hope SOOC also brings Shakespearean melodramatic insight into aspects of life in the 'hood.
In addition to the stereotypical dysfunctional images of desperate people, movie audiences may learn that most poor people in the 'hood are not addicted to alcohol or other substances; they do not engage in criminal behavior or drug trafficking; and, most poor people are not on welfare. That, and music is a primary way to soothe many psychological aches and pains.
The poor in Compton and other disadvantaged neighborhoods take good care of themselves, their families and their property. They ascribe to the same values as the rest of us: hard work, self-reliance, sacrifice, and respect for others. They are simply poor... and while the music of the poor is often filled with pathos, frustration, and deep yearning... it is often liberating.
Hip hop music's appeal is not limited to urban youth. The most popular music genres according to Millennial Facebook users is hip hop. As of September 2014, hip hop and rap music accounted for 26.6 of all Millennial Facebook music likes. Pop music was ranked second with 20.8 percent. And, hip hop "funk" jazz is gaining audiences worldwide.
When I decided to write this article I struggled with coming up with the right creative approach. Finally, I thought, "write the article the way that Dre makes music, and the way we (Dre and I) worked to create "Demo..." sample the chronology of Dre's life, embellish those beats with insights, and write over the tracks and beats a story about Dre's Straight Outta Compton
journey as told for "Demo."
I am eager to see SOOC because fully accomplished; it will be great entertainment filled with youthful exuberance and insight into a reality that prompts dissent, protest and defiant music....
To set the stage, it helps to know that the poorer part of South Central L.A. and Los Angeles proper is the primary stage for Dre's music and Straight Outta Compton
. The principal characters in and around his music (especially The Chronic
) were the players: Eazy E (Ruthless Records), Jerry Heller (Ruthless Records), Suge Knight (Death Row Records), Tupac Shakur (Death Row Records), Jimmy Iovine (Universal Music/Interscope Records); Gangstas (drug dealers, corrupt politicians, corrupt entrepreneurs, corrupt bankers, corrupt law enforcement, etc.), Bitches and Hoes (cowards, betrayers, groupies, gold diggers, and prostitutes) all had their exits and their entrances.
Dre learned to play many parts in the Straight Outta Compton
drama in addition to being a gangsta rap mastermind.
When asked about gangsta music, legendary producer Quincy Jones
once commented, "unfortunately, playing the gangster game is very profitable. It's a strange, strange animal. You are making entertainment out of something that is just probably the most negative aspect of what we are all about."
"It's been marketed very well. Between the films and the newspaper articles, the 6:00 news, etc., you would believe that the whole spectrum of black America is "Boyz 'N the Hood.""
So, what does Straight Outta Compton
have to do with Jazz?
Dre's Hip Hop, like Jazz, encompasses a range of music that continues from ragtime to the present day, and has proved to be very difficult to define. His music makes heavy use of improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation, and the swung note, as well as aspects of European harmony, American popular music, and African musical elements such as blue notes.
According to Quincy Jones, "hip hop has been closer to the pulse of the streets than any music we've had in a long time. It's sociology as well as music, which is in keeping with the tradition of black music in America."
Like Jazz, hip hop has its roots in the African-American experience from New Orleans
to St. Louis
, to Chicago
, New York City
, and Los Angeles
(including Compton) as African Americans are impacted by social and economic factors in their communities.
Dre, N.W.A. and hip hop (like jazz) continues to be the musical chronicle of the African American story in America. Hip hop lyrics, like a Jazz solo, are also played over the foundation (electronic backing). Rapping can be delivered over a beat or without accompaniment. The improvisation, syncopation, the forceful rhythm, is a continuation of the jazz tradition.
Ironically, I was introduced to Dre by Dwight Williams, who was the former head of development for Academy Award nominated director John Singleton's "Boyz 'N the Hood's" production company... and, "Boyz 'N the Hood" is the movie that launched former successful N.W.A. member and co-producer of SOOC's Ice Cube's film career.
"Boyz 'N the Hood" is a brilliant 1991 American teen hood drama film written and directed by John Singleton in his directorial debut. It depicted life in South Central Los Angeles, California. It was nominated for both Best Director and Original Screenplay during the 1991 Academy Awards, making Singleton the youngest person ever nominated for Best Director and the first AfricanAmerican to be nominated for the award.
Our introduction was subsequent to Dre receiving and reading a copy of a screenplay that I wrote called Public Domain
a story about two unlikely co-protagonists (a Gary Webb-like reporter and a Tupac Shakur-esque rapper) who are thrown together to expose the source of rampant drug trafficking, gang violence, police corruption with a music industry nexus.... Walter Hill (48 Hours
) was attached to direct.
It was easy to get to know Dre. He was by and large, well ...a record producer, rapper and entrepreneur with a clear sense of purpose. While his life was rather complicated at the time, he openly shared aspects of his life with me after I disclosed that I remember seeing him walk past my parent's home on his way to middle school.
In other words, I knew something about the neighborhood, the music, and the institutions that influenced Dre's formative years.
In 1976, Dre began attending Vanguard Junior High School in Compton, but purportedly due to gang violence, he transferred to the safer suburban Roosevelt Junior High School. He attended Centennial High School in Compton during his freshman year in 1979, but transferred to Fremont High School in South Central Los Angeles. Moving was an alternative to getting caught up in the growing gang violence of the 80s and 90s.
Dre unsuccessfully attempted to enroll in an apprenticeship program at Northrop Aviation Company. Thereafter, he focused on his social life and entertainment for the remainder of his high school years...
I remember Dre's early days as a DJ at Eve After Dark. It was obvious even then that he had uncommon music skills. Music was destined to become Dre's lifeline, and a dramatic journey.
The research I did for "Demo" was focused on a character that we called Tragic (Dr. Dre) the man who produced and provides or provided the foundational music and beats for: N.W.A., World Class Wreckin' Crew, The D.O.C., 2Pac, 50 Cent, Above The Law, Eminem, Game, Kendrick Lamar
, Nate Dogg, Snoop Dogg (Lion), The Dogg Pound, Xzibit, among others. From 1984-85
Dre was a member of the group, World Class Wreckin' Cru. Inspired by the Grandmaster Flash song "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel," Dre often attended Eve After Dark to watch many DJs and rappers perform live. He subsequently became a DJ at the club. There, he met aspiring rapper Antoine Carraby, later to become N.W.A. member DJ Yella. In 1986
Dr. Dre met rapper O'Shea Jacksonnicknamed Ice Cubewho collaborated with Dr. Dre to record songs for Ruthless Records, a rap record label run by local rapper Eazy-E. N.W.A. is widely credited as seminal artists of the gangsta rap genre, a profanity-heavy subgenre of hip hop, replete with gritty depictions of urban crime and gang lifestyle.
Dre's teaming with fellow rappers Eazy-E, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, MC Ren, the Arabian Prince and the D.O.C. to form N.W.A. witnessed the law of attraction in motion. With this group, Dre produced a hard-hitting sound that still echoes around the world. This is in part why N.W.A.'s lyrics are equally harsh and explicit; they reflect life on the streets. Straight Outta Compton
(1988) sold more than 2 million copies and marked the arrival of gangsta rap.
N.W.A favored themes and uncompromising lyrics, offering stark descriptions of violent, inner-city streets. Propelled by the hit "F**k tha Police," the group's first full album Straight Outta Compton
became a major success despite an almost complete absence of radio airplay or major concert tours. In fact, the F.B.I. even sent Ruthless Records a warning letter in response to the song's content.
Media criticism of the song, "F*** tha Police," that ignited a firestorm of controversy in the 80s when it explored tensions between black youth and the police, has been vindicated to some extent by videos that now appear all too frequently on the internet showing incidents of unlawful acts by police against young black males.
From 1986 to 1991
, N.W.A. endured controversy owing to their music's explicit lyrics that many viewed as being disrespectful of women, as well as its glorification of drugs, and crime. The group was subsequently banned from many mainstream American radio stations. In spite of this, the group has sold over 10 million units in the United States alone. 1992-96
Suge Knight was able to have Eazy-E release Dre from his contract and, using Dr. Dre as his flagship artist, founded Death Row Records ("DR"). In 1992 Dre released his first single, the title track to the film Deep Cover,
a collaboration with rapper Snoop Dogg, whom he met through his half brother Warren G.
Dr. Dre's DR debut solo album was The Chronic
, released under Death Row Records. Dre ushered in a new style of rap, both in terms of musical style and lyrical content. Many regard The Chronic
as a classic hip hop album.
On the strength of singles such as "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang," "Let Me Ride," and "Fuck wit Dre Day (and Everybody's Celebratin')" (known as "Dre Day" for radio and television play), all of which featured Snoop Dogg as guest vocalist, The Chronic
became a cultural phenomenon, its G-funk sound dominating much of hip hop music for the early 1990s.
In 1993 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the album triple platinum and Dr. Dre won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance for his performance on "Let Me Ride." For that year, Billboard magazine also ranked Dr. Dre as the eighth best-selling musical artist, The Chronic
as the sixth best-selling album, and "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang" as the 11th best-selling single. 1996-98
: Move to Aftermath Entertainment: The Dr. Dre Presents the Aftermath album, released on November 26, 1996, featured songs by Dr. Dre himself, as well as by newly signed Aftermath Entertainment artists, and a solo track "Been There, Done That," intended as a symbolic farewell to gangsta rap. Despite being classified platinum by the RIAA, the album was not very popular among music fans. In October 1996, Dre performed "Been There, Done That" on Saturday Night Live.
Signaling a departure from his gangsta rap days, Dre sampled the following more mainstream artists as foundations for his music, including:
"Lolo (Intro)" contains samples of "Deep Note" performed by: James A. Moorer. "Big Ego's" contains samples of "Theme from The Persuaders! performed by John Barry
and "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" performed by Rose Royce. "Xxplosive" contains samples of "Bumpy's Lament" performed by Isaac Hayes
and interpolates "Ain't No Fun (If the Homies Can't Have None)" performed by Snoop Dogg. "What's the Difference" contains samples of "Parce Que Tu Crois" performed by Charles Aznavour. "Bar One (Skit)" contains samples of "Poundin" performed by Cannonball Adderley
"Light Speed" contains samples of "I'm Still #1" performed by Boogie Down Productions. "Forgot About Dre" contains samples of "The Climb" performed by No Doubt and "Compton's in the House (Remix)" performed by N.W.A. "The Next Episode" contains replayed elements of "The Edge" performed by David McCallum "Let's Get High" contains samples of "Backstrokin'" performed by The Fatback Band and "High" performed by Skyy. "The Car Bomb (Skit)" contains samples of "Time Is Passing" performed by Sun. "Murder Ink" contains samples of "Halloween Theme" performed by John Carpenter. "Ed-Ucation (Skit)" contains samples of "Diamonds Are Forever" performed by Franck Pourcel.
It was in 1997-98
when Dre and I connected to write his biodrama. The production finance for the feature film was to come from Ted Fields and InterScope; consequently, there was nothing left to do after the script was delivered but to cast and produce the move. However, anyone that knows anything about the Hollywood movie production knows that project "turnaround" and production delay is a huge part of the business.
When I turned in my final draft of the screenplay and Dre exclaimed, "this sh** is dope!" I just knew the movie was afoot. I hope some of "Demo" made the production committee's cut! When Dre's version of Straight Outta Compton
was delayed (music being Dre's first love and priority) we settled our business account and I've waited hoping that some day the movie would get made.
On 14 August Straight Outta Compton
may (will) be in a theater near you. 19992000: 2001:
Dr. Dre's second solo album, 2001, released on November 16, 1999, was considered an ostentatious return to his gangsta rap roots. It was initially titled The Chronic 2000
to imply being a sequel to his debut solo effort The Chronic
but was re-titled 2001 after Death Row Records released an unrelated compilation album with the title Chronic 2000: Still Smokin
in May 1999. 2012:
Fourteen years after I delivered Dre my draft of Please Listen to My Demo, it was announced that New Line Cinema was developing a future N.W.A. biopic to become a theatrical release in 2012.
According to Internet Movie Database (IMDB) the script was researched and written by filmmaker S. Leigh Savidge and radio veteran Alan Wenkus who worked closely with Tomica Woods-Wright. Producing the film will be Tomica Woods-Wright, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and directing by F. Gary Gray. Straight Outta Compton
is set to be released August 14, 2015. 2012present: Straight Outta Compton film and Compton album:
On his Beats 1 radio show "The Pharmacy" on August 1, 2015, Dre announced that he would release what would be his final album, titled Compton. It is inspired by the N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton
and is a compilation-style album, featuring a number of frequent collaborators, including Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and The Game, among others. It is also slated to drop exclusively on iTunes and Apple Music. Dre also talked about his long-delayed Detox album, stating that he did not release the album because it did not meet his standards.
For many years Dre was reluctant to do a movie about N.W.A. because, as he's said on many occasions, "I didn't want to taint the legacy of N.W.A. in any way." Straight Outta Compton Movie Reviews:
If the critical movie reviews of the movie are correct, "Straight Outta Compton
covers a lot of ground in recounting N.W.A.'s story. It begins and ends on high notes, though it is not as strong in the middle."
Critics are critics... I'm looking forward to seeing the movie!
While 15 producers and four writers are listed in the movie's credits, I believe Dre and Cube are its primary producers. If so, I can't imagine the movie having a weak second act. This, especially when the prevailing social and economic conditions of Compton at the time (including drugs, police, and gangsters) were accurately reported by N.W.A. in their music and performance, and this most likely occurs in the movie's second act.
During our months of script development discussions that led to me writing "Demo," Dre encouraged me to "just do the research" and to write the truth. There were no holds barred; this is consistent with how Dre produces music... lyricists (writers) are invited in to write rhymes (words) over Dre's well researched, organized, composed and produced samples and beats.
Dr. Dre is perhaps the group's heart and soul. A central theme in Dre's character's arc in "Demo," is the struggle between his individual desires and subordination to the group's goals.
My experience with Dre is that no one works harder.... For Dre, quality of the product trumps volume of work... and he is prolific. He has stated on many occasions that he is a perfectionist and pressures artists with whom he records to give flawless performances.
In 2006, Snoop Dogg told the website Dubcnn.com that Dr. Dre had made new artist Bishop Lamont re-record a single bar of vocals 107 times. Dr. Dre has also stated that Eminem is a fellow perfectionist, and attributes his success on Aftermath to his similar work ethic.
Who doesn't like perfection? I had absolutely no trouble responding to Dre's quest for perfection. In fact, I loved hearing Dre exclaim, after we turned in various segments of the script, "That's Dope" or "That's the Sh**..." or, he'd say, I if missed the mark, "here's what really happened..."
That was the way that we worked. I'd create an outline based on what was in the public domain about Dre, N.W.A., Ruthless Records, Death Row Records, Aftermath, etc. Then, we'd discuss what was fact and what was fiction, and I'd run with my interpretation of events... Dre wasn't looking to produce a documentary, so I had lots of creative freedom.... Still, there was no doubt that it was a biographical drama about Dre, Compton, and his musical journey.
"Demo" was written during a stressful time in Dre's life. He'd recently left Death Row Records, started Aftermath Records, taken a new wife (Nicole), moved into a new home... This was at least the third fresh start in his young life (Note: Dre grew up largely in a single parent household).
I had access to Dre's entire retinue of friends and family (even his mom Verna Young... a strong and beautiful woman), his studio, his home, his record distributor and soon to become partner, Jimmy Iovine (CEO of Interscope Records), the restaurants he loved, the movie theaters he frequented (Dre loves movies... he loves drama! ... he especially loves movie scores.) At the time "Demo" was written, Dre believed Interscope was to provide the movie's production funds.
I don't know what, if anything, from "Demo" will appear in Straight Outta Compton,
however, I do know the story... and, the story that Dre and I discussed is powerful drama. The audience may be given a slice of life... and, the why behind the reason for the kind of music that came straight out of Compton from Dre and N.W.A.
The legacy of N.W.A. and its music has less to do with the group or its members; but, it has more to do with how their music expressed the tumultuous times and the circumstances that gave rise to the music; and, the damning effect of drugs on a community.
It has been over 18 years since Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb stunned the world with his "Dark Alliance" newspaper series investigating the connections between the CIA, a crack cocaine explosion in the predominantly African-American neighborhoods of South Los Angeles (especially Compton), and the Nicaraguan Contra fightersscandalous implications that outraged LA's black community, severely damaged the intelligence agency's reputation, and launched a number of federal investigations.
I read a recent interview with Ice Cube, where he said, "we were trying to give people a slice of why we created the kind of music we created. That was the key, to really show people the why. Compton is a character in our movie. Compton is the sixth member of N.W.A. in this movie."
In that same interview, Ice Cube was asked: What was it like working on this film last year as the conversation around police brutality reignited? And he said, "It was mentioned, but it wasn't really dwelled on. We were trying to give people a slice of why we created the kind of music we created." Further, "It just happened to come out at a time when there's so much other police abuse in the news. I knew that whenever we dropped this movie it would be timely because problems still persist, which is really a shame. It's nothing for us to hang our hat on at all. I'm not surprised. It's not shocking. Nothing has changed. We haven't held enough officers accountable for misconduct and abuse and, in some cases, just flat-out murder."
Another important storyline in Demo, and SOOC is the often-shady music business, where managers treat artists shabbily. When N.W.A's single, "Boyz-n-the-Hood," is a local hit, it attracted the attention of an older white manager, Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti). "I can make you legit," he says, and he does connect the group with Priority Records, which releases the groundbreaking Straight Outta Compton
. But, he also manages to become a partner in Eazy-E's Ruthless Records, and, is alleged to have underpaid everyone in the group but Eazy.
After coming off tour, N.W.A. group member Ice Cube claimed that the group's finances were out of order; this led to Cube leaving Ruthless Records without signing on as a solo artist, which the remaining members proceeded to do.
Though N.W.A. was highly successful, Dre was later advised by The D.O.C. and the rapper's friend, Suge Knight (Knight), that he should leave the label to avoid the record label's alleged financial improprieties... offering to extricate Dre from his Ruthless Records contract.
After joining DR, Dre once again provides the beats or pulse of the street music; and, on productions like Tupac's "California Love" the layering is beyond what others were doing... with multiple instruments fused together to create unique sounds.... This sounded a lot like jazz.
In music and music theory, the beat is the basic unit of time, the pulse (regularly repeating event), of the mensural level Rhythm in music is characterized by a repeating sequence of stressed and unstressed beats ("strong" and "weak") and divided into bars organized by time signature and tempo indications.
How important is that beat? I can recall a meeting with Dre at Record One Studios in Studio City. He was consulting with a conductor who was scoring a movie for an NBC series. While the conductor and orchestra were rehearsing for their scoring session, Dre exited the studio into the lobby with my co-producer, Susan Gee, and me to discuss updates with the "Demo" screenplay... when in mid sentence, Dre held up his hand to stop the conversation and reentered the studio. He rejoined us a few minutes later... and said, "listen to this," the musicians started to play again, Dre changed a minor part in what they were playing, and the shift in the energy of the music was amazing.
Dre clearly has a musical gift... it's the only way to explain what he hears and how he manipulates music, and he studies and appreciates all kinds of music. He is able to focus and concentrate on the critical pulse of music and surgically transplant sounds across eras, cultural boundaries, and electronic mediums.
No one is better at taking parts from foundation songs and transplanting those sounds into new productions with amazing results. This reminds me of Charlie Parker
who took all of the melodic and harmonic information available and crystallized it into bebop...
As a lover of Jazz, I hope hip hop music continues to evolve in the direction of contemporary Hip Hop "Funk" Jazz and other expressions that incorporate sounds from all over the world. Dre is a truly transformative artist who may be on the vanguard of the next wave of music.
According to Quincy Jones, "Bebop and hip hop, in so many ways, they're connected. A lot of rappers remind me so much of bebop guys in terms of improvisation, beats and rhymes. My dream is to see hip hop incorporated in education. You've got the youth of the world in the palm of your hand."
Like Quincy Jones, who I had the pleasure of spending an evening with in October 2014, music seems to come from Dre's entire being: his head, his heart, and the physical environment he grew up in.
Hip hop music, like jazz, has its roots in the African American (and more recently Latino) experience. I believe Dre has no limits to his musical expression, and scoring movies like his mentor Quincy Jones seems to be on the horizon.
Speaking of Quincy Jones, dare I mention his breakthrough soundtrack The Hot Rock
Many will remember when Quincy Jones delivered a sultry jazz score and LP to one of the best caper films ever made. This score, one of the first Jazz scores for a major motion picture, has been endlessly sampled for four decades, and it's not hard to see why his band consisted of: Clark Terry
, Gerry Mulligan
, Grady Tate
, and Ray Brown
This LP was designed with a gatefold sleeve cut down to a 3.5-inch flap that folded down over the cast photo (to detail contribution music artist) when closed: Composed By, ConductorQuincy Jones Performer [Musician]Carol Kaye
, Chuck Rainey
, Clare Fischer
, Clark Terry
, Dennis Budimir
, Emil Richards
, Frank Rosolino
, Gerry Mulligan
, Grady Tate
, Jerome Richardson
, Mike Melvoin
, Milt Holland
, Ray Brown
, Tommy Tedesco
, Victor Feldman
Producer, Arranged ByBill Rinehart
(tracks: A6), Don Altfeld (tracks: A6), Quincy Jones
(tracks: A1 to A5, B1 to B6)
When you listen to and think about how, on old N.W.A records, the beat would change numerous times in a single song, this is jazz-like improvisation. Many can program beats, but how many like Dre can put together an entire album of seemingly disparate parts? In many regards it's like scoring a movie. Straight Outta Compton
may have all of the influences that, in the words of Gary W. Potter, Professor of Criminal Justice and Police Studies at Eastern Kentucky University, in writing about the savings and loan scandals of the 1980s, can also be used to illuminate some of the central premises of Straight Outta Compton
"There is precious little difference between those people who society designates as respectable and law abiding and those people society castigate as hoodlums and thugs. The world of corporate finance and corporate capital is as criminogenic and probably more criminogenic than any poverty-wracked slum neighborhood. The distinctions drawn between business, politics, and organized crime are at best artificial and in reality irrelevant. Rather than being dysfunctions, corporate crime, white-collar crime, organized crime, and political corruption are mainstays of American political-economic life."
Unfortunately, law enforcement against those outside of the institutional power structure is harsh, unfair, and severe. This unfair and often over aggressive treatment would cause artists like N.W.A. to write lyrics like F---Tha Police.
And, cause musicians like Dre to transform the reaction to injustice into pulsating, penetrating, and relatable beats.
But, what about Dre producing a purely jazz driven album... time will tell. I wouldn't bet against it.
When recently asked if we will ever hear a Dr. Dre instrumental album?
He replied, "oh yeah, that's in the works. An instrumental album is something I've wanted to do for a long time. I have the ideas for it. I want to call it The Planets. I don't even know if I should be saying this, but fuck it. It's just my interpretation of what each planet sounds like. I'm gonna go off on that. Just all instrumental. I've been studying the planets and learning the personalities of each planet. I've been doing this for about two years now just in my spare time so to speak. I wanna do it in surround sound. It'll have to be in surround sound for Saturn to work."
My impression of Dre and his producer role reminds of a quote attributable to another genius, Steve Jobs:
"Musicians Play Their Instruments. I Play The Orchestra."
Dre plays the worldwide orchestra....While gangsta rap is the musical force within Straight Outta Compton
Dre is renowned for improving his production style through the years; this, while keeping in touch with his roots and re-shaping elements from previous work.
Sampling was at the time a key element of Dre's production, the E-mu SP-1200 being his primary instrument in the N.W.A days. He both paved the way for the future popularization of the G-funk style within hip hop, and established heavy synthesizer solos as an integral part of his production style.
Dr. Dre was also one of the first producers to interpolate the then little-known drum break from The Winstons' "Amen, Brother" in the N.W.A song Straight Outta Compton.
This break has since become a staple in not only hip hop, but all popular music, having been used in over 1700 songs.
From Straight Outta Compton
on, Dre uses live musicians to replay old melodies rather than sampling them. Dre is receptive to new ideas from other producers, one example being his fruitful collaboration with Above the Law's producer Cold 187um while at Ruthless. Cold 187um was at the time experimenting with 1970s P-Funk samples (Parliament, Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins
, and George Clinton
etc.), that Dre also utilized.
When people ask who the greatest hip hop and rap producer of all time is, you expect to hear the name Dr. Dre. Andre Romelle Young is acutely aware of harmonics and how his music affected listeners. He has the focus and persistence of vision that makes for genius music.
Between rumors, missed release dates and side projects (like Beats Electronics, audio products manufacturer and subscription-based streaming service Beats Music service that Apple acquired for $3 billion), Dr. Dre's fans have remained loyal; this, because while on his own time frame the Doctor delivers...
Photo credit: Aftermath Music