Today is Dr Dre's birthday. The man who was born Andre Romelle Young has spent 56 years on this Earth, and he hasn't wasted a second of it. Let's take a look back at one of the most successful people hip hop has ever seen.
World Class Wreckin' Cru
A lot of people think Dre got his start with NWA, and while that's what catapulted him to international fame, he was originally part of the electro-music group World Class Wreckin' Cru, alongside fellow future NWA member DJ Yella. They dominated the underground rap scene for years, but due to creative differences he left, to form NWA.
Here's where we get big. Like, really big. NWA's debut album Straight Outta Compton shook America to its core. For the first time, there were national stars talking about police brutality and class inequality among black Americans. Fuck Tha Police is one of the most important songs ever written.
They were angry, they were trapped, and they were good. No one embodied the frustrations of being under the hammer of inequality quite like NWA could. Along with Ice Cube, Eazy E, Arabian Prince, MC Ren, and DJ Yella, Dre and the rest of NWA changed the world and practically invented political hip hop, or at the very least changed it forever.
The Chronic and 2pac
After NWA dissolved in 1991 following Ice Cube's departure and general tension within the group, Dre signed with Death Row Records, who produced music for a number of artists, but most notably Tupac Shakur, one of the greatest rappers who ever lived (the greatest, really).
He also released his debut album in 1992, The Chronic, still considered a game changer and a staple of hip hop.
Eminem and 2001
So, after leaving Death Row Records following the death of Tupac, Dre started his own label, and signed this random guy. You've probably never heard of him, but it's this guy Eminem. You know, the most commercially successful rapper to ever live?
He also released 2001, the album that, aside from The Chronic, Dre is best known for. Still DRE and Forgot About Dre run across the mind of everyone in America from time to time. It's impossible not to love that album. It was Dre's proud return to gangsta rap, but he changed it. This was a new gangsta rap sound, something you could play in a club and think about inequality with. His good friend Snoop Dogg featured prominently on that album too.
Beats by Dre
Dre has always been one to sit on the laurels of incredible success until he gets bored. I can't blame him, if I made 2001, I'd probably disappear for a few years too. But he came back, but not as a rapper or producer. Instead, he was a businessman. Beats by Dre are one of the largest headphone companies in the entire world. They were the coolest thing in the world in the early 2010s. NBA players were wearing them, celebrities, rappers, whoever you want, they had a pair of Beats. And you had to get one too.
Apple's purchase of Beats in 2014 for $3 billion, a move that gave Dre enough Apple stock to be the first rapper to ever pass the billion dollar mark, passing Diddy for the richest man in hip hop history. Happy birthday to a legend.
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