I had the following originally as a later bulletpoint, but let’s open with it. This is from Entertainment Weekly 20 years ago this weekend:
“2001 is filthy, filled with sexist skits, simulated orgies, and much phallic boasting — none of which should diminish Dre’s achievement. If any rap producer deserves the title ”composer,” it’s he.”
Upon the 20th anniversary of its Nov. 16, 1999 release, I’ve put together some thoughts on Chronic 2001 and what it meant to a 16-year-old me. It was the first album I ever had where I acquired before any of my friends. It’s a hilarious masterpiece, timeless, cool and will forever be culturally important.
When I was in 5th grade, a guy who’s probably a cousin twice removed through a couple divorces on my dad’s side gave me Snoop Dogg’s famous Doggystyle album, to this day my choice for best rap album ever. Along with The Chronic, that Doggystyle album defined would rap would sound like for the next 15 years. If I could find my copy, I would send it to The Smithsonian. But in 1995, my parents took it away and wouldn’t let me listen to it. Something about cuss words and Snoop smoking a joint on the back cover. Can’t recall. A few years later, I’d buy a No Limit Soldiers album and nobody said a word.
That’s when gangsta rap became legal for me.
Chronic 2001 And Social Currency
I remember getting made fun of in 7th grade for calling a girl on the phone. She didn’t like me and told everyone and I was mocked by the entire grade. Shortly after, I was cut on the first day of 7th grade basketball tryouts. With the kids who couldn’t catch or dribble, I didn’t make it past the first day. It was an unconscionable decision by a coach who was probably really nice, but it will fuel me forever. I went out for track and wrestling in 7th grade, and never missed a basketball cut ever again.
After these episodes from when I was 12, I found that the energy, rage and social currency of gangsta rap influenced me and over my teen years I made a lot of friends as a kid while driving too fast and listening to explicit lyrics. To this day, I will yell-rap old Death Row songs with my closest friends.
When Chronic 2001 came out, I was a sophomore in high school. I bought it the day it came out. Before the kids who were cooler than me. First and only time ever (I did buy the 8 Mile DVD the day it came out in 2002). I went on a triple date with friends and a girl who would’ve been out of my league the previous year that weekend. The only friend I had who could drive a car took us. I was the only one who had the newest disc for the car ride. (Ashley, you still never called me back!)
We are automatically programmed to revere the music from our youth. I consider myself lucky to have been a teenager when Death Row and Def Jam albums were cool. In the wide span of time on Earth, I was lucky enough to be 16 when Chronic 2001 came out.
Anyway, here are a couple thoughts I’ve held about Chronic 2001 for what is now 20 years:
It’s Unintentionally Hilarious
An underrated trait of gangsta rap is how funny it is. I’ve often listened to rap music for laughs. Especially spoken interludes, background audio and lyrics so vile that they actually become funny. Chronic 2001 gave us the idea to put down a woman by saying she looked like AC Green. Nothing’s funnier than that. A couple other funny things:
- Eddie Griffin, who was a thing then, had a quotable interlude where he yells about domestic issues in a way that would never fly in any published music today. He’s also in the Bar One interlude, where he drunkenly approaches 2 women who order an apple martini and a cosmo. Bar One is on the album for no reason at all.
- There’s a song titled ‘Ackrite.’
- Other random rappers who appear: Mel-Man, Hittman, Six-Two and Knoc-Turn’al.
- Chronic 2001 continued the 90s rap trend of using answering machine messages to introduce songs. Biggie, Eminem and Method Man all used this technique, sometimes for no reason at all. In fact, people today will find this answer machine interlude….as a thing that existed.
And really every song on Chronic 2001 has something funny that I love that I won’t repeat here. But feel free to text me about it. I’ll go into it.
Eminem Is For Real
For my money, Eminem is the greatest rapper who has ever lived. I’ll probably go over my defense of that sometime. The Slim Shady LP came out in February 1999 and it shocked the world. It transcended race while making race an issue. And it was gross, weird and lyrically brilliant and unlike anything we’d ever heard. Nine months after Slim Shady, he put down 2 timeless verses on Chronic 2001 that will stand forever:
That verse in ‘What’s The Difference?’ is as famous as anything he’s ever written. Which is funny, because when you Google ‘Eminem Chronic 2001’ this is the top result:
These performances furthered Eminem as the greatest storyteller ever in rap. Hilariously, the ‘Forgot About Dre’ verse is a story about a domestic disturbance randomly placed in a song where Dr. Dre chastises the rap industry for ignoring him. Eminem on that album was unintentionally hilarious and masterful all at once, and it set him up for a level of fame and buzz that no other rapper has ever achieved.
Other Highlights And What It All Means
- His hooks on 2001 are probably Nate Dogg’s best performances ever as well. It’s very fun to sing The ‘Next Episode’ and properly time out the ending.
- I remember watching the music video for ‘Still D.R.E.’ before the album came out. As a wannabe piano player, it’s my favorite composition on the album.
- Devin The Dude became famous for his work in the artistically titled ‘F*** You’, which is about the discretion needed after an affair.
- Of course, Kurupt appears on track 19, ‘Housewife.’ But I had forgotten that Mary J. Blige appears in ‘The Message.’
In all, Chronic 2001 would go 6x Platinum in the US, 5x Platinum in Canada and 4x Platinum in the UK. Predictably, it only sold 20,000 albums in Switzerland.
So give him one more platinum plaque and…20 years later I wish Dre would take rap back.
Picture Of My Kids
This is from the kids’ Boo Bash at school on Oct. 26.
End With A Joke
A co-worker shared this tweet with me and I am now dead.