Throwback Thursday – February 1965


Before the name “Dre” was associated the headphones that hang around you neck or accompanied with the words “Beats By,” Dr. Dre was a revolutionary producer. Dre’s career has defined west coast sound and elevated the entire genre. Dr. Dre did this while discovering and premiering some of hip-hop’s biggest names. In a career that spans almost thirty years, the hip-hop legend has figuratively and literally changed the way we listen to music. Since he turned 49 on February 18th we thought it would be fitting to review how his career has truly shown us what “The Strength of Street Knowledge” means.

Dr. Dre

Dr. Dre

Dre began his career as a member of the World Class Wreckin’ Cru, a group that performed electronic funk–almost a disco type music that would lay the ground work for early 1980′s rap. This group also included DJ Yella who would go on to join Dre in the controversial rap group N.W.A.. Dre and Yella would cross paths with a teenage Ice Cube  who was a member of a group called C.I.A. (Cru’ In Action). Dre, Yella and Ice Cube caught the attention of  local drug dealer Eric ‘Eazy-E’ Wright, who was looking to start a new rap group and capitalize on the west coast hip-hop fad and hopefully get out of the drug business.

This core group would go on to form N.W.A. (Ni***z Wit Attitudes) along with the addition of local rapper MC Ren. Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, MC Ren and DJ Yella would perform a lyrical assault that conjured images of the dirty street life of southern California. This would form an entire sub-genre known as “Gangsta rap.” N.W.A. is credited as one of the most important groups in the history of rap music. The group ran ruff shot on the music industry from 1986 to 1991, due to the explicit lyrics glorifying drugs, crime and lyrics many considered to be disrespectful to women. The group was banned from many mainstream radio stations. In spite of this, N.W.A. has sold over 10 million units of their debut album Strait Outta Compton, co-produced by Dr. Dre, with DJ Yella. The album has been viewed as the pioneering record of gangsta rap and it has been considered groundbreaking by music writers and had an enormous impact on the evolution of West Coast hip hop. In 1991, Dr.Dre left the group and formed the gangsta rap power-house Death Row Records. This would lead to the release of his solo debut The Chronic, which won a Grammy for Best Producer and for Best Rap Solo Performance for his song “Let Me Ride“. This album has become a land mark album and is revered as the “Dark Side of The Moon” of the rap world in the sense that it still charting and influences nearly every rap artist on the charts.

While at Death Row Records, Dre signed and produced many popular West Coast hip hop artists such as Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, MC Hammer, Nate Dogg , the rap group Tha Dogg Pound consisting of rappers Kurupt, Daz Dillinger, Soopafly. He also worked on production for Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes of TLC. For a brief point in time, Death Row was involved in a heated feud with rival record company Bad Boy Records owned by Sean “Diddy” Combs. This rivalry would be the start the of a West coast Vs. East coast feud and by the end of the 90s, two of hip-hop’s brightest stars, Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. were dead. Most, if not all of the signed artists departed from the Death Row after its demise following the murder of Shakur in 1996, including Dr. Dre.

In 1999, Dre released his album 2001 which won two more Grammys for Producer of the Year and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for his song “Forgot About Dre“. That same year, he would win another Grammy for the work he did on “The Marshall Mathers LP,” the major label debut album of a rapper you might of heard of named Eminem. The decade after 1999, Dre took a role in discovering new talent such as 50 Cent. Most recently, he worked with Kendrick Lamar on his Grammy nominated album “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” he also produced Eminem’s “MMLP2” along side Rick Ruben.

At the age of 49, Dr.Dre is his own empire and a force to be reckoned with in the music world. Dre has almost become a synonym for “top of the line” and with the emerging dominance of his Beats Audio brand and his Beats music streaming, he has elevated his empire status. In 2011, Dr. Dre was ranked as the third richest figure in the American hip hop scene by Forbes with a net worth of $250 million. Please join us in celebrating the birthday of the man, the artist, and the legend Andre Romelle Young better known as Dr. Dre.


Fresh Tunes – Something Soft, Something Hard


Close to the Glass
The Notwist

The-Notwist-Close-To-The-Glass-608x608Anyone can make electronic music. Every necessary bit of hardware or software, every bit of knowledge, every tip or trick or tutorial is available to everyone now- and for relatively little money. And with that ubiquity of knowledge and access to all the necessary tools comes a sort of over-saturation, “If everybody knows all the tricks, it’s no more magic” says Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk. So the game has now become one of separation; of being absolutely and totally unique among thousands of new artists. The Notwist has fully realized this shift in the electronic music paradigm and has crafted something that genuinely separates them from other artists with their ninth and newest album.

During the first moments of Close to the Glass, one gets the impression that this could just be another head-nodding rip off of electro from the 90s; an arpeggiated synthesizer texture embellished with random rings and beeps and a skittering snare beat. But then the vocals enter. The voice is untreated: no vocoder, no auto-tune, calmly speaking about hideous signs and something about screaming. There’s some strange subtle terror waiting underneath these tracks, something unexpected or unnoticed, or combination of sounds that shouldn’t theoretically work together when discussed soberly.

And that really is the greatest strength of this album- its ability to defy expectation. “Kong,” the third song, for example, would almost seem completely out of place on this album were it not for its development into an absurd and oddly cohesive mash of orchestral layers, acoustic guitar, electronic glittering, and raucous bass. The marriage of these elements, electronic or otherwise, imbues Close to the Glass with the magic Thomas Bangalter feels is lacking in much of recent music. Anyone can make electronic music- but few can make it like this.

Guilty of Everything

a3943802535_10There’s a hot, twisting frustration and rage in those who feel disconnected from or overwhelmed by reality. Everything moves too fast and too slow, there’s nobody to talk to, there isn’t enough time, there’s energy with nowhere to go. “I’m caught between a beggar’s teeth,” sings Domenic Palermo of the band Nothing. The newest album from the Philadelphia quartet seems- to us at least-to be exploration of that frustration with detachment from a world out of time with one’s own rhythm. From this exploration, Nothing has made something dark, loud, and beautiful.

The landscape of each track is very similar; the vocals are treated as a musical instrument fully engulfed by the haze of incredibly loud ambient guitars, bass, and drums. Instead of lyrics that are heard, Palermo’s singing is more of a texture that is felt. It draws one in, trying to decipher the already cryptic lyrics Nothing has buried under heavy, leaden sonic layers. But perhaps that’s the message itself, trying to make sense of something that would be easy were it just a bit different. The themes in Guilty of Everything, then, are embodied by the music itself, a masterful and nuanced act on Nothing’s part.

But despite whatever nuance one discovers in the way Nothing has orchestrated Guilty of Everything, it’s important to remember that this band is loud. The tender, ambient moments give way to hysterical paroxysms of dissonance and consonance. Nothing sounds like they are collectively exorcising whatever demons of the past that may still haunt them. Even in their liner notes the quote, “To all things we’ve ever hated. To all things we’ve ever loved. Thanks for making this possible,” punctuates pages of lyrics juxtaposed with black and white pictures of a prison shower, a junkie spiking his vein, and other-almost ominous- photographs recreating bleary-eyed memories and recollections. We still don’t know entirely what Nothing is trying to tell us, but we are entirely sure it is important.