Dr. Dre Tribute Album: We Tear It a New One
Now I need a doctor
Seeing as Detox still shows no signs of life -- seriously, another couple years of this and we're going to get angry -- what's a real G supposed to do? For that matter, what are we supposed to do?
Well, there certainly is plenty of prime Dr. Dre material ripe for re-purposing. So, in that spirit, indie label Versailles Records -- who specialize in tribute albums for everyone from Led Zeppelin to Tina Turner -- last month released The Chronic 2011: A Millenium Tribute To The Songs Of Dr. Dre. Is it any good? Not really, but it certainly beats waiting for Detox! Here's our track-by-track breakdown.
1. "Funky Enough," Spice 1, Notar and Nate Sylak
D.O.C.'s 1989 cut is reimagined here by hyper-sounding West Coast rap icon Spice 1, Notar (who sounds way too happy to be here), and the man who will emerge as this work's lone hero, Nate Sylak.
Frankly, the song simply sounds like an amateur version of the original -- which will prove a recurring theme. We're already wondering how this album got made.
2. "Nuthin' But A G Thang," Domino
They probably shouldn't have messed around with this classic in the first place. After all, it's untouchable; in a league of its own; a G-Funk classic. While there's nothing groundbreaking or criminal about this version, it's just kind of there. Domino, a Long Beach MC with some cred from the '90s, does a decent Snoop impersonation here, and sounds effectively spaced out. But again, they probably shouldn't have stomped on this ground to begin with. It's simply too precious.
3. "Dope Man," Nate Sylak
This Nate Sylak dude is easily the breakout artist of the album (although that's not saying much). Dude kills it. Definitely worth a listen.
4. "Henn N Juice," Felicia 'Bmore Snoop' Pearson and The Third Family
If you've ever watched The Wire you're familiar with Felicia 'Snoop' Pearson. The East Baltimore native is good at what she does: acting like the thugged-out badass she is. But rapping? Not her thing. And the reworking here of Snoop's "Gin and Juice"--- wait, this is a Dre tribute, right? -- is downright blasphemous.
5. "Kush," The Groundhoggz and Sixx
As the supposed first track from Detox, this new-school Dre and Snoop number gave fans their first glimpse at just what the hell the Doc had been up to over the last decade. And like "I Need A Doctor," which appears later on the album, this weed-toasting tune is not on par with Dre's earlier material. This version is acceptable at best. Sixx does manage to hold it down with a few decent verses, and on this album, let's be real, that's an accomplishment.
6. "Fuck You," Big Syke and Nature
Hearing Big Syke mutter the words "You'z a bad girl/ So I gotta spank you" is money. Dude's voice is so damn gruff, we're thinking his shins could out bench press us on our best day in the gym. The other highlight of this track? The sheer fact that this underappreciated 2001 gem was covered in the first place. A good pick and solid execution.
7. "No More Drama," Rose Reiter
We're still not exactly sure how this song ended up on a tribute to Dr. Dre. Yes, Dre produced songs on Mary J. Blige's 2001 album No More Drama, but the track itself wasn't produced by Dre. Canadian singer/songwriter Rose Reiter holds her own here, but this cover comes across as a mediocre karaoke-lounge rendition of an otherwise swagtastic song.
8. "Let Me Ride," Bronx Style Bob, Paula Brown and Ben Dixon
This track has a slowed-down tempo and strut-worthy swagger. Yet somehow, even this grandaddy-paced beat is too fast for Bronx Style Bob. The entire first verse feels like a race that dude is losing. And the hook? You know that 40-year-old woman who's still telling people how X Factor will be her big break? Her name might be Paula Brown. Ben Dixon thankfully provides some semblance of a hip-hop verse late in the song, saving it from utter shame.
9. "Fuck Tha Police," Nate Sylak and Rippa Da Don
We were hoping that this album wouldn't butcher one of the most influential songs in hip-hop history. NWA did more than craft a hit single with this f-you to law enforcement -- dudes incited riots. So thankfully this reinterpretation of "Fuck Tha Police" is actually quite solid. There's brashness in Nate Sylak's verse, and for a change you aren't left shaking your head in disbelief.
10. "Deep Cover (187)," Layzie Bone and Caz
As a member of NWA, Dr. Dre existed mostly in the shadows -- he was a killer producer, but hadn't fully stepped out as the heralded MC he'd later become. His debut single, 1992's Snoop Dogg-featured cut "Deep Cover (187)", however, was Dre's coming-out party. And seeing as this was a monumental moment in his career, Layzie of Bone Thugz fame -- one of the few recognizable names on this album -- is given its honors. Sure, in the past decade Layzie has struggled to maintain relevance, but on this cut the man sounds perfectly in his element. Hearing him drop "Yeah, and it don't stop!" is nothing short of cathartic. It'll be damn near impossible to top this as the album's standout track.
11. "I Need A Doctor," DJ F.L.O.Y.D., Vito and Leaving Eden
This "new" Dre song features a stellar Eminem verse but isn't the doctor's finest work. Here, replacing Skylar Grey with what sounds like a vocally-strained hyena (Leaving Eden) and employing an Eminem substitute -- who appears to be a kid messing around with ProTools in his basement -- is criminal.
12. "California Love," See, Adonis Butler, Richard Kendrick
Dre and 'Pac made this hard-as-nails ode to the Golden State a hip-hop anthem. But this version is re-imgained as a kitschy Weird Al-esque "do good" toast to Cali with lines such as "be empowered to flower." Luckily, Ohio MC Adonis Butler saves this track from total laughability.
13. "Natural Born Killas," Chancellor Warhol and Drupy
On this one, Tennessee MC Chancellor Warhol drops a verse that Dre would be proud of. This single -- the first joint track from Dre and Ice Cube's revamped partership in the wake of NWA's fallout -- was stone cold. And Warhol, inhabiting the big-balled persona of Dre on the first verse, does it justice.
14. "We Want EZ," Self Destruction
Eazy-E is a master of goofball swag; the man with rubber-band flow was cut down far too early in his career. But luckily, here Eazy's honor isn't put to shame (as we feared) with this re-purposing of the debut single from his 1988 debut album Eazy Duz- It. While the original Dr. Dre-produced version leaves this one in the dust, Self Destruction's affable quirkiness and nimble flow pay credible homage to a Eazy.
15. "Forgot About Dre," DJ F.L.O.Y.D.
Even the beats sound cheap on this one. And if you couldn't get enough of DJ F.L.O.Y.D. on "I Need A Doctor," the sorry excuse for an Eminem substitute is back for more! Whining chipmunks don't generally make for good hip-hop verses.
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