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Dr. Dre

Break Em' Off

interview by Meshack Blaq
photos by Animal Chan

No one can lay claim to the title of Greatest Producer in Hip Hop before Andre Young. To this day no other Composer in the Game has had such a far reaching effect on the course of Rap Music than Dr. Dre. When one considers the magnitude and breadth of work he has created as a backdrop for modern day Revolutionary Poets, his Musical Arrangements are no less influential than Opera was to Classic Europe or any less reflective in the translation of Hip Hop into a global force than Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington is in the Canon of American Jazz. The Doctor's knack for cultivating raw talent in rhyme-sayers, shrouding them with some of the most dramatic instrumentation EVER, is just now being recognized by his so-called peers in the overall Music Industry. Earlier this year the National Academy of Recording Artists awarded him with a Grammy for Producer of the Year. And that wasn't in a Rap category. Finally, there should be no guessing when it comes to the title of this Magazine. So read along as D-R-E proceeds to BREAK EM' OFF...

KRON: (The same night in Hartford, Connecticut on the Up In Smoke Tour when we Interviewed Snoop & Eminem, we also got an exclusive audience with who else? Upon entering his huge dressing room equipped with everything your typical Rock Star would have, Dre was watching Pulp Fiction on a big screen as opening acts heated up the stage) Is this one of your favorite movies?

DRE: Yea, one of my top five.

KRON: Does it have anything to do with Mr. Jackson?

DRE: What do you mean, Samuel L? No, just the overall idea. (In walks Warren G plopping down next to Dre on the huge couch) What's up G? What's goin' on?

WARREN G: I'm chillin'. I'm just kickin' it. (Dre mumbles something and Warren gets up and leaves without closing the door behind him)

KRON: How is this Up In Smoke Tour in comparison to the old NWA touring days?

DRE: This time, of course we have a lot more money to work with. All of us are a lot more popular than we were then. And we definitely understand the business part a lot more today than we did then. Then, we were just concerned with gettin' on the stage and what happens after the show. Right now it's a business and we're out here to handle it.

KRON: What's it like facing an audience of teens with fans who were teens when you started?

DRE: That's what I believe is the most rewarding part because not many people get to do that. Not too many people get to survive in this Business as long as me and Cube have. It's just crazy seeing like, 35-40 year old people out there with the 15-16 year-old's. It's just like, kinda overwhelming at first; but I've gotten used to it now since we're half-way through the Tour. It's incredible!

KRON: Almost everything you've Produced has sold millions & millions of units. Were there ever periods when you lost confidence in your creativity? And if so, whom or what whom helped you to overcome those times?

KRON: Is that right?

DRE: I really think that's what my real talent is; behind the camera Producing or Directing, or just puttin' the visual to anything.

KRON: Is that what you've always wanted to do prior to getting into the Rap thing?

DRE: Definitely! Definitely, music is a stepping stone to get to my goal. I want to be able to create a Movie and do an entire Soundtrack myself. That hasn't been done for a long time. I think the last time it was done was probably Prince, or fuckin' Curtis Mayfield, or some shit like that. Babyface got busy with the Soul Food Soundtrack, but nothin' edgy has came out.

KRON: It's interesting that you say that because for me personally, doing the Magazine has been a way to at some point get to where I can write Movies. Same type of shits, you know? But this pays the bills so I keep doin' it and try to perfect it. But speaking of music in films, have you found a project that maybe you'd like to do the Score for? (somebody is trying to enter the dressing room past security)

DRE: Hold up, who is that? Tell 'em to shut it down until I finish this Interview!

KRON: Music that isn't necessarily lyrical but more emotional?

DRE: Yea, definitely. I mean, I would love to have Scored Pulp Fiction or Scarface, or Movies of that nature. Cube was just talking to me. Actually he just handed me this script maybe an hour ago that we've been talking about throughout the Tour. He wants me to Score it and maybe put some music to a TV show he has coming out. So be careful what you wish for. I think that should be interesting.

KRON: Why haven't you taken more acting roles? Set It Off is the only thing I've seen you in.

DRE: Set It Off? My shit was Wack in that, Man! I don't feel like I'm a good Actor. I feel like I can do it and I think I'm getting better at it. I think I'm gonna try it next year. Me & Snoop are gonna try and do something. But the reason i haven't done it this far is because i don't think I'm that good at it. Straight up, I didn't think I was that good at it. Over this last year I've been doin' a lotta tests just fuckin' around at home. Practicin' my actin' and havin' people film me, gettin' a couple of my friends that are Actors; just actin' 'em out and what have you. I think I can pull it off now. So next year sometime you'll probably see me on that silver screen. Me & Snoop are plannin' to do a mixture of Car Wash and a Ghetto-ass Odd Couple. (I let out a good laugh at the thought of it) So that's what we gonna try to do.

KRON: NWA in '86, Chronic in '92, Snoop in '93, Eminem in '98, 2001 now; do you feel it's your responsibility or maybe duty to deliver the goods that keep Hip Hop abrasive?

DRE: I wouldn't necessarily say it's my duty. I have a duty to myself to do the best that i can do at anything that I'm doing. And right now Hip Hop is at the top of my list as far as things that I like to do. I would probably never stop doing Hip Hop. I'll probably be fuckin' 70 years old still tryin' to see whats happenin' out on the streets just to stay in touch and do Hip Hop records. That's just what I love doin'! But like I said, I definitely venture off into some other things if that answered your question. (Now he laughs)

KRON: It just seems like every time each of these artists came out with albums, it changed whatever was happenin' in Hip Hop at the time change and focus on a Dr. Dre Production.

DRE: Like I said, I just go in and do the best that I can at whatever I'm doin'. I custom make things for each artist that I'm workin' with. Wait a minute, let me rewind myself. What was the question? (I repeat the question) I don't even think about it like that when I go into the studio. I don't go in sayin', "Yo, Hip Hop is in trouble. I need to do something. Dunt-da-da-dunn!!! Let me come save..." I don't think about it like that. I just go in the studio and I just do my thing, Man! And I can't let nothin' come out of that studio that I had somethin' to do with that I don't really feel, it's Bangin' and it's different and it's fuckin' everything up that's out there, Period! Damn, I'm fuckin' up and haven't had a drink yet! (He laughs some more)

KRON: Do you have a particular process or do you subscribe to any formula theories when it comes to producing explosive tracks that become Hits?

DRE: There is no format. There is no fucking meditation process. There is nothing that goes on except me going in the studio and touchin' those buttons. I'd have to say 90% of the time I don't know what the fuck I'ma do Ćtil I get there. It just happens. It's a God-given Gift that I have. It just happens, Man.

KRON: So you're not the type of Kat that wakes up in the middle of the night, scribble some notes, or you're driving in the car and it hits you like, "Oh, OK let me note this idea"?

DRE: No, I'm not him. (Now I laugh) I'm not him. I don't roll around with a dict-a-phone or something to try to remember ideas an' shit like that. Every now and then, I can drive past a billboard or something or hear somebody go past me on the other side of the road bangin' some shit and it sparks an idea or somethin'. But if that happens and I get an idea, I just store that shit in my mental rolodex and that's that.

KRON: Is George Lucas set-trippin' on you and are you Player-Hatin' on Napster?

DRE: George Lucas definitely has a right to be trippin' on me because the sound at the beginning of my album does sound like his shit. Actually we got the idea from him. And it's like, any-fucking-body can hear that. So he definitely has a legitimate argument and I can't argue that. That's why I'm payin' him the money that he wants. Am I Player-Hatin' on Napster? Um, no. No. I would have no reason to even speak on Napster if they wasn't fuckin' with my music. I'm one of the few individuals in this business that owns his Masters. My Masters come back to me after a certain period of time. And this is something that my kids are gonna be able to eat on in the future, Period.. Napster is just a new high-tech way of Bootlegging, Period! That's all it is and fuck that! A lotta people involved with Napster are talking about music should be free. Well how the fuck are we supposed to make it? It costs to make it! Straight up, this is my job! I bet you there's nobody at Napster that's workin' for free. So why you tellin' me I should?

KRON: Could you see a time when a Tour like this could rock stadiums like the LA Colesium like Metallica, Korn, and Kid Rock did last Summer?

DRE: Definitely! Me an' Cube an' Snoop have been talkin' about that since we decided that we would go out on the Up In Smoke Tour. There is definitely a possibility that it can happen. We can go rock stadiums if all the moves are done right. We figure if we do an NWA album and we make it Hot enough and big enough; and there are a couple of other artists out there that are Crazy Hot like Jay-Z or somebody like that and they're out at the same time? We can go rock stadiums, straight up! I don't believe no man's ice is colder than mine. And I don't believe that there is anything on this planet that can stop me from doing anything I set my Mind to.

KRON: Is there a reason why you don't wanna work with Metallica? Or is there a reason why you always like to deal with the untapped talent as opposed to doing both?

DRE: Definitely there's a reason. I can't single out Metallica, you know what I'm sayin'? That's just how I feel about acts that are already established. For one, the way I think about it is this; when I go in the studio I can't have any limitations. I have to be able to take the music ANYWHERE it can possibly go at the drop of a fuckin' dime. Ideas just pop in my head in the studio, so that means I have to be able to take that shit to somewhere out of your normal character if I have to. And when you have an established act, you have to do what they've been doing in their career. You're limited to what you can do. You're limited to ideas and what have you. Then you have a set amount of ego there that you have to deal with. When you get a new artist, they're ready to fuckin' sleep in the studio if they have to, to get their fuckin' record done and get it out! Straight up!! And that's what I want. I want that energy. When I go in the studio I treat it like I'm a new artist. I don't treat it like, "Ok, I'm Dre. I've been in the business for 20 years now. Everybody gotta respect what I've done, and this an' that." I go in there like I'm a new artist and this record I'm workin' on is the first time that people are hearin' me. So that's what I expect from the artists that I'm workin' with.

KRON: Did you ever have any apprehensions about workin' with Eminem because of his race?

DRE: Not at all. There were a few people around me that said, "Yo, that shit is Dope!" But most of the people that were around me were like, "What are you doing?" You know what I'm sayin'? Like, "Yo, Dre is fuckin' buggin' out!" (His expression reads like "Is this Nigga crazy?" We both laugh) It was funny Man! Our fuckin' General Manager said, "Look, this guy is blonde with blue eyes! What the fuck?!? What are you doing?" I said, "Yo, this is gonna be one of our biggest artists right here." I told her that and BOOM, here it is. I can't let the color of person's skin get in the way of innovation at all. And, if I hadn't done that I think he would've been out there because he's so talented. I think he would've been out there and would've become a popular artist. But I don't think it would be at the level it is right now OR getting the respect that it's getting right now. I think I added a little bit of credibility to him. I think people felt like, "Yo if Dre's fuckin' wit' him, at least I can give it a listen." And once you listen to it you can't front!

KRON: People think I'm crazy for asking, but how come Eminem isn't the 5th member of NWA?

DRE: (He laughs) NWA has to be NWA. Eminem is Eminem. NWA is NWA. There's two different things there. For example, let's take the first track on Em's album, "I'll Kill You": that's custom made for him. It wouldn't work for Snoop. These two things don't mesh at all. Niggaz Wit' Attitudes could not have Eminem in the group. The Public would fucking lose it.

KRON: What's a conversation or brainstorm session like with you and Quincy Jones?

DRE: You know what? I was in the fuckin' Dentist one time and I had this fuckin' vacuum shit hangin' out my mouth, suckin'... You know how that shit is! And I look up and Quincy Jones sits by me. We used to be at the same Dentist an' shit, right? So Quincy was by me and we just started conversatin'. And I'm like, "What the fuck!" in my head. So I'm talkin' and this shit is like, (makes a long slurpin/sucking sound that dental tool makes) and I'm like, "What's up Q?" And he say's, "What's up Man? You're doin' great, this 'n that an' that 'n this'. We gotta hang out!" I was like, "Kool!" So hopefully I get to hang out with Quincy when we get back home. We once chopped it up at the beginning of Vibe and he gave me some advice through War stories about the Game when he was deeply involved in the Music Industry. It's crazy! He has some stories. Those are the people I listen to now; the people that done it. George Clinton and I sat and talked for entire day once. He was tellin' me a lot of stories.

KRON: How did you go about gettin' all the guys on 2001?

DRE: Melman & I listened to I don't know how many people but it's funny how it happened. All the people that appear on my album, I think I listened to 'em for maybe 10 seconds and just knew. It's weird, Man. It was almost identical to making the Chronic album. I would have to say the Saga continues. The reason we called it 2001 was simply because Death Row put an album out called Chronic 2000. So we just said fuck it, 2001. When they asked me what kind of album cover I wanted and this an' that, I told 'em I just want the album cover Black with my name on it and the title of the record. The Engineer in the studio had been takin' pictures in the studio the whole time we were makin' the album, so I said make a collage and put that shit in the CD booklet and that'll be interesting. And that's it. I don't get into paintin' portraits on the album covers an' shit and tryin' to make an album cover all glossy an' pretty an' all that shit. I believe what's important is what's comin' through the speakers.

KRON: What's one of your most memorable Eazy-E experiences that NWA fans can appreciate?

DRE: (pausing for about 10 seconds, then chuckles to himself) I would have to say the fact that he would argue with you until you saw that shit the way he saw it. Me and him would get into major arguments in the studio all the time. Just like Homeboy arguments though. Arguments like a siren on the fuckin' record or somethin'. It should go 8 bars in instead of at the beginning of the song. And he would argue with you until you fuckin' saw it his way. He would fuckin' argue wit' you for HOURS AND HOURS an' shit. He was Wild like that. And a funny thing is he used to keep Honeybuns in his pocket. You know what Honeybuns are? Eazy would wear the same pants for like two days an' shit. And he would keep a Honeybun in the back pocket and wouldn't eat it until it was totally flat like a pancake. That shit was funny as Hell!

KRON: Mary J. is on your album and you're in a Toni Braxton Video. What's up with the R&B?

DRE: I've been lookin' for a female R&B singer for about 8 years now and I finally found one that I'm feelin' Her name is Truth Hurts and we've got 21 songs down after only 6-8 weeks of workin' with her. She'll be comin' out on Aftermath and she's incredible. PRINT THAT!

KRON: Was this Up In Smoke Tour for the fans?

DRE: I'm not makin' as much money on Tour as I would make at home. I told the label I would give up two months on Tour and whatever they could squeeze into that is fine. I fuckin' stuck my foot in my mouth with that because now they got us playin' five an' six nights a week. But it's cool. I would've made more money stayin' at home for these two months workin' in the studio. So this shit was definitely 100% for the fans. I haven't been on a Major Tour before. Nobody has ever got a chance to see me and Snoop up there really do our thang, performin' our songs the way we know we can do Ćem. I love seein' the expressions on people's faces when "G-Thang" comes on. People have never seen that outside of the shit that we've done on tv. We owe Ćem at least that. They been buyin' our shit, basically supportin' us for years. None of my past Tours have ever gone past the first few dates. Chronic was cut short because of legal problems. The first NWA Tour got cut short because we signed a contract sayin' we weren't gonna perform "Fuck Tha Police" in our concerts. When we got to Detroit we said, "Fuck Dat" and did it. BOOM, that was the end of the Tour. When we came back to Detroit for Up In Smoke, one of the same arresting officers back then is now the Chief of Police. So they tried to fuck with us in a Major way and we had to sue Ćem for fuckin' wit' our business. After that everybody let us do our thing. We had to set a standard of "Don't Fuck Wit' Us". We have a right to do our show the way we want to do it. No more, no less.