If Hip Hop had a B.C. and an A.D., it would be “Before The Chronic.” No album changed more about the genre in its wake than Dr. Dre’s 1992 ensemble cast of would-be-stars Snoop Doggy Dogg [click to read], Kurupt [click to read], Daz Dillinger [click to read], Warren G [click to read], Lady Of Rage [click to read], RBX [click to read] and Nate Dogg. Sixty-three minutes of L.A. Riots-inspired riddims that were tightly woven with commentary on race, women, flossing and of course the most potent marijuana in the mainstream consciousness. The Chronic elevated Hip Hop production beyond kicks, samples and snares, and more than ever before, affirmed manifest destiny on the Rap map. Just under 17 years after its release, for the third time, Dr. Dre’s solo debut has been re-mastered and re-packaged (as “Re-Lit”) by its new owners, WIDEAwake [click to read], this time with seven unheard songs, reportedly from those legendary smoke-filled early ‘90s Solaar Studios sessions.
Past reissues have reportedly not involved the masters in their so-called “re-mastering.” As Death Row‘s legacy fights for a stake in the marketplace, ears can quickly tell that this is the real deal. Cassette tape patrons from last decade will be impressed to pick apart synth changes, elaborate arrangements and that un-mistakable sense of a crowded vocal booth throughout the first disc of the re-release. Low-end favorites like “Lyrical Gangbang” come to new life as Dr. Dre’s genius is preserved, reminding digital-dopeheads why the album format can never be antiquated, and why studio patience pays. Similarly, “Lil’ Ghetto Boy” is testament that The Chronic is deeper than Eazy beef, lowriders and Zig-Zags. Seventeen years later, as Dre’s masterpiece is often imitated in its lesser moments, it’s evident that this album was truly one of the best balances of food liquor ever released, at a time when Lupe Fiasco [click to read] was counting down the days to his eleventh birthday.
For those that still keep The Chronic within a driver’s seat reach, the reason to get Re-Lit lives in its DVD content and seven vault songs. These efforts are not the magic heard in subsequently leaked tracks like Snoop Dogg and The Convicts’ [click to read] “Playin’ 4 Keeps” or vinyl B-side/box set efforts like “Puffin’ On Blunts And Drankin’ Tanqueray.” Instead, fans are given some cutting-room floor glimpses of CPO, a MC Ren [click to read] protégé whose Capitol Records contract pardoned him from ever becoming a Death Row inmate. “Slippin’ In The West” pairs CPO with Kurupt, and the rhythm of the emcees over the drum-based composition is crazy, but still comes off as a track that lacks the melody of what Chronic fiends expect. “Foo Nay Mic” sounds like vintage G-Funk, but lacks the charisma of the higher profile emcees that made their name of the 1992 album. “Touchdown” is a Snoop Dogg effort that appears more sherm-induced that indo’, as celestial sound effects pave the way for The Doggfather and Treat to appear as if they’re doing Kool Keith karaoke [click to read].
As the intro to GZA’s [click to read] “Pass The Bone” proudly stated, “No stems, no seeds that you don’t need.” While the RZA-blessed sample might have been referring to Acapulco Gold marijuana, the same is very true of The Chronic. Forget Hip Hop heads, many music afficiandos would rank Dr. Dre’s magnum-opus in their Top lists. This single work changed the direction, the tone and most notably the sound of Rap music. Everything that made the album (and its single B-sides) did with good reason – a testament to the Death Row Records dream-team. The Chronic: Re-Lit tries to roll up some of those scraps that were misplaced 17 years ago, and while some may happily burn it to the resin, refined tastes merely appreciate proper re-mastering, the videos, and acknowledge these seven songs as schwag: a nice freebie, but nothing you want to mix with your chronic.