Arriving seven long years after the release of his blockbuster debut album The Chronic, 2001 put Dr. Dre back on top of the rap game while modernizing his signature G-Funk sound, solidifying his status as Hip Hop’s preeminent sonic perfectionist.
Co-produced by Mel-Man, the 6x platinum-certified album spawned a bevy of hit singles including the Snoop Dogg-assisted “Still D.R.E.,” “Forgot About Dre” featuring Eminem and “The Next Episode” starring Snoop, Kurupt and Nate Dogg.
But one of 2001‘s standout songs almost didn’t appear on the album at all. During a recent episode of Rock the Bells’ Salute the Sample series, LL COOL J revealed “Xxplosive” was originally made for him. The Queens, New York rap icon wrote and recorded to the beat, but ended up passing on the song because it “just didn’t quite work.”
“I’ll give people a little trivia: this was originally my beat. I had did a song with Dr. Dre,” LL said as “Bumpy’s Lament” by Soul Mann & The Brothers, which was sampled on “Xxplosive,” played in the background. “But it just didn’t quite work, it wasn’t right. So I was like, ‘Ahh.'”
After being passed on by LL COOL J, the “Xxplosive” beat later fell into the lap of Royce Da 5’9, who appeared alongside Dr. Dre on an unreleased version called “The Way I Be Pimpin.'”
The final version fans recognize today, however, wound up as track number six on 2001, complete with unapologetically explicit guest verses from Hittman, Kurupt, Six-Two and the late Nate Dogg.
Less than a year after 2001‘s release, Kanye West would swipe the drums from “Xxplosive” for JAY-Z, Scarface and Beanie Sigel’s “This Can’t Be Life,” from 2000’s The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, as detailed on The College Dropout‘s “Last Call.”
Despite passing on the beat, “Xxplosive” still puts a crick in LL COOL J’s neck. “I think I still got this demo at my house somewhere,” he said while listening to the track. “That don’t get you moving, nothin’ will. Shit is hard.”
He especially loves Nate Dogg’s melodic, playa-smooth performance. “Yo, Nate Dogg, boy! Start that chorus over for me,” LL added. “Can we just celebrate Nate Dogg for a second? Listen to his rhythm. Yo, this joint crazy right here.”
Years later, the two rap legends hit the studio together in 2016. Their reunion spawned a ferocious LL freestyle on Dre’s Beats 1 Radio show The Pharmacy, although an official collaboration has yet to surface.
Nevertheless, the love between LL COOL J and Dr. Dre clearly runs deep as the Aftermath founder helped induct the Def Jam icon into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in October 2021.
“[LL] became rap’s first pop superstar while staying true to his roots, representing Queens, New York,” Dre said while bestowing the honor on the self-proclaimed G.O.A.T. “He’s hit that unique space that crosses and bridges generations; the rare artist beloved by you, your mom and all of your kids all at once. How many artists in the rap game are relevant after 30 years?”