Recently, I was perusing through my iTunes playlist, looking for something to listen to. I stumbled upon my playlist for 2001 titled “The Chronic 2001” (this was the original name of the album until Suge, looking for quick cash and payback, released a Death Row compilation with the same name). I hadn’t listened to any of the songs in years and I figured, since my tastes have changed through the years, I’d listen through the entire album and make the final call.
Back in the late 90s, with the death of 2Pac, West Coast hip hop had fallen out of favor with the mainstream as the flashy-suit, synth-heavy era of Puffy set in stone. Subsequently, with the rise of Southern hip hop and re-emergence of East Coast hardcore rap, the once mighty West Coast had been the odd man out. All eyes were on Dre as he prepared his comeback initially entitled The Chronic 2001 as an indication of the new era for West Coast gangsta rap and G-Funk. It had been six years since the famed producer released his groundbreaking solo album, The Chronic, and many wondered whether Dre could match the high standards of the predecessor with his new album. Long story short: he did. The album received “classic” status from a bunch of reviewers like XXL and The Source and sold millions and millions of records while establishing Eminem as the superstar of the genre for years to come.
Years later, 2001 (as the album is now known as) is still held in critical favor and seen as another landmark moment for gangsta rap. Let’s see whether this is so:
Note: For all intents and purposes, most of the skits will not be reviewed. Simply because they are skits and most rappers don’t know how to use them (I’m looking at you, Ghostface).
1. Lolo (Intro)
2. The Watcher
I didn’t really think much of this song when I listened to it years ago. I don’t know why but this song is one of Dre’s most underrated gems. The bassline is funky but not overdramatic. It fits the atmosphere very well and sets the tone nicely. Dre made a sequel to this song for Jay-Z’s album, The Blueprint 2 but I felt like that track was overblown, production-wise. The simplicity of the original is more effective in my opinion.
3. F**k You (feat. Devin the Dude and Snoop Dogg)
So much for “Been There, Done That”. The misogyny of this track is at least somewhat entertaining and this beat comes correct. And Calvin Cordozar in his pre-Rastafarian glory, spits his piece nicely.
4. Still D.R.E. (feat. Snoop Dogg)
This is the second of Snoop’s four appearances on this album. I have loved this song before and I still love it now.
5. Big Ego’s (feat. Hittman)
Hittman was supposed to be Aftermath’s next star after Snoop Dogg and Eminem. Of course, that never happened for good reason. He just isn’t that damn interesting. As far as this song goes, it gets an ehhh out of 6.
6. Xxplosive (feat. Hittman, Kurupt, Nate Dogg, and Six-Two)
Ah, and here we have Kanye West’s favorite drum loop. The beat still knocks and Nate Dogg (RIP) sounds beautiful over it. Kurupt, however, sounds like his whole mentality while doing the song was to put as many cuss words as he could into all his bars just to make it sound hardcore. That’s a paddlin, G.
7. What’s the Difference (feat. Xzibit and Eminem)
The beginning of Dre and Em’s obsession with chamber music that would ultimately culminate into “The Real Slim Shady” a year later. Dre discusses his past beef with Eazy E and his reconciliation with the man before he died. Before his Pimp My Ride days, this was X to the Z on the cusp of his prime and he turns in a solid verse. Em’s verse doesn’t sound as good as it once did for me years ago. Then again, I was going through an “Eminem is the best rapper ever” phase back then, so I guess it makes sense.
8. Bar One
9. Light Speed (feat. Hittman)
The first truly forgettable track of the album is here. And boy, does that skip button look pretty.
10. Forgot About Dre (feat. Eminem)
This track used to be in my rotation constantly until I remembered all the lyrics and stopped listening to it. Surprisingly, I still like this track and Em’s verse. Matter of fact, this might be a Top 10 Eminem verse.
11. The Next Episode (feat. Snoop Dogg)
Short but sweet. Though it could have been longer.
12. Let’s Get High (feat. Hittman, Ms. Roq, and Kurupt)
The beat is pretty catchy but the verses are pretty forgettable. NEXT.
13. B*tch N*ggaz (feat. Snoop Dogg, Six-Two, and Hittman)
The beat does get pretty tiring after a while. But maybe the sad thing about this song is that this is the last we’ll ever hear of Snoop on this album. Perhaps the even more tragic part is that he is now known as Snoop Lion.
14. The Car Bomb
15. Murder Ink (feat. Hittman and Ms. Roq)
You know, if Dre held on to this track for another few more years, 50 Cent would have picked it up and sounded perfect over the beat. Cause the dudes on this track don’t.
17. Some L.A. N*ggaz (feat. Hittman, MC Ren, Knoc-Turn’al, DeFari, Xzibit, Time Bomb, King T, and Kokane)
Dre must have invited every f*cking dude in Los Angeles that claims to be a rapper for this weakass track. And Ren doesn’t even get a damn verse. F*ck this sh*t. Avoid it at all costs.
18. Pause 4 Porno
Okay, what the f*ck is with everyone putting a f*cking skit about nothing but f*cking? This is really just a waste of precious CD space.
19. Housewife (feat. (you guessed it) Hittman and Kurupt)
This beat is the sh*t, son. I love it. The chorus is catchy. I think I might revisit this one in the near future.
20. Ackrite (feat. Hittman)
I give this sh*t an ehhh out of 12. It’s basically a Hittman track and there is (once again) nothing special about it. Dre really tried his hardest to promote this dude…
21. Bang Bang (feat. Hittman and Knoc-Turn’al)
Okay… here’s my problem: how can you make an entire album about gangbanging and shooting people and then make a song about how you shoot too many people? How can you talk about mindless violence and then all of a sudden, condemn it in one song? The f*ck is this? Who the f*ck sequenced this sh*t? And who the f*ck came up with this godforsaken, annoying-ass chorus that only appeals to the twelve-year-old wiggas demographic? I can’t stand this sh*t, man. I’m sorry. I don’t understand how rappers get religious within the same f*cking album. It’s beyond corny to me.
22. The Message (feat. Mary J. Blige and Rell)
Alright… aside from the fact this is supposed to be a tribute to his dead brother and the fact that Dre doesn’t even WRITE or PRODUCE this track, I like it. Amidst all the bullsh*t I have heard on this album, this is a nice little heartfelt moment. It isn’t cheesy at all or too emotional. It’s kinda funny though when Dre says he “realizes he ain’t no gangsta” despite the fact this is still a gangsta rap album. Like I said, I don’t like it how rappers tend to get religious within their own album. But I’ll let it slide since this track actually sounds sincere.
10 years ago, this album was proclaimed a classic. Ten years later, I am laughing my ass off at that proclamation.
This album is far from perfect and I hesitate to even call it good. 22 tracks means that filler is abound and the weak guest appearances aside from Snoop, Xzibit, and Em don’t help either. It’s easy to see why Hittman, who is featured on an astounding ten tracks here, didn’t become a superstar despite the heavy amount of promotion Dre gave him. The only rapper who actually may have benefited from his appearances on this album was Xzibit (Eminem was already famous thanks to “My Name Is” and The Slim Shady LP) but even he already had a buzz going for him. The one aspect that is nearly consistent is the production. It isn’t as densely layered as the earlier G-Funk from his Death Row days. But it’s a bold new style and a positive progression and for that, I applaud Dre. It’s not easy to move forward from a once successful sound but Dre has shown that he has all the qualities of a hitmaker, including the ability to adapt to the fickle musical climate.
However, the subpar lyricism from Dre and most of his cronies severely brings down the quality of the album. Dre may have done the same thing before but the difference is this: The Chronic introduced Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, and Tha Dogg Pound to the world. Those guys became West Coast legends. 2001 doesn’t even give us decent MCs. And our host? Like Ice Cube once said, “Ayo Dre, stick to producing.”
Favorite Tracks: “The Watcher”, “Still D.R.E.”, “Forgot About Dre”, “Housewife”