Bitches Brew

I'm trying to reconcile my position as a hip-hop womanist and mother (of a lyric-loving daughter, no less, who's been living up to her Malian name, Djali) with the unconditional love I've developed for that nigga Dr. Dre's (almost) perfectly sequenced battalia Dr. Dre—2001: yes, that same Deathrow cat whose grouchy beeyach-bashing self has sonically lynched my sisters since N.W.A. Not to mention I'm trying to make sense of the supa-dupa homoerotic castor oil he's force-fed suburbia in the name of outlandish gangster-schisms—I'm a Gemini who's gripped the understanding that the cosmic alignment of the universe has attributed to my frequent and erratic mood swings, and at times, my self-righteous alter ego, "Tucker," comes out to check her herbalist twin, "Roc."

In general, what's always bothered my post-Reagan-survivalist bell hooks-worshiping self about "West Coast" rap is not its narcotic synth-driven swing, but its lyrical content. And still, in light of all the misogynist credo in an album like 2001's 1992 progenitor, The Chronic, I dare you to find one fine-ass Brooklyn hip-hop socialite who didn't at least once find herself grinding some daisy dick (black medallions, no gold) in between her honeyed cheeks while flipping every half-said-half-sung word on "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang." Not only did Dre make Compton the sole landing strip for a funkdafied mothership and almost single-handedly soar blaxploitation stock, he's also managed to be one of the greatest perpetrators of the worst kinds of violent verbal assaults against women (even if you don't count the physical violation Dre allegedly served Dee Barnes), making verses like "[Eazy E.] your dick all hard from fucking your road dawgs" on Chronicring like sapphic prose.

Then again, Gemini's blatant contradictions have impacted '90s hip-hop (see: B.I.G., Tupac, L-Boogie), so why should I let my guilt trip make me feel like some Sabo-esque sellout? Besides, I've already reconciled this dichotomy in the past by not actually buyingany of Dre's platinum-dipped albums but by settling for the complimentary label copy (except for when Roc "mistakenly" lifted Chronicfrom her baby's father when they split up in '97, leaving a bought copy of Common's Resurrectionin its place . . . ). That is, until 2001.

Dre is a hip-hop proactivist of sorts; he does for tracking beats what meeting Marion Brown did for John Coltrane's ascension into a freer space and time—he re-evolutionizes the way we groove. On 2001 Dre and coproducer Mel-Man don't only take us back by jacking familiar P-Funk melodies; they reinvent Dre's sound by experimenting with free-range music (hear how staccato piano chords, guitar, and ukulele flicks interlace into the creepy pulse of the Jigga-refined "Still D.R.E."). Dre consistently downplays sampling, opting to mainline percussion—tripping snares and the bass and other strings with the Moog's haunting high-octave reverb, all under half-drawled catchphrases that, as Snoop Dogg might say, sticky-icky-ickyto your dome. Once you enter an escapist portal into the spacious mind of, say, Mariah Carey, if you will, Dre can be a cross-regional sonic fuck. (I've felt this strongly twice before: the first time I heard DJ Red Alert's late-night mix-shows on 98.7 Kiss, and the first time I belted Bach's ill "Solfeggietto.")

For a lyric canonist like me who's taking bets with my gurlz on who can deliver any three bars of "Forgot About Dre" in cadence for dinner at Moomba's, the only thing sweeter than David's white-chocolate martini (except for David) is to successfully tongue twist: "All those little gangstas/Who you think helped mold them all?/Now you wanna go 'round talking about guns like I ain't got none/What you think, I sold them all?" The looped score-like synth-chords, guitar licks, and subtle erratic hi-hats on this track even manage to make Dre's off-kilter protégé Eminem's banal rantings spark—proving that while Yacub's sons cannot jump, some white boys do indeed have rhythm. (Discuss.)

Despite the hella stupid interludes from UPN-9 jester Eddie "yo' momma is the real pimp" Griffith, 2001is the kind of record that transcendentally raises the bar exam for producers from now until Dre's next joint. Though misogyny reverberates throughout this self-professed family man's juke, let's eulogize the Doc's scrupulous other, Andre Young. Mourning the loss of his brother in "The Message" over a leavening piano loop featuring a bemoaning Mary J. Blige, Dre is introspective without emasculating his borderline stoic image. Meanwhile, members of Dre's stable —Snoop, Eminen, Kurupt, Nate Dogg, Xzibit—constantly maraud space on 2001, leaving little room for Dre to land a perfect 10 in the lexical backflip category.

And still, Dr. Dre's millennial resurrection has not only (thoroughly) satisfied my itch for instant gratification, it's also forced me to reevaluate my personal politics. While the liberation theology of Public Enemy and BDP harbingered my life as a student of my community's subjective truths (mainly how religion in hip-hop acts as an opiate to the masses), Dre's new album is a refreshing break from intellectualizing rap's prophetic scriptures. (Roc, very grounded in her womanisms, has nothing to prove and spends time tending to her herbs while Tucker, who got caught out there giving a certain dashiki-toting Nubian prince a private lap-dance, is maintaining . . . We're a work in progress. . . . ) And despite snippets of bad taste here and there on 2001, Dre still blazes into the zero-squared not only on top of his game, but representing . . . the wretched? Most likely not intentionally, butt by default.

 
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