When compiling a list of the most influential figures in the history of rap and hip-hop, Dr. Dre is an instant inclusion. Establishing himself in the late 80s, he created a catalog of tracks that cemented him as one of the most powerful icons in the scene.
While his solo output in the 90s was dogged with label disputes, he still had a huge role in producing a string of excellent releases. In this list, we look at some of his most iconic and memorable releases from the golden era of rap and hip-hop.
The 90s were nearly over, but Dr. Dre returned to prominence with his long-awaiting second album, 2001. After a 7-year break from solo releases, the stakes were high, but with the assistance of Jay-Z writing the vocals and a guest appearance from Snoop Dogg, the wait was worth it.
Still D.R.E was a success and helped drive sales for Dre’s album. Its popularity also saw it be part of the movie Training Day, and it features as one of the tracks within the in-game radio in the Grand Theft Auto V video game. Such an epic tune it goes down as one of the most popular 90s songs.
Forgot About Dre
Perhaps one of the most significant decisions Dr. Dre ever made was to listen to his close friend Jimmy Iovine. Jimmy suggested to Dr. Dre that he should sign Detroit rapper Eminem to Dre’s Aftermath label. Dr. Dre saw the potential, and the rest is history.
This collaboration delivered a slick and scathing track that responded to diss tracks against Dre. A perfect refresher to remind people what Dre had achieved throughout his career. This fantastic track also won the Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group award at the 43rd Grammy Awards. If you’re looking for a challenge, this song also made it to our 90s karaoke songs list.
Nuthin’ But A G Thang
After signing with Death Row records, Dr. Dre got to work on his debut solo album. The Chronic was released in 1992 and was a massive success and retains the title as one of the most influential rap and hip-hop albums of all time.
The first single from the album was Nuthin’ But A G Thang. Featuring the talents of Snoop Dogg, this track pushed forward the West Coast G-Funk style. With excellent use of a sample from Leon Haywood’s I Want’a Do Something Freaky to You from 1975, this release is easily one of Dre’s best hip hop releases.
What’s The Difference
Dr. Dre’s second studio album was filled to the brim with plenty of fantastic tracks, but this one stands out as one of the greatest 90s party songs. It highlights the excellent collaborative vision of Dr. Dre to bring in both Eminem and Xzibit for this track.
Both Eminem and Xzibit highlight their unique lyrical rap styles, while Dre is the gel that holds it all together. The exceptionally creative use of a sample from Charles Aznavour Parce Que Tu Crois from 1966 completes the package and highlights Dre’s production skills.
Another highlight from Dre’s second studio album is this groovy West Coast hip-hop anthem featuring a plethora of fantastic talent. It has gritty gangsta rap lyrics and grooves. All over the top of an infectious trap drum rhythm.
This track solidifies the importance and dominance of the G-Funk era of rap and hip-hop. Utilizing a sample from Soul Mann & the Brothers Bumpy’s Lament from the 1971 soundtrack album for the movie Shaft, it has gone down in the books as one of Dre’s best tracks from his second album.
Been There Done That
This single from Dr. Dre might not be his most successful release, but it highlights a critical juncture in his career. Having fostered and cultivated the gangsta image in the early 90s, this track shows a new level of maturity. Shifting the focus to earning money as opposed to the violence of street life.
It’s also notable for the thick and aggressive beat drop that was unusual for rap at the time. It highlights the evolution of Dre’s production skills and his new focus after leaving Death Row Records to start the Aftermath label.
After parting ways with his former group, the N.W.A, Dr. Dre hit the solo scene with this track for the movie Deep Cover. It’s a perfect example of early 90s gangsta rap with a heavy influence on drugs, a dislike of police, and violence.
It is also notable as the first appearance of Snoop Dogg, who would have a massive career of his own. It also showcases an excellent use of samples from several 60s and 70s tracks. While not a commercial success, it’s a banger of a track that deserves to be added to your hip-hop playlist.
Keep Their Heads Ringin’
In 1995 Ice Cube and DJ Pooh secured funding for a movie project. The result was Friday, made for a measly $3.5 million; it went on to earn $24.7 million and spawned a couple of sequels. This buddy stoner film became a cult classic and is worth a watch.
Dr. Dre contributed to the soundtrack for the movie with Keep Their Heads Ringin’. A fantastic release that also experienced commercial success peaking at #10 on the Billboard charts. It was also offered to cinemas to play before screenings of the Friday movie.
Let’s Get High
This track from Dre’s second album 2001 is often overlooked, and it never saw a full release but shouldn’t be slept on. Featuring a selection of talented rappers, it also helps flip the usual narrative towards women with a powerful rap section from Ms. Roq.
It’s also notable that Eminem wrote the lyrics for Dre’s rap section, which is quite apparent when you listen to it. Dre is known to use several ghostwriters but is a genius at providing feedback on lyrics, and his production skills are among the best in the business. This track is a perfect example of that.
Fuck Wit Dre Day
As the explosion of rap and hip-hop unfolded in the 90s, there was an endless stream of grudges. Big money and jealousy were rife, and the era gave birth to the diss track. One of the best examples was Fuck Wit Dre Day featuring Snoop Dogg.
The bulk of the diss track is aimed at Dr. Dre’s former N.W.A partner Eazy-E. It’s a stark contrast to Dre’s smooth and easygoing debut single. This track is gangsta rap personified and highlights the reputation of violence in the rap scene of the 90s. Modern diss tracks have nothing on this era.
From the Hood To Mogul
Dr. Dre is one of the most successful producers to emerge from the 90s. While he had a prominent solo career, he is best known for his production skills. Super talented and savvy when it comes to the business side of the music industry.
His talents spread beyond music as well with the formation of Beats Electronics. His line of headphones has become highly successful, and Apple eventually purchased the company for an eye-watering $3.4 billion. A legend of the 90s rap scene that continues to influence the modern generation of rappers.
Watch The Full Playlist
The full playlist with every song in this post can be watched via the video below or directly on our YouTube channel.