Dr. Dre

Also Credited As:

Andre Young, Andre R. Young, Doctor Dre, Andre Romell Young
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Biography

A dominant force in hip-hop music for over three decades, Dr. Dre was a former member of the groundbreaking and controversial group N.W.A., which helped to foment the gangsta rap scene, before assuming his own successful career as a solo artist and producer for such chart-topping acts as Eminem, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent and countless others. Dre was also instrumental in the development of the "G-funk" sound, a West Coast-style of rap that featured …
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Job Title

Actor, Director, Producer, Writer, Music, Other

Born

Andre Romell Young on February 18, 1965 in Los Angeles, California, USA

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A dominant force in hip-hop music for over three decades, Dr. Dre was a former member of the groundbreaking and controversial group N.W.A., which helped to foment the gangsta rap scene, before assuming his own successful career as a solo artist and producer for such chart-topping acts as Eminem, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent and countless others. Dre was also instrumental in the development of the "G-funk" sound, a West Coast-style of rap that featured deep bass grooves, samples from George Clinton's vast musical output, and multi-layered synthesizer lines. Such artists as Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur and Dre's own stepbrother, Warren G, rode the G-funk style to unparalleled success during the 1990s. After a discordant relationship with the notorious Death Row Records, which released his hugely popular Chronic album in 1992, Dre launched his own label, Aftermath, which soared on the strength of albums by Eminem and 50 Cent. The windfall from his producing efforts and solo career made Dre the third richest figure in hip-hop, with an estimated wealth of over $250 million. With the new millennium, Dre focused more intently on production while laboring over his final solo effort, Detox, which remained unreleased after more than a decade of work. Despite this delayed release, Dre remained one of rap's most important figures, an artist who changed the course of the genre with a single album, as well as a key component of some of its most landmark albums.

Born Andre Romelle Young in Compton, CA on Feb. 18, 1965, Dr. Dre was the son of amateur singer Theodore Young and his wife, Verna. Both were teenagers when Dre was born, and separated just three years after his birth. Verna Young would marry two more times, providing Dre with four stepsisters and three stepbrothers, including Warren Griffin III, who would later gain fame as rapper Warren G. Plagued by poor grades in his high school years, Dre failed to land a much-desired apprenticeship at Northrop Aviation Company, which spurred him to focus his attention on a burgeoning career in entertainment. After assuming the moniker of Dr. Dre, he spun records at a local club before joining a hip-hop group, the World Class Wreckin' Cru, which released the independent single "Surgery," which became a regional hit in 1984. Two years later, he met fellow aspiring rapper O'Shea Jackson, who performed under the stage name Ice Cube. The pair began writing songs for Ruthless Records, a label owned by former drug dealer-turned-recording artist Eric Wright, a.k.a. Eazy-E, who formed N.W.A., or Niggaz With Attitude, with Dre, Cube and DJ Yella, a friend of Dre's from his club days. The group added MC Ren shortly before releasing their debut CD, Straight Outta Compton (1988), a hardcore rap record featuring the single "F--- tha Police," which generated a warning letter from the FBI. The album would later be credited as a seminal release in the development of the hip-hop subgenre known as gangsta rap.

The original lineup of N.W.A. lasted for one record, with Ice Cube departing over royalty disputes in 1989, leaving Eazy-E as the nominal head of the group. But Dre was unquestionably the architect of the N.W.A. sound, as evidenced by the EP 100 Miles and Runnin' (1990) and sophomore album Efile4zaggin (1991), which marked the beginnings of the G-funk movement through his use of heavy beats and assaultive sonic textures with groove-laded rhythms that evoked the hazy psychedelic funk of George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic. As a result, he became Ruthless' in-house producer, lending his talents for releases for label mates like Above the Law and The D.O.C. But behind the scenes in the N.W.A. camp, Dre was fuming over allegations that Eazy-E had sold the group's contract while retaining a portion of the publishing rights; after an ugly 1991 incident in which Dre was fined $2,500 for assaulting television reporter Dee Barnes over a news item she had filed about tensions within the group, he officially left N.W.A. and Ruthless to team with former bodyguard-turned-music publisher Marion "Suge" Knight. According to industry lore, Knight facilitated the end of Dre's contract by threatening Eazy-E and Ruthless co-owner Jerry Heller with physical violence.

Dre and Knight soon founded Death Row Records, which released the formers' first solo single, "Deep Cover," from the motion picture soundtrack of the same name in 1992. The record also featured his first collaboration with rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg, later known as Snoop Dogg, and Snoop Lion, whom he met through Warren G. Together, the pair collaborated on Dre's first solo CD, The Chronic (1992). A multi-platinum, Top 10 hit album by virtue of singles like "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang," and "Let Me Ride," the album also reaped a Best Rap Solo Performance for the latter single. More importantly, its popularity minted G-funk as the dominant hip-hop style of the early 1990s, with such records as Snoop's Doggstyle (1993), Blackstreet's single "No Diggity," and "Natural Born Killaz," a reunion with Ice Cube brokered in the wake of Eazy-E's 1995 death, achieving their own chart success through Dre's blueprint.

By the release of the compilation record Dr. Dre Presents the Aftermath, Dre was not only distancing himself from gangsta rap but Death Row Records itself. The label had devoted much of its energy in promoting its newest artist, Tupac Shakur, with whom Dre recorded "California Love" (1995), his first No. 1 single on the Billboard 100. Aftermath's arrival in early 1996 was met with platinum sales but a significant drop-off in both critical and listener approval. The perceived failure of Death Row to promote the record, as well as negative publicity surrounding Knight's growing penchant for thuggish behavior, spurred Dre to leave the label and launch his own imprint, Aftermath Records. After a slow start, Aftermath secured a major hit with Eminem's Slim Shady LP (1999), which sold over 4 million records. Death Row would soon lose its grip on the industry over the label's association with Tupac Shakur's controversial murder in 1996 and charges of racketeering against Knight.

Dre returned to prominence as a recording artist with his second solo album, 2001, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 before selling over six million records. Singles like "Forgot About Dre" would net him the Grammy for Producer of the Year in 2000, but the success was overshadowed by a pair of high-profile lawsuits from Lucasfilm Ltd. and the '70s funk act the Fatback Band, both of which alleged copyright infringement of trademarked recorded material. Dre was forced to pay $1.5 million in the latter case. The downturn proved short-lived, as Dre was quickly back on top with a Grammy for Eminem's Marshall Mathers LP, which sold over one million records in its first week of release. Hits for Mary J. Blige ("Family Affair") and Eve with No Doubt's Gwen Stefani ("Let Me Blow Ya Mind") preceded his third smash collaboration with Eminem on The Eminem Show (2002) and the debut of 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2003), both of which were hugely popular releases for Aftermath.

Dre spent the majority of the next few years behind the producer's console, overseeing tracks by Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, and Timbaland while branching into branding through a partnership with Monster Cable Products, which released a signature brand of headphones and associated technology called Beats By Dr. Dre. He then handled the majority of the production duties on Eminem's chart-topping Relapse (2009) album before returning to a long-gestating solo project called "Detox." Begun in 2000, the record was intended as Dre's swan song as a performer, but his production duties for other artists, as well as his increasingly perfectionist attitude towards the album, kept it as a work-in-progress for the better part of a decade. Two singles, "Kush" and "I Need a Doctor," were released in 2010 and 2011, respectively, with the latter track peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard singles chart.

In 2011, Dre teamed with Hewlett-Packard to equip personal computers and tablets released by the company with the Beats By Dr. Dre technology. The following year, Chrysler presented its 300S luxury automobile, which came equipped with a Beats By Dr. Dre sound system. During this period, he announced his interest in expanding his directorial career, which had encompassed numerous music videos, to feature films through New Line Cinema. Dre also announced an N.W.A. biopic, tentatively titled "Straight Outta Compton," for which he would also serve as co-producer with Ice Cube. Music, however, continued to be his most consistent medium, most notably as producer on records by ex-TLC singer Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins. In April 2012, he headlined the final evening performances at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

By Paul Gaita

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