Dr. Dre's 2001 - The Album I Hate to Love
Dr. Dre’s iconic album 2001 turned 18 years old just yesterday, and I hate the fact I love it.
Why do I love it? It's one of hip-hop’s defining albums from the 90s and Dre demonstrates some of the greatest instrumentation and production ever seen. It hasn’t aged one bit sonically, still sounding so fresh, well put together and experimental. Some of the beats, on tracks such as ‘Ackrite' and 'F*** You', are some of my favourites of all time, and I don’t think they will ever age. The rapping is sublime, with plenty of iconic features from artists such as Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg, and shows some of the best rhyming in the 90s. It is also a very conscious album (where it wants to be), with songs reflecting on violence in L.A. ('Bang Bang') and his late brother Tyree ('The Message’ - perhaps the best track on the whole album). The concept of the album being like a film is also incredibly unique in its execution and, despite its subtlety, it works really well and gives a sense of wealth and grandeur to the LP. Not forgetting of course some of the most recognisable hip-hop songs ever made came from this album - 'Still D.R.E.’, ‘The Next Episode’, ‘Forgot About Dre’ - and it has one of the best posse cut tracks of all time in the form of ‘Some L.A. N*****’.
After all that praise, how can I hate it? Notice one of the most importance things in hip-hop music I missed out - the lyrics. This, as seems to be the trend throughout the explosion of the 90s gangsta rap subgenre, is an extremely misogynistic album - there’s no other way round it. Despite the prevalence of music with this as a common theme at the time, it still surprises me when I listen to it. Released at the close of the millennium, and at a time where gangsta rap was slowly tuning itself down in terms of its explicit content, it seems like it would sound outdated as soon as it was released. Tracks like ‘Lets Get High’, which tells of a house party where Dre and co are determined to perform sexual acts on as many intoxicated girls as possible, and ‘Housewife’, which passionately describes that you can’t ‘make a ho a housewife’ whilst delving into their very explicit sexual relations, sound so wrong in 2017, and rightly so.
Other tracks keep up the momentum - the ‘Ed-Ucation’ skit is a minute and a half of hating on a girl because *gasp* she wants to keep her kid away from his dad (not to say I’m surprised with some of the stuff they talk about and do), and Xzibit’s ‘Xxplosive’ verse was so explicit that in the clean version, they don’t even bother censoring it - it is simply cut out. There is also the dreaded sex skit (another bizarre trend at the time) ‘Pause 4 Porno’, which is not only just horrible and awkward to listen to but fuels the misogynistic vibes of the album concept. The word b**** is used an unholy amount of times throughout the album, and generally it makes for uncomfortable listening. What makes it worse is that the closing track ‘The Message’ is one of the most genuine, heartfelt tracks in hip-hop, and is completely clean of all explicit language - some people say it should’ve been what the album strived to achieve, but clearly Dre was otherwise preoccupied. 2001 also branches slightly into homophobia at points, but is overwhelmingly sexist in its content.
Despite all this, I still listen to the album regularly. It is a masterpiece, but trying to separate from the lyrics is often difficult, and I find myself catching certain lines that still shock me. I think what is perhaps worse in the grand scheme of things is the fact that hip-hop hasn’t changed much from this. Certainly a lot of the content in terms of sexism, misogyny and homophobia is subtler and harder to catch, but it is still prevalent. Some of the biggest songs right now, such as Post Malone’s ‘Rockstar’, still repeatedly use words such as ‘b****’ & ‘ho’ and put a negative spin on the actions of women. We are still at a point where lyrics are excused as just ‘part of the culture’ or ‘its fine because its hip-hop’ - no! It is an issue that is still just as important (if not more) now than it was then, and needs to be seriously addressed, especially with up and coming artists.Young artists who are making a name for themselves, such as Lil Pump and Smokepurpp, are already using their platform to spread misogyny, and there should not be a place for it in music, let alone hip-hop.
And that is why I hate loving Dr. Dre’s 2001.
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