Previous Joints

Friday, 14 June 2013

Alternative: The Three Unicorns

Music, for me, is intensely personal – even more so than films. It seems like the older I get, the more serious I take music. No longer do I consume singles and albums like I do a chocolate bar – I now think long and hard before make a purchase. And yes, I still legally buy albums.

The problem is a lot of what is popular today just isn’t for me. Whether that is popularity in terms of album sales or critically - not a lot of music from today moves me. This is especially the case when I think about black music. Black music has lost it’s cool and it is heart-breaking to see. If your name isn’t Janelle Monae or Esperanza Spalding then you are likely not breaking any new ground.

But there are three artists that keep me irrational hopeful. There is something about these three artists that make me believe – that make me hope – that they will swoop in and save black music. I call them the Unicorns – you all probably know them as Lauyrn Hill, Dr Dre and D’angelo.

I consider all three of these artists legends who’s titan status within black music can never be questioned. All three of these artists have created music that mean the world to me, music that has changed their genre and music that I keep going back to. I love them all.

In the next couple of days I’m going to talk about why they are important and why I am still hopeful they can save black music. Of course I’ve also ranked them because I’m weird like that.


3 – Dr Dre

Here is the thing, I am 90% sure that Dr Dre will never release another solo-album ever again. Yet it is that 10% that I keep obsessing about. I think hip-hop needs Dr Dre more than Dr Dre needs hip-hop and he’s making so much money off of those damn headphones that the chances of him making music ‘for the love of it’  are not likely. Yet, it is that 10% that keeps me hoping.

And why do I hope? The Chronic and 2001 is why. One of these albums would be able to buy and drink alcohol in America, while the other is a teenager but they are two of the best albums I have ever heard – from any genre of any generation. 

Although I am not a gangster, or a pimp, nor do I drink 40s (what the hell is a 40) and I’ve not smoked so much as a cigarette in my whole life, these two albums make you believe that you know that life, that you’ve lived it and you are part of that west-side gangster culture.

Now I am not trying to say that Dr Dre and co’s skill of making you feel like Tony Montana is a good thing (that is debatable of course), but the way Dr Dre makes you feel while all these gangsterisms are flying around is nothing short of magic. Dr Dre is simply one of the best producers to ever live. He’s the hip-hop’s Quincy Jones. I listen to songs like ‘Nuthing but a G thang’ and just wonder why I can’t help grinning and walking like I have a limp. Dr Dre’s beats almost force you to nod your head furiously and not many hip-hop producers can do that consistently.

I am also one of the few who believes that Dr Dre’s finest achievement is 2001. An album which has grown on me ever since it was released in 1999 and just like Chronic, this album changed hip-hop. This album introduced us to the ultra-gangster, a more polished gangster than the one introduced to us during Dre's Chronic era. This gangster was richer and more careless, but ultimately likeable. 2001 was Dr Dre basically introducing the world to the YOLO lifestyle before it was bastardised by the rest of hip-hop. 
 The older I get the more I listen to 2001. Just when I think I am too old to listen to such music, the summer comes along and suddenly Dre is telling me that “things just ain’t the same for gangsters”.

I personally don’t think that Dr Dre has anything to prove – the problem is that I am in the minority. If he came out after 2001 and told the world not to expect any more solo albums, I think no one would have batted an eye lid. But instead Dr Dre actively promoted his follow up album Detox for almost a decade. There have been so many false starts, so many singles that gave people hope that Detox may materialise that I understand people’s frustration with Dre.
These false hopes and rumours of Dr Dre’s anxiety about Detox not being up to scratch has opened the door to people questioning his legacy – unfairly so. People also point to Dr Dre’s age and the terrible ‘I need a Doctor’ song as evidence of Dr Dre losing his mojo.

While I think Dr Dre’s critics make worthwhile points, I listen at Dr Dre’s recent contributions
with Kendrick Lemar (Compton and The Recipe) and feel heartened. I listen to Dre's Detox single Kush and feel that certain uncontrollable urge to nod my head and grin. I listen to the whole of Eminem’s Relapse album and Dr Dre’s production and think that he’s still one of the best producers working in music (seriously listen to the beats on that album). I listen to the majority of hip-hop (2 Chainz anyone?) and I believe without a doubt that hiphop still needs the doctor. 

As long as there is still hope left that Dr Dre will release one more album, I am willing to wait patiently. If that album never comes, well, I am left with two outstanding pieces of art and an iPod full of classic songs and albums by other artists which the Doctor has had a heavy hand in crafting.