Sunday Sounds: Dr. Dre

Reznor & DreThis past week I learned two startling facts from the music world.  These facts carried with them the ability to turn my musical knowledge on its head.

The first fact was that “Gettin Jiggy Wit It” by Will Smith was co-written by Nas.  “If I Ruled the World” Nas, and “Life’s a Bitch” Nas. The same guy who said, “Mobsters don’t box, my pump shot obliges/Every invitation to fight you punk hazas” is also responsible for the ridiculousness that is, “Never see Will attacking em/Rather play ball with Shaq and em.”  How can those lyrics possibly come from the same person?  Furthermore, Nas, if you’ve got this in you to write songs like Jiggy, to create a more commercially viable product, why wouldn’t you?  You can still produce music as Nas, but you could also fund that music, and many other projects with it.  Just create another persona to release the music under, like Kool Keith/Dr Octagon/Black Elvis.  Or, you know, help Will Smith continue to look like Will Smith.

The second, and much more important fact was that Jay-Z  wrote Dr. Dre’s verse in “Still D.R.E.”  It’s an entire verse about how insulted he feels, and how laughable it is for people to think he’s lost it after all this time, that The Chronic was the best he was ever going to be.  He insists he is who he’s always been, that he’s still the best and deserving of a place at the top.  I’ve always been inclined to agree with him, at least until I found out Sean Carter was responsible for it.  That makes it a little more difficult to swallow when somebody else is saying it for you.

What makes it a little easier to swallow is the incredible production of “Still D.R.E.” and how it sets the stage for a legendary album.  Jay-Z wasn’t the only collaborator Dre was working with at the time.  He and Trent Reznor had been spending time together in the studio as well.  This would have been when Reznor was working on the 1999 Nine Inch Nails double-album, “The Fragile.”  Dre’s in the credits for “Even Deeper.”  The two admired each other’s abilities in the studio, and one of the fun facts people were throwing around about Reznor at the time was that at one point he’d recorded a ukulele in a kitchen sink.  The size of the sink was a perfect size for the uke, helping to reinforce the sounds of the ukulele with resonant frequencies along with the perfectly sound-reflective surface of porcelain.  The sound is featured most prominently on the song, “La Mer,” however you can also hear the sound of a surprisingly vibrant ukulele mixed with the piano hook in “Still D.R.E.”

This Sunday, don’t let your heroes be defined or dismantled by one fact.  Let them be human.  Nobody’s perfect, and nobody should be expected to be.

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