This week, Daily Music Writers are looking back on the first albums they ever loved. Today, Shayan Shafii remembers Dr. Dre's Chronic 2001.
When I was in the ninth grade, my parents took me and my sister on a trip to Los Angeles (affectionately referred to as “Tehrangeles” within the Persian community) to kick it with some distant family-friends. I neither knew who they were nor cared, as I was only interested in getting the hell out of West Virginia. My hometown, Charleston, is a small working class “city” of about 50,000. One of those places where the best place to eat is a greasy breakfast joint called “Tudor’s Biscuit World.” I was 13 years old at the time, and my computer was basically the only portal I had into the developed world.
Right at the cusp of those rebellious teenage years, the trip proved to be pivotal in putting me on to urban youth culture. No memory captures this more than when a family friend took me on a car ride with his CD of choice: Dr. Dre’s seminal Chronic 2001. I’ll be honest, I understood little to nothing of what Kurupt and Hittman were rapping about on “Xxplosive,” but my friend didn’t stop laughing for three minutes. Whatever this sorcery of “West Coast rap” was, I couldn’t wait to bring its fuckery back to the tranquil suburbs of West Virginia.
Upon my return, I developed an interest in digging up the grimiest, filthiest music that South Central L.A. had to offer. Chronic 2001 was first on my list, and what followed were several years of rap-inspired shenanigans from hilariously out-of-place white kids in a largely Black high school. I couldn’t quite pinpoint why the music was so appealing to me, but I continued to listen despite missing every reference and innuendo.
I remember speculating that Xzibit’s line on “What’s The Difference,” “My style is like a reaction from too much acid,” might have actually been a chemistry joke. Almost every other lyric was a reference to NWA, whom I had only recognized from shirts worn by local mall rats. I never cuffed my khakis until Dr. Dre gave me the idea on the hook of “Still D.R.E.” Point being, this album turned me into the classic suburban rap fan but set me up to learn more about the culture if I was willing to put in the time.
Sentimental value aside, 2001 was an ideal starting point, boasting features from legends like Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Nate Dogg and Six-Two. I went on to consume entire discographies at a time, starting from the featured artists and eventually spreading out to whatever popped up in YouTube comments sections. Ensuing weekends were wasted away playing FIFA in my friend’s basement while running through old Snopp Dogg records.
Where the suburbs deprived us of any real culture, the Internet and West Coast rap gave us something to look into, to almost stand behind. Obviously none of us were from Crenshaw, but feeling the need to clear up the misconceptions surrounding the culture was more than enough reason to keep listening.