hip hop music

March 14, 2005

Breaking Down Dr. Dre's Formula

slate.com takes a stab at breaking down Dre's hitmaking formula, though they miss a few basic questions: Why he has such a looong list of projects that dried up like a raisin in the sun (Eve, Last Emp, King Tee, Rakim, Detox, his beats for the Black Album..), and how much of the music that has his name on it was actually made by Dre himself..

Why Dr. Dre's protégés always top the charts.

At the ancient age of 40, the former Andre Young finally has his hitmaking formula down to a science—just plug in a new rapper and clear some wall space for the platinum records. The Documentary is Dre's fourth major triumph since founding Aftermath Entertainment in 1996: Before The Game, it was 50 Cent, and before 50 Cent it was Eminem and Dre's own comeback album, 1999's 2001. How did Dre become hip-hop's most reliable kingmaker?

For starters, credit Dre's exceptional knack for creating catchy pop hooks. The Documentary features one of the most addictive singles of the past year, "How We Do." The lyrics are about as thick-headed as they come—"When beef is on I'll pop that drum/ Come get some"—but the 10-note synthesizer refrain that loops throughout is what listeners really remember when the song ends.

Dre has been perfecting this stripped-down sound since he joined Death Row Records in the early 1990s. Dre's formative work with N.W.A was heavy on sample-driven anthems punctuated by aggressive bass kicks. But on 1992's The Chronic, Dre shifted gears and started pushing the melody to the front. Instead of merely sampling funk hits, he hired session musicians to cover their best parts on synthesizers—usually just the catchiest six to 12 notes, slowed down to stoner speed. It was as if Dre took a magnifying glass to every P-Funk classic and zeroed in on the most addictive three-second segments. The whining 10-note synth line in the chorus of "F--k Wit Dre Day," The Chronic's first single, is unforgettable. And unforgettable singles move albums; how many consumers bought The Chronic simply because they couldn't shake "F--k Wit Dre Day" from their minds?

But this aesthetic genius alone doesn't account for the speed with which Dre productions ascend the charts; plenty of hip-hop producers know how to put together a catchy song. Dre became a mogul, rather than a mere superstar producer, because of his innate grasp of two core business principles: quality control and the law of supply and demand...

Posted by jsmooth995 at March 14, 2005 1:12 AM

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