After building one of hip-hop’s most storied groups of all-time with N.W.A in 1986, Dr. Dre salivated at the thought of becoming a solo act. When N.W.A dissipated after releasing their final album in 1991, Dre nabbed a sleek lyricist out of Long Beach by the name of Snoop Dogg to sculpt his magnum opus, The Chronic.
For Dre, he had a burgeoning act in Snoop — who dazzled on the tandem’s first collaboration, “Deep Cover,” in 1992 — a new label in Death Row Records to call home, and a clean slate after being embroiled in a messy fallout with his former group. Invigorated by the sheer feeling of freedom, the precocious producer warmed the streets up with a slew of fiery records, beginning with “Ain’t Nuthin But a G Thang.” The funky track allowed rap’s virtuoso to flaunt not only his prowess on the boards, but also his lyrical skills on the mic with his young mentee.
For those, who doubted the good doctor, he silenced detractors with his surgical precision on “Let Me Ride,” rapping “Some n—as like lynching/ But I just watch ’em hang.” Dousing the game with smooth sounds dubbed as G-Funk, Dre still managed to sprinkle a hint of edge and danger onto every beat he produced, especially on tracks like “Lil Ghetto Boy.”
The Grammy-winning album not only allowed Dr. Dre to segue into music as a formidable threat, it served as a major alley-oop for Snoop Dogg, who released his own classic in 1993 with Doggystyle. With The Chronic turning 25 on Friday, Billboard spoke with T.I., Juicy J and Outkast’s Big Boi to speak on some of their fondest memories from rap’s highly celebrated album.
“Man, you know, when that album came out, that’s when N.W.A was breaking up. And when I seen that he was coming out with the album, I was like, ‘Man.’ It’s like when I seen the album cover, I was like, ‘This is gonna be classic.’ Because Dr. Dre, back in the day, he was like the No. 1 producer out. His beats was just like crack. You had to have it. Dr. Dre, everything he laid was classic. You gotta admit, everything he laid was classic back then. Man, when I seen the cover, I was like, ‘This is gonna be one of the biggest albums.’
“It just felt — when I seen the cover, it just felt like it was about to be big. Because N.W.A was big, but I just felt like Dr. Dre was like a creator because he made all the beats so I felt like he was the creator. When he left the group, I was like, ‘Damn, man. What the hell they gonna do now?’ Ice Cube left, but I felt like Dr. Dre was the backbone. Everybody else played their role, but Dr. Dre provided the sound of N.W.A. So yeah, that was my first reaction when I saw that cover. I knew it was gonna be dope, knew it was gonna be hard. When I heard the whole album, I was like, ‘Whew.’ It’s The Chronic, man. You can play it anywhere. Any party, any club, people still gonna turn up and go up like the music just came out yesterday.”
“‘Let Me Ride’ and ‘Lil Ghetto’ [were my favorite tracks]. I can just remember when I first heard it and I felt like a blaxploitation film, present-day, you know what I’m saying? It just had that feel to it. It was cinematic. I can damn near see it. The album was so musical. It has so much to offer musically, lyrically, and it introduced us to Snoop and Tha Dogg Pound.”
“That shit inspired [Outkast’s 1994 debut album] Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. I remember being at The Dungeon and having the bootleg cassette and us just listening to that shit over and over and over again. Then, Menace II Society came out, right? We went to see Menace II Society at the drive-in and we was playing The Chronic. It was crazy. Our first album was West Coast influenced like crazy. To me, one of my greatest influences of music is N.W.A and Kate Bush, so that album right there is one of my top three albums, best albums of all-time.”