The Making of The Chronic
LAMONT BLUMFIELD (artist manager): Suge was rollin' up in a Benz all day. He had a Benz and a Lexus. Snoop was getting evicted when Deep Cover came out -- something ain't right. We helped him move his stuff from a little bitty one-bedroom apartment in Hollywood.
NATE DOGG: I think [The Chronic] was a classic because everyone on it was hungry. Everybody put their all into The Chronic album. This was going to build a record company; this would build all our careers.
LAMONT BLUMFIELD: You had so many hungry, starving individuals that wanted to be superstars, who put their talent together, and it came out a classic.
JEWELL: It wasn't like we had money to hang with our friends, so we just hung together. We'd be up there eatin' Popeye's chicken, five days a week. And we created a masterpiece.
JOHN PAYNE: They were poor as hell, but they were still a family, still havin' fun.
SNOOP DOGG: We had weed, the best weed, you know what I'm sayin'? That's why we made The Chronic, because we had the chronic. ... I was just happy to be workin' with Dre. I had my own apartment. I was getting a thousand dollars a month, had all the best weed I wanted. My girl was lovin' me, I was lovin' her. It was all just crackin'.
JEWELL: It all worked. My singin' over their hard rap lyrics; rap had never accepted that before. I put my soft, sultry R&B singing on their records. Now every rapper has to have a female on their songs.
SNOOP DOGG: [Dre] listened to it off the board in the studio. He'd cut it together, cut the reels, splice it in. He actually had to put it together piece by piece, by hand. Every song connected to the next song, to the next song, to the next song.
ALLEN GORDON (former editor, Rap Pages magazine): Dre had the talent to hear music and [say], "This needs a flute, harp strings, heavier drum track." That's an incredible talent, even if he can't read music himself.
|Simone Green / Xenon Pictures|
SNOOP DOGG: I think The Chronic was perfect, but a lot of songs could have been on it that would have destroyed the vibe. If they didn't come out, Dre did it for a reason. A lot of that shit was spontaneous. But I did [another] song 15 times before I got it right. Had a toothache at the time and couldn't spit it out. He was, "Do it the next time, I don't like how it sounds. Do it again, you had too much energy." I'm like, this motherfucker is a precisionist.
JEFFREY JOLSON-COLBURN: The Chronic was a hit out of the box. ... Snoop had these incredible street creds and such a buzz behind him from the projects.
SNOOP DOGG: The first family member I called when I heard my shit being played was my Pops. Because he'd seen me go to jail for selling dope. I don't think Pops believed in me. ... When The Chronic came out, I was sought out for interviews. I was very shy, and I'd hold my head down and didn't want to look at the camera. I didn't know what to expect. I had to learn how to conduct myself and not explode on every question I didn't like. Just take my time and listen. If I just be me, it'll be all right. ...
The first time I performed songs from The Chronic was with Dre in a small concert in Compton. And man, these motherfuckers were singing every word of the songs. And that made me feel -- damn, my life is right here.
VIRGIL ROBERTS: We had originally thought we'd be able to distribute the record with Sony. But Sony refused to distribute The Chronic.
SAM ANSON (L.A. Weekly reporter): Because of the crazy things going on around Death Row and their wariness of the contractual status of Dr. Dre, [Sony] didn't want to get the deal done.
MICHAEL HARRIS: Because of Eazy-E's insistence that he had been wronged, and robbed of his artists, Sony chose not to be part of the lawsuits.
VIRGIL ROBERTS: And so we decided to distribute The Chronic independently. But to put a record out independently, you need a video. Griffey said to Suge, "I don't have the money, let's raise the money." [Later] Dick and I met with [Interscope executives] Jimmy Iovine and David Cohen. We played them The Chronic, and they said they were interested.
KEVIN POWELL (writer): Jimmy Iovine had to pay off Ruthless Records, Eazy-E, Jerry Heller, and have The Chronic distributed through Priority Records.
DOUG YOUNG: Eazy was getting like 25 or 50 cents a copy for Dre's Chronic album.
Nonetheless, with The Chronic, Death Row was now a bona fide success.
HANK CALDWELL (former Death Row Records president): Word of mouth is everything, and Death Row became really hip on the street. Every young, black entertainer wanted to be part of it, so there was no problem finding talent. There was an understanding at Death Row that [artists] weren't getting at the major companies. Kids would come in and audition right off the street.
SUGE KNIGHT: I ain't gonna throw you "Let's do lunch." I ain't with all that. I'm still from the ghetto. I still got a house in Compton. I may not be there every night, but I still got a house there. I go there and hang out and feel it. That's where the talent's at. 'Cause when people stay away too long, they get scared of it. There's no goin' back. How I'm gonna run from something I'm part of?
DICK GRIFFEY: I was talking to an ambassador from South Africa and his daughter. Very eloquent, articulate people. Very educated. And these people had bought into it. Suge was a cult hero around the world.
JON CLARK (former Motown Records executive): Basically, it's the same thing Motown did. They took the mindset, spirit, dreams, hopes, wishes and thoughts of the people of a time period and set it to music.