Dr. Dre

California Love

By late 1995 Dr. Dre had made Death Row the most powerful record company of the early ‘90s and everybody was showered in dead presidents and fame. The scene was hot and Dre controlled the balance of west coast’s rap direction. He worked on albums for Tha Dogg Pound and the Above the Rim soundtrack before Suge Knight recruited Bay Area rapper/actor Tupac Shakur onto the Row. Tupac had been released from prison upon Suge Knight’s $1.4million bail and a signed hand-written contract to record three albums for Death Row Records. At the time Dre was working on the early production to his follow-up album, namely a track earmarked to be his next hit single, "California Love". Tupac spent every waking moment recording tracks in the Death Row studios, attempting to release his highly-anticipated album fresh out of jail. It would be hip-hop’s first ever double album. Tupac’s project took precedence over the studios and Dre was commissioned to produce his tracks. Dre’s polished piece "California Love" was sitting in wait for Dre’s concentration, but it was decided by Suge Knight the single should go out on Tupac’s upcoming record, ‘All Eyez On Me’. In order to fit Tupac’s verse in the song Dre edited out his second verse and gave up the track to Tupac’s new album. The single was a revived Roger Troutman hit "So Ruff, So Tuff". Tupac and Dre were not close work colleagues by any stretch but had mutual respect for each other. Both stars received Grammy nominations for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group (with Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman.) Dre had also contributed to ‘Can’t C Me’ on the second CD. The album was received better than expected as it was a rushed production by mainly Snoop’s cousin from Tha Dogg Pound, Dat Nigga Daz. The 27 track double album was finished in two weeks. It sold over nine million copies, it showed testament to Tupac’s high-fame in the music industry.

The change of environment in the Death Row studios was unseasoned and Dre found it hard to concentrate on his work surrounded by gang members and a volatile CEO, Suge Knight often resorting to violence and physical threats to rule his staff. Dre found it would be better for his work if he distanced himself from the controversy and gang culture threatening the creative atmosphere. Snoop Dogg was in the middle of a murder trial with body guard for the fatal shooting of Philip Waldermarian. Tupac publicly accused Dre of disloyalty to the Death Row family by not showing up in court to support his homeboy. Suge Knight was also disappointed in Dre’s non-appearances. Dre snapped back in The Source magazine by saying he doesn’t feel comfortable in the court room and Snoop never took it personally. However at this juncture in his career it was better for Dre to move away from the turmoil of this disruptive record label. In order to slip out of contract with Suge Knight safely, he left without the rights to his previous recordings and a large share of the company’s financial stake. This would leave Dre once again to rebuild his catalogue, however getting to this point was a dangerous obstacle.

Apart from Suge Knight, Tupac and other Blood associates assaulting Dre’s close friend and recording artist, Sam Sneed calling him Dre’s homosexual lover, Suge Knight continually tried to harass and threaten Dre and his credibility in the industry. Suge wanted the master tapes to his production catalogue from the start of his Death Row career. Suge phoned his house demanding he release them to him and eventually drove over to greet him at his house. According to Suge as stated in The Source Dre would not open his door leaving Suge to break in through a side gate to see people running and hiding. After the presence of a dozen or so LAPD squad cars were summoned he claimed he played pool, got the tapes and left. Dre however puts it into a different story, his door bell rang and somebody claimed to be Jimmy Iovine, when Dre opened, Suge and nine members of his entourage stormed through demanding the tapes. Dre told Suge they were being copied now, who waited and suggested Dre put the Death Row logo on his next project. Several days later the two met at Gladstone’s Restaurant in Malibu and had worked out their differences. With this Dre gave up the rights to his Death Row music catalogue and a sizeable share of the company’s financial stake in exchange for his freedom and release from the grips of Death Row Records. To Dre this was the most important factor to his livelihood.

The Aftermath

After Dre’s break away from Death Row Records, he was left to rebuild his career again. He had sold his share of the record company to Suge Knight and relinquished the rights to his production and recording catalogue, this was possibly the safest way for Dre to severe ties with the notorious label boss. The half share of Death Row Records belonged to the total estimated worth of over $100million. Prior to leaving, he met with Interscope Records CEO Jimmy Iovine who has always been a huge financial backer of Dre and regarded him as being the most prolific producer behind west coast hip-hop and the respect is mutual between the two visionaries. Dre was free to establish his own label and have sole creative power over his projects. His new venture was partly funded by Interscope and he promptly signed former LaFace Records employee, Kirdas Tucker as his general manager. Dre signed fellow Original Rapper from Compton King Tee and former Death Row label mate RBX. He also tried to get Sam Sneed onboard as well but he was still stuck in contractual dispute with Suge Knight and never signed with the label. He wanted to call the label Black Market Records but the name was copyrighted to some Bay Area rappers, he tried to buy it off them starting at $100,000 and going to a ridiculous figure, the name was never used instead calling it Aftermath Records. The first cut on the record label was "East Coast Killa/West Coast Killa" by Group Therapy (Nas, RBX, KRS-1 and B-Real) to headline the Aftermath compilation album, Dr. Dre Presents...The Aftermath. Dre’s first Aftermath solo track was ‘Been There, Done That’ referring to the new start of his career. By the end of 1996 Dr. Dre had found himself ranked 5th on The Source: ‘The Power 30’ list, Suge Knight had top billin’ at one.

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