Born Andre Ramelle Young, c. 1965, in Compton, CA; married with children. Addresses: Record company--Aftermath Entertainment, 15060 Ventura Blvd., Ste. 225; Sherman Oaks, CA 91403, phone: (818) 385-0024, website: Website--Dr. Dre Official Website:

Dr. Dre is without question one of the most influential figures in Black music history. As one of hip-hop's most prolific and trendsetting producers, Dr. Dre has guided the careers of some of hip-hop's most celebrated figures. From his pioneering "G-Funk" sounds to his instrumental role in Eminem's career, Dre has been a critical factor in hardcore hip-hop's move to popular culture.

Born Andre Ramelle Young in Compton, California, Dre was raised by his mother. From the time he was four years old, he loved playing DJ at her parties. In 1981, he heard a song by Grandmaster Flash that inspired him to change his name in honor of basketball star Julius "Dr. J" Erving and become a full-time DJ.

Dre began spinning records at a Los Angeles nightclub called Eve After Dark. He produced the dance tapes in the club's four-track studio during the week, then played them on the weekends. In addition to using the rap trademarks of sampling, scratching, and drum machines, he added keyboards and vocals. "I would put together this mix shelf," Dre told Jonathan Gold in Rolling Stone, "lots of oldies, Martha and the Vandellas and stuff like that. And where normally you go to a club and the deejays play all the hit records back to back, I would put on a serious show. People would come from everywhere, just to see Dre on the wheels of steel."

In 1982, when Dre was 17 years old, he formed the World Class Wreckin' Cru with Yella (Antoine Carraby), his fellow DJ and manager of Eve After Dark. Dre's demo, "Surgery," became the group's first independently released single and sold 50,000 copies. Dre graduated from Compton's Centennial High School in 1983. Impressed with his studies in mechanical drafting, Northrop Aircraft offered him a job, but he turned it down. Dre discovered he could make more money as a DJ, and all of his spare time was spent preparing for the release of the World Class Wreckin' Cru's second album.

Dre left the World Class Wreckin' Cru in 1984. "They wouldn't do my songs," Dre said in a Death Row Records biography. "They said they'd never get on the radio." Dre joined with Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson), who was in a group with his cousin at the time. Together they performed live wherever they could, including dates at skating rinks, where they played in front of 2,000 people at a time.

Formed New Company

In 1985, Dre and Eazy-E (Eric Wright) decided to start up their own record company with Eazy-E's capital and Dre's producing talent. Dre produced the label's first project, "Boyz-n-the-Hood," featuring Eazy-E as the artist. They sold about 10,000 copies out of the trunks of their cars and used the money to finance the first single for their newly formed group, N.W.A. (Niggaz with Attitude) which included Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Yella, MC Ren (Lorenzo Patterson), and Arabian Prince. Dre wrote and produced the group's first single, "Dopeman." He also produced Eazy-E's first platinum album, Eazy-Duz-It, that same year.

N.W.A. began its controversial and successful career in 1987 with the release of N.W.A. and the Posse on Macola Records. Two years later, the group released Straight Outta Compton on Ruthless Records and sold more than two million copies. Of course, the controversy behind the group and the album only assisted in launching their sales. Milt Ahlerich, assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Office of Public Affairs, wrote a letter to the group's parent record company objecting to the lyrics of the song "F*** tha Police." Police throughout the country added fuel to the fire by allegedly making it standard operating procedure to pull over any car driven by African-American men blaring N.W.A. "We loved the controversy," Dre said in his record company biography. "It's the reason we blew up as big as we did. It wasn't hurting us, it was helping us."

Keeping alive his career as a producer, Dre produced the D.O.C. (Tray Curry), a rapper he had discovered in Dallas, Texas. The D.O.C.'s album, No One Can Do It Better, became number one on Billboard's R&B album chart, number 20 on the pop chart, and reached platinum sales. The track, "It's Funky Enough," became a number one rap single. Dre also produced an album for his former girlfriend, Michel'le, which went platinum and reached number one on Billboard's R&B chart.

In January of 1990, Ice Cube left N.W.A. over a financial dispute and started a solo career. Later that year, N.W.A. released the platinum EP, 100 Miles and Runnin', on Ruthless Records. The group's third album, Efil4zaggin, hit the stores in 1991, sold over a million copies in just two weeks, and reached number one on Billboard's album chart.

N.W.A.'s success and controversy brought them lots of attention, and Dre began receiving attention for his antics outside of the recording studio. On January 27, 1991, Dre allegedly hit Denise ("Dee") Barnes, the former host of Pump It Up, a FOX-TV show, and tried to push her down a staircase at a Los Angeles nightclub. Pump It Up had aired a segment about the separation of Ice Cube and N.W.A., with Ice Cube and the members of the group talking about each other. N.W.A. and Dre decided the show made them look bad. After the incident, Barnes filed assault charges and a $22 million dollar suit against Dre; he settled out of court.

Joined Marion "Suge" Knight

Later in 1991, Dre and Marion "Suge" Knight inspected Dre's contract with Ruthless Records. Dre, the house producer at Ruthless Records, had watched seven of the eight albums he produced go platinum. Knight claimed Ruthless had taken advantage of Dre by paying him a substandard royalty rate and withholding back pay. Dre left Ruthless, and Knight engineered his release from his contract with the label. Ruthless Records president Eazy-E claimed that he only agreed to end the contract because Knight and two other men threatened him with baseball bats and pipes.

"I got Ice Cube his start. I also launched Eazy," Dre said in his record company biography. "There ain't no question that N.W.A. became what it was in large part because of my music and my producing. Me and Eazy had agreed from Jump Street that we was to be partners. Now Eazy says he's the owner of the record company, Ruthless. Well, let him own it then. But I was never supposed to be signed to him or owned by him." Eazy-E filed suits against Dre at the end of 1991 and in late 1992 for racketeering and conspiracy. A federal judge dismissed the charges on August 9, 1993.

Suge Knight and Dre founded their own label, Death Row Records, and searched for major label distribution. They had Dre's first solo effort, The Chronic, completed by the time they formed a partnership with Interscope Records in 1992. "People didn't want to take a chance on us, and it [made me angry]," Dre said in Newsweek. "I mean, I had talent--talent that had already been proven with huge record sales from N.W.A.--so you had to wonder what ... the problem was."

Dre continued to keep his name in the press and on police records before the release of his solo album. On June 5, 1992, Dre surrendered to police after they had issued a warrant for his arrest on charges that he assaulted record producer Damon Thomas. Then, in October of 1992, Dre pleaded guilty to battery of a police officer during a May 22 brawl. He served "house arrest" sentences for each charge, which necessitated his wearing a police-monitoring ankle bracelet.

Success and Legal Trouble

In 1993, The Chronic arrived in stores--the first release for Death Row Records. It sold three million copies and spent eight months in the top ten of Billboard's album chart. The first single, "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang," sold more than a million copies, and "Dre Day" went gold. The Chronic featured other budding rap artists from Dre's "posse," including Snoop Dogg, Rage, RBX, Jewell, Nate Dogg, Daz, and Kurupt. Dre then went behind the scenes of the music video business, following the release of the album with his directorial debut, Nuthin' But a'G' Thang.

Dre went on to produce the debut of Snoop Dogg, the best friend of Dre's stepbrother, Warren Griffen III (Warren G). Doggystyle, released on Death Row, sold 800,000 copies in its first week. In August of 1993, Dre and other Death Row artists headlined a national tour that included Run D.M.C., Geto Boys, Onyx, and Boss. The $200,000 stage show included a 14-piece band, a 1964 Impala, a makeshift liquor store, a garage, a 10-foot skeleton, and a 42-person entourage. Dre found himself in serious trouble in 1994. It began on January 10, when he led Los Angeles police through the streets on a high-speed chase. When Dre was finally apprehended, the police found his blood-alcohol level to be 0.16, twice the legal limit in California. Since he had broken his 1993 probation, he received an eight-month jail sentence, a $1,053 fine, four years summary probation, and an order to complete a 90-day alcohol education program.

Later that same year, Dre received a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. He also produced the single debut of his stepbrother, Warren G on Death Row's Above the Rim compilation. By August of 1994, albums he had rapped on or produced had sold nearly 28 million copies. On September 27, 1994, Death Row Records released Murder Was the Case, which featured a song by Dre and Ice Cube, "Natural Born Killaz." Dre also directed an 18-minute video, starring Snoop Dogg, Murder Was the Case: The Movie.

Dre and Ice Cube reunited on their album, Helter Skelter. The first single, "You Don't Want to See Me," featured an appearance by funk founder George Clinton. However, Helter Skelter's release was postponed due to Dre's jail sentence, which started on January 10, 1995. In the meantime, Dre contributed the single "Keep Their Heads Ringin'" to the soundtrack for Friday, a comedy film starring Ice Cube. Meanwhile changes were taking place inside Dre's head. "That was my wake-up call because all I could do in that cell was think," he told Newsweek's Allison Samuels and David Gates. "My mom said that going to jail was the best thing that could have happened to me, and she was right."

Left Death Row

Dre realized that the negative influences at Death Row were distracting him from his number one love--making music. A maturing Dre also felt that Death Row, constantly involved in one trouble or another, was a scene that was hindering the positivity he was feeling in his own life. He married in 1996 and considered himself a happily married man with children. However, his "happy" status was not part of Death Row's vision. As he told Vibe, "The mentality there [at Death Row] is, you have to be mad at somebody in order for yourself to feel good, even to be able to make a record." He added, "I have nothing bad to say about anybody that's with Death Row. It's just not my vibe."

In 1996, Dre stunned the rap world when he departed from Death Row, citing differences in philosophy. He had once hoped that the label would expand into other genres, including jazz, reggae, and rock music. However, the irony was that gangsta rap--spurred by his own classic, The Chronic--continued to bring in the money, and according to Vibe, "Dre began to realize that no one else was seeing his larger vision for the label."

Dre started his own label, Aftermath Entertainment, as a joint venture with Jimmy Iovine's Interscope. Relishing his new autonomy, Dre asserted in Vibe, "Now I'm gonna be able to do whatever I wanna do. If it works, it's on me. If it fails, it's on me. But I'm an innovator." Dre's first Aftermath release was a compilation of various hard-core hip hop and R&B artists entitled Dr. Dre Presents ... Aftermath, and featured his own single, "Been There, Done That." In bypassing the "East Coast-West Coast" riff between artists from the two different camps, Dre was able to work with the top people in the business, causing Vibe to suggest that "he sets trends."

Most of the repercussions from Dre's leaving Death Row had mostly positive effects. He commented in Vibe, "People are giving me respect as a person, for being a wise black man ... Right now, I'm exhaling in a major way." The only drawback was a brief period from 1996 to 1999 when, due to record label differences, he was restricted from working with some of his old crew, such as Snoop Dogg.

Work with Eminem a Huge Success

During that period, Dre produced the much anticipated, but mildly disappointing 1997 CD, The Album, by The Firm, which included Foxy Brown, Nas, AZ, and Nature. But 1999 saw the strong return of Dr. Dre with the debut of Detroit artist, Eminem and The Slim Shady LP. Eminem, born Marshall Mathers, not only helped Dre flex his skills as a producer but also as a performer. The follow up release, The Marshall Mathers LP, garnered a Producer of the Year Grammy and a Best Performance by a Duo or Group Grammy for the single, "Forgot About Dre." Although he assumed a slightly lesser role in Eminem's third LP, The Eminem Show, Dre's presence was critical, as he guided Eminem through the production process. In addition to his work with Eminem, Dre served as the executice producer for hip-hop's newest superstar, 50 Cent.

Before he began working with Eminem and 50 Cent, many people believed Dre ended his creative rap by leaving Death Row. He told Newsweek, "The word on the street was I couldn't do it anymore. One writer said my only prayer was to work with Snoop again." In spite of previous problems, Dre did work with Snoop again on a solo effort, Dr. Dre 2001, in 1999 which also included collaborations between many other artists on The Chronic in 1992. It also sparked one of the most successful summer concert tours, 2000's Up In Smoke The Tour featured Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and Ice Cube among others and included stops in more than 43 cities.

While Dre produced others and recorded solo efforts, his work with Aftermath gave him the opportunity to continue editing videos; working in film, and writing an autobiography. His film credits include a small role in 1996's Set If Off, and 2001's Training Day with Denzel Washington, and The Wash with Snoop.

"Dre has vision," Jimmy Iovine, producer and head of Interscope Records, commented in Dre's biography. "I believe he's one of the great producers around today because his approach combines a lot of different worlds, in music and life. He can reach everyone. Because of his creativity and innovation, pushing the limits like most producers don't do anymore these days--whether in rap or rock--he deserves his own label. He's that gifted."

The turn of the millennium also saw Dre use his gifts to influence the technological future of music. Dre joined popular heavy metal band, Metallica, and the Recording Industry Association of America in suing Napster, a popular website where members swap MP3's. In each suit, the complaints focused on copyright infringement. Dre submitted a list of more than 900,000 songs that he wanted removed from the website. Napster ultimately agreed to block songs that record companies wanted out of their trading software.

Dre's musical empire is showing no signs of decline. At the beginning of 2004, Dre bolstered the Aftermath ranks by adding a mixture of old and new rap talent. In addition to signing veteran stars Busta Rhymes and Eve, Dre signed the West Coast's newest sensation, The Game.

Regardless of the ups and downs in the rap business, Dre's vision is still in tact. In Dre's own words, as reported in Vibe, "I just wanna be positive, helping people help themselves, not saying anything bad about anyone, just being the real Andre Young....I'm not trying to be no gangster....The only thing I want to do is make records, live a comfortable life, and chill with my family." The aftermath seems to have been hard earned and worth the wait.

by Lorna M. Mabunda and Marc L. Hill

Dr. Dre's Career

Rap artist; record producer for various artists, including Eazy-E, Eminem, and Snoop Dogg. Began career as a DJ in high school, early 1980s; formed World Class Wreckin' Cru, 1982; released two albums; joined N.W.A., 1985; released three albums and one EP; produced eight albums for Ruthless Records; cofounded Death Row Records, 1991; released first solo album, The Chronic, Death Row, 1993; left Death Row and founded Aftermath Entertainment, 1996; released Dr. Dre Presents ... The Aftermath, 1996; produced The Album for The Firm, 1997; produced The Slim Shady LP, 1999; released Dr. Dre 2001, 1999; produced The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000.

Dr. Dre's Awards

Grammy Award, Best Rap Solo Performance for "Let Me Ride," 1993; Source Awards, Best Producer, Solo Artist, and Album, 1994; named "One of the Top Ten Artists That Mattered Most, 1985-1995" by Spin magazine; named one of "The 101 Most Powerful People in Entertainment" by Entertainment Weekly, 1996; Grammy Award, Producer of the Year, 2000; Grammy Award, Best Rap Album (as producer) for The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000; Grammy Award, Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group (with Eminem) for "Forgot About Dre," 2000.

Famous Works

Further Reading



Visitor Comments Add a comment…