It's hard to swallow that two decades have passed since Dr. Dre released 1992's The Chronic, an album that left an indelible mark on hip-hop and the entire music industry. His opus helped introduce to the world Death Row Records, a label headed by its notoriously belligerent boss, Marion "Suge" Knight. The album also was a platform for a tall, slim 21-year-old rapper with a slithering drawl named Snoop Doggy Dogg. The Chronic has sold more than 4 million copies and helped usher in a new wave in music as West Coast hip-hop rose to national prominence.
Coming on the heels of the Rodney King riots — the album even included samples from Birth of a Nation, a documentary from Los Angeles filmmaker Matthew McDaniel that explored the black frustrations after that controversial verdict — The Chronic would reign supreme for a decade and create a number of superstars.
Before he lent his seal of approval (and beat-making skills) to Eminem, 50 Cent and, more recently, Kendrick Lamar, and began peddling headphones to become hip-hop's cash king, Dr. Dre was part of a group you may have heard of named N.W.A. But after some members of that iconic gangsta rap group went their separate ways, Dre opted to go solo and lead his own stable of artists into the '90s. The G-funk sound that Dre pioneered — slick-sounding beats with a heavy debt to George Clinton-Parliament's wide-open grooves — is a good reason many consider him the greatest hip-hop producer of all time.
Thanks to Dr. Dre, Calvin Broadus went from being a 21-year-old struggling to leave the street life of Long Beach, Calif., to being Snoop Doggy Dogg, a beloved mainstream megastar who has since released 11 solo albums that have sold more than 30 million copies. Movies, television shows, endorsement deals and a variety of other things have helped make him one of the most popular and lovable artists in all of pop culture. Recently he's been going by Snoop Lion, a tribute to Rastafarianism, since he had a spiritual awakening during a visit to Jamaica. Who would have expected this from the rapper who once quipped, "We don't love them hos" and was on trial for murder?
Her presence on The Chronic positioned Rage to be one of the prominent female voices in hip-hop. However, she lacked the sensual edge that her female rap contemporaries (Lil Kim and Foxy Brown) possessed, and her debut album, 1997's Necessary Roughness, failed to earn her mainstream success. Despite that, she'll always be known as the female emcee who "rocks rough and stuff with her Afro puffs."
His distinct gravelly voice made RBX (born Eric Dwayne Collins) one of the standouts on The Chronic. He never enjoyed major success, however, despite releasing seven albums. Perhaps because he abandoned the popular G-funk sound in favor of a more gritty East Coast style, RBX would never be featured on a high-profile release until popping up on Dre's 1996 compilation Dr. Dre Presents … the Aftermath and on the song "Remember Me" off of Eminem's smash The Marshall Mathers LP.
Although his role was little more than some scant background vocals on The Chronic, Nate Dogg (born Nathanial Hale) would eventually become a singular voice amid the West Coast rap scene. His soulful crooning could be found on just about every prominent rapper's chorus for the next two decades as he worked with Snoop Dogg and Warren G as well as Ludacris, Mos Def and 50 Cent. Unfortunately, complications from multiple strokes would claim Nate Dogg's life in 2011.
After playing the background as a producer and rapper on The Chronic, Daz would end up growing close with Philly transplant Kurupt (born Emmanuel Brown) and forming Tha Dogg Pound and making his presence felt on Snoop Dogg's solo debut, Doggystyle. He and Kurupt released their debut, Dogg Food, in 1995, and Daz would become the primary in-house producer for Death Row Records while Dr. Dre phased himself out. His most notable work behind the boards came with Tupac's 1996 album, All Eyez on Me. You can still find Daz producing and rapping with artists including Curren$y and Kurupt.
A Cali-bred emcee with an East Coast flavor and a penchant for vibrant lyricism, Kurupt partnered with Daz to form Tha Dogg Pound shortly after The Chronic released. With a successful career as a tandem and solo emcee, Kurupt has remained one of the most lyrical talents to come out of California. Even though it's been 20 years since The Chronic dropped, emcees influenced by his style ranging from the Game to Pac Div have employed his services.
Prior to lending his voice to "The $20 Sack Pyramid" skit, The D.O.C. had made a name for himself behind the scenes as a writer for N.W.A. and in the forefront with his 1989 acclaimed debut, No One Can Do It Better. Unfortunately, a near-tragic car accident changed his voice permanently, and he would never find the same success as a solo artist. However, he remained a permanent fixture as a writer and helped pen songs for The Chronic and Doggystyle. Constant references by everyone from Dr. Dre to Jay-Z ensure that the D.O.C. won't ever be forgotten. He has an 8-year-old daughter with a singer you may know named Erykah Badu.
Although he only spoke on the posse cut "Stranded on Death Row" on The Chronic, Bushwick Bill was already a household name. Thanks to his work with the Geto Boys, he gave the song featuring a group of new jacks a level of credibility that helped thrust them into the mainstream. The Geto Boys would go on to make four more albums, and Bushwick Bill eventually became a born-again Christian in 2006. Despite the change, Bill has found himself in constant legal trouble. He recently rejoined the Geto Boys for a performance in 2012.
Before The Chronic, Jewell Caples sang backup for Bobby Jimmy and the Critters and Jimmy Z. Everything changed once she linked up with Dr. Dre and found herself contributing vocals for N.W.A. and on Dre's debut. She would become known as "the first lady of Death Row," and her distinct voice could be found gracing popular songs from Tupac, Snoop and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. She never found success as a solo artist, despite charting with her cover of Shirley Brown's "Woman to Woman" in 1994. She would leave Death Row in the late '90s and pen a book: My Blood, My Sweat, My Tears.
After playing a behind-the-scenes role on The Chronic, Warren (who is Dre's stepbrother) made his breakthrough when he and Nate Dogg dropped the smash hit "Regulate" in 1994. His solo album Regulate … G Funk Era would sell more than 4 million copies worldwide and established him as a top-tier producer in the '90s. Although he isn't selling albums like he used to, he recently could be found peddling male-enhancement products for Affirm XL.
Cruz is another artist who participated on The Chronic but was never able to find success as a solo artist. Also known as Crimson Monroe, Cruz was a member of the group Po' Broke & Lonely in the early '90s and dropped one album on Ruthless Records: No Money No Honey. He would sign as a solo artist to Aftermath in the early stages of the label and had placement as a singer-songwriter on feature films including The Wood and The Wash and on shows such as The Game and Girlfriends. Today Cruz is still seeking success in the music industry.
Love him or hate him (many in the rap game would say the latter), if it wasn't for Suge Knight and his strong-arm tactics, we may never have seen The Chronic, and Dr. Dre might not be the mogul we know today. The notorious bully orchestrated Dr. Dre's departure from Ruthless Records, launched Death Row Records and helped create a number of superstars. His falling-out with Dr. Dre in the mid-'90s, coupled with the death of Tupac, signaled the impending demise of Death Row. A number of financial and legal problems have plagued Knight since. No matter what, he will always be tied to a moment in history that forever changed the music industry.