Dr. Dre’s The Chronic vs. DJ Quik’s Safe + Sound. Which Is Better?

One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?

“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.

Dr. Dre and DJ Quik have been collaborators, but also two deeply competitive triple-threats from the same city of Compton. Two years after Dre fully integrated G-Funk into the mainstream with The Chronic, Quik seemingly responded with his “P-Funk” take, Safe + Sound. With the same fearless executive producer, Suge Knight, and the Death Row machine behind each, these two works have plenty of similarities in tone, abrasiveness, and experimentalism. However, both musical benchmarks, these two albums are different in so many ways—none more so than their reach. Which one truly is better? (click on one then click “vote”).


The Chronic by Dr. Dre

When Dr. Dre left N.W.A. and Ruthless Records, the greatest material asset the Compton, California impresario may have had was musical sketches. Having hit his stride on Niggaz4Life and The D.O.C.’s No One Can Do It Better, Andre Young built upon his G-Funk foundation, with an album that beckoned the galactic chariots of Parliament-Funkadelic themselves. While The Chronic threaded 1970s “grown-folks” music, its rhymes were rooted in the grim reality of L.A. Riots-era South Central. Songs like “Lyrical Gangbang” weighed the messages and attitudes of young, disenfranchised Black men and women in the U.S., and wanted Middle America to feel the angst, the high stakes survival, and the fearlessness of the youth. Snoop Doggy Dogg would be Dre’s vehicle to pack one of Rap’s most laid-back flows (and attitudes) against the life or death realities of gang-infested Southern California.

The Chronic was one of Rap’s first broad ensembles. Not a group, but a movement, the album called upon a crop of unknown and emerging talent from both coasts, all with skills to prove, and their best work ahead of them. Like Enter The Wu-Tang one year later, personnel knew that anything less than the best would not make the album. The hunger pangs of a cast that included Death Row Records’ would-be stars were manifested in an album that made its mastermind appear to be something of a Gangsta Rap Phil Spector. Dre created dynamic soundscapes built around samples, instrumentation, and a multitude of the slightest of tweaks. Within, he waxed a narrative that effectively spat at his former band mate Eazy-E, strong-armed Luke and 2 Live Crew, and overtook the industry with a forceful comeback statement. In one stroke to the consciousness of Rap, Dr. Dre exhaled indo’ smoke on the masses. His album was a cohesive, deeply-authentic party, and with its cinematic visual aides (see below), became as emblematic of the early 1990s as Grunge. The Chronic had everybody catching a contact—as this album’s wide tracks, extensive melody, and sharp-shooting role-players set the new standard in Hip-Hop. Although it’s surprisingly only triple-platinum, the diamond (status) is in the back of Dre’s symbolic ’64 Impala.

Album Number: 1 (solo)
Released: December 15, 1992
Label: Death Row/Interscope/Priority Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #3 (certified gold, March 1993; certified platinum, March 1993; certified 3x platinum November 1993)
Song Guests: Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Daz Dillinger, Kurupt, The Lady Of Rage, RBX, Michel’le, Jewell, The D.O.C., Bushwick Bill, Emmage, Ruben, Samara, BJ, Eric “The Drunk” Borders, Katisse Buckingham, Colin Wolfe, Justin Reinhardt
Song Producers: (self), Colin Wolfe, Daz Dillinger, Chris “The Glove” Taylor


Safe + Sound by DJ Quik

Five years into a successful, independent Hip-Hop career, DJ Quik raised the stakes on Safe + Sound. The Compton, California MC/producer was fully entrenched in a beef with crosstown neighborhood rival MC Eiht, he was feeling slighted at a label that he helped deliver from the Dana Dane and Rob Base days, and he wanted the music respect reserved for Dr. Dre, Puff Daddy, and Trackmasters. With that, Quik’s chip on his shoulder would align with the bulldozing presence of executive producer Suge Knight for an album that felt like a Death Row party. More than just fiery, gun-totin’ controversy, David Blake’s third album raised the bar in musicality. Safe + Sound enveloped a do or die street existence with a numbing escape portal of Funk, Rap, and style.

DJ Quik maintained his relaxed vibe heard on his first two albums. But songs like the title track, brought the coded Tree Top Piru language to universal groove, supplied by “Strawberry Letter 23” shortcake. With 2nd II None, Hi-C, Kam, and Playa Hamm in supporting roles, this album was subdued Gangsta Rap. “Let You Haveit” was a synth and bass clinic for the trunk, blended with Quik’s deft arrangement of scratches and evocative background vocals. “Keep The ‘P’ In It” would signal so many of Quik’s musical expansions. More than his hit-making peers, DJ Quik would chase a musical pocket, break down a track, and experiment in real-time in a way that made Gangsta Rap feel like the least predictable land in music, sonically and lyrically. Even when he was gin-spilling, pillow-talking, and set-trippin’, the Q-U-I-K wanted the music he loved to be treated like Funkadelic, Miles Davis, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. By all accounts, even in its own periphery, Safe + Sound succeeded.

Album Number: 3
Released: February 21, 1995
Label: Profile Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #14 (certified gold, July 1995)
Song Guests: Hi-C, 2nd II None (KK and Gangsta D), Kam, Playa Hamm, Gary Shider, Bernie Worrell, George Archie, Del Atkins, Robert Bacon, Dante Blake, Warryn Campbell, Crystal Cerrano, Kenneth Crouch, Alex Dunbar, Dave Foreman, LaSalle Gabriel, Reggie Green, Charles Greene, Dionne Knighton, Marvin McDaniel, Norma Vega
Song Producers: (self), G-One, Courtney Branch, Tracy Kendrick, Robert Bacon

So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.

Oh, and for those keeping close score, thanks to Straight Outta Compton, Dr. Dre already has an album in the final 32.

Related: Ambrosia For Heads’ Finding The GOAT: The Albums