The Chronic & Efil4zaggin Would Not Sound The Same Without This Man…And It’s Not Dre
Dr. Dre’s 30-plus-year career in Hip-Hop has many movements. Andre Young first gained national notoriety for his post-Disco work with World Class Wreckin’ Cru, opening up dance-floors across the globe to the energy of Los Angeles’ most musically cutting edge clubs. Next, he would co-launch N.W.A., forever changing Hip-Hop and Gangsta Rap with a sound as complex as the group’s message of street life. In the 1990s, on his own, Dre would release two benchmark Rap albums, injecting melody and substance into the music, and leading the pack to the next movement.
Musically, Dre has never been shy about collaboration and ensemble efforts. From DJ Yella, who joined Young in his first two groups, to half-brother Warren G, and would-be mainstay producers such as Scott Storch, Daz Dillinger, Sam Sneed, Mel-Man, Chris “The Glove” Taylor, DJ Khalil, Mike Elizondo, and Che Vicious. One name who Heads may not have seen or closely associated with D-R-E is Colin Wolfe. Yet, the music the Baldwin Hills, California bass player and producer and Dr. Dre made together, is quite possibly the most definitive of the mega-mogul’s career.
More than one year ago, Wax Poetics interviewed Wolfe, who received a co-production credit on 1992’s The Chronic. In the in-depth feature, the print publication learned a lot about what the liner notes credits won’t tell you about a producer who also worked with MC Breed, King T, and George Clinton before rejoining Dre in the late 1990s. However, as Heads regularly seek those G-Funk reminders in Dre’s contemporary work, Colin Wolfe may be part of the solution.
Here are several pull quotes that we found especially interesting:
On meeting Dr. Dre, and bring The Chronic players in years before it recorded: “I got off stage and [Dr. Dre and the Ruthless Records team] asked if I wanted to go on tour with Michel’le. They were putting her band together to go on the road. I said, ‘Hell yeah!’ The next day, they asked if I knew any other musicians. So I got my friends on board, the keyboard player Justin Reinhardt and Chris Claremont on guitar. Those dudes did some work with us on The Chronic.”
On Ruthless Records paying fairly, despite some questionable issues surrounding credit: “Dre and Eazy were always fair with publishing rights and money. When I worked on a song, Dre would say, ‘Let’s split it evenly.’ We didn’t get into all the details, never had any qualms about that. For instance, he insisted I got a co-writing credit on ‘Real Niggaz Don’t Die.’”
On the Hip-Hop and Jazz flavors that would lead to “Deep Cover,” recorded the night before soundtrack deadline: “We were all at Dre’s house in Calabasas. He had the Sly Stone [‘Sing a Simple Song’] beat going. So then I’m listening and I had this Clevinger, a little fretless bass. I’m thinking to myself, “Damn, what can I do that will be out there…the kind of shit we like but jazzy?”
We were listening to a lot of Tribe Called Quest then, with that Jazz sound. So I was like, ‘A tritone–that’ll be the bomb diggy.’ I did [imitates bass line] and it worked. As soon as Dre heard that, we laid it down and Snoop wrote the verses. I did the keyboards and a friend of mine, Eric Borders, did some guitar work. I think Dre did some keys too.”
Who did what on The Chronic: “Warren [G] didn’t have a big influence. He would occasionally come in with some lyrics and that ‘Deeez Nuuuts’ skit. But as far as the tracks, not that much input at all. Daz [Dillinger] was slowly trying to get into the creative mix. He was starting to come in there with ideas, towards the latter half of the record. Daz did do the drums on ‘Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat.’ Dre found the instrumental break and I played bass and guitar along with it. But for the most part it was me and Dre who would build the tracks.” Colin Wolfe did later say that he believes Warren G brought in the Leon Haywood sample that would become the basis for “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang.”
On reuniting with Dr. Dre in the late 1990s: “I recorded with him on the 2001 record. The first thing we did was ‘Forgot About Dre.’ I originally did it for [En Vogue’s] Dawn Robinson when she was on Aftermath [Entertainment]. But it found its way on Dre’s album. I was only a session musician this time, not a co-writer. I wasn’t too happy about that…but it’s all good. [Laughs] I also played bass on ‘Xxplosive.’”
Some other mind-blowing facts from Wolfe’s perspective:
– Kokane (who at Ruthless, Doggystyle, and briefly with Death Row) penned some of Eazy-E’s verses for Elif4zaggin.
– Dr. Dre invested $5,000 in the Lucas Sound Library (created by Star Wars‘ George Lucas).
– Members of The Meters, The Isley Brothers, and Rose Royce attended studio sessions with Dr. Dre (some for The Chronic) although cuts did not make the final product.
– Eazy-E shelved a sophomore album called Temporary Insanity, that featured a lot of Dr. Dre production. Eventually, Eazy followed up Eazy-Duz-It with a 1992 EP, 5150: Home 4 Tha Sick.
– Dr. Dre (and Colin) shared a passion for model planes.
– For a musician/producer who worked on 100 Miles & Runnin’, Efil4zaggin, The Chronic, and other major works, why aren’t more Funk-minded musicians ringing Colin Wolfe’s phone in 2015?