Dr. Dre & LL Cool J Have Recorded More Than 40 Songs Together (Audio)
Dr. Dre rarely grants interviews. He admits it, and adds that he does not enjoy talking about himself in public. Since 2017’s The Defiant Ones documentary on HBO, Andre Young has participated little in the way of press, beyond product or album promotion. If there is one Rap peer who could bring Dre out, it’s LL Cool J. For Rock The Bells Radio Sirius XM, LL and DJ Z-Trip went to Dre’s Southern California home. “You know I don’t do this that often, man. But for you, that’s what’s up—anything. [You are] one of my inspirations for a very long time.”
The hour-plus-long interview first aired this past weekend (April 20) on the radio as part of LL’s “Influence Of Hip-Hop” series. Now, all Hip-Hop Heads can enjoy it. Speaking with peers, Dre seems to be in his element. The impresario exudes a love of music, as Z-Trip plays rarities from 1980s swap-meet mixtapes, bootlegged relics, and more. This interview deals greatly with Dre’s love of DJ’ing, his days with N.W.A., and some memories from those Chronic and Doggystyle period with Snoop Doggy Dogg.
The conversation opens with Dre speaking about his love of turntables and mixing. He calls music his “oxygen.” “It’s always been my passion, even before I decided to make music,” he admits. “It’s always been a passion to just listen and feel. For me, music has always been more of a feeling than just listening. It’s how music makes me feel, and that’s what I remember from a very early age.” Later in the chat (28:00), Dre says that he can tell when producers produce above the chin and below. For Andre Young, it’s below his Beats headphones, in his chest. He reveals that he aims to give the listener “goosebumps.” Dre adds that Parliament-Funkadelic was his first concert in the late 1970s. “It just completely f*cked my head up. That was it; this is what I wanted to do,” he says of the experience, 25 years before G-Funk was born.
Dre says he began touching the turntables in his early teens. At that point in his life, he says his dream was to DJ. His mother, misunderstanding his passion, sent him to a local school for on-air hopefuls. Dre recalls practicing reading Campbell’s Soup ads in the classes. “It’s so much power, L—but not from a f*cked up, egotistical point of view,” Dre admits about what allured him to the wheels of steel. “I did not know that that it would eventually turn into me DJ’ing for crowds, and then that eventually turning into production.” Dre simply enjoyed moving people with sound since he selected the records that kept his mother’s parties going into the wee hours as a toddler. Elsewhere, Dre credits DJ Battlecat, LL’s onetime producer Bobby “Bobcat” Ervin, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and DJ Cash Money as mixing influences.
“I’m actually still feeling that [way],” Dre says at 9:00. “I was actually talking to [Z-Trip] about getting back on these turntables. I’ve had conversations with [DJ] Jazzy Jeff and my wife, and everybody’s talkin’ to me about gettin’ back on the turntables and gettin’ out there, tryin’ it again.” Z-Trip, who notably starred in the Scratch documentary, plays two rare clips from Dr. Dre’s KDAY radio show. One is Dre and N.W.A. spoofing Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid In Full” dialogue, with scratched-together elements from DJ Cash Money & Marvelous Marv’s “Ugly People Be Quiet,” the Dragnet theme, and LL Cool J’s “Going Back To Cali.” The second clip finds the former radio host transitioning the intro to LL’s “I’m Bad” into Michael Jackson’s “Bad” right as the crescendo hits, before coming back into “Rock The Bells.” Dre admits that he refuses to listen to his old work, and forbids his wife and children to play any of that music in the house.
Dre says that he very nearly became a studio engineer. He enjoyed the sound of sound. At 17:30, as this plan was taking shape, Dre says that disagreements with his mother led him to move out. Dre set up shop at his aunt’s house. Dre’s aunt is producer Sir Jinx’s mother, who happened to live several houses down from a teenage Ice Cube. He recalls making demo tapes in the garage together. Dre’s previous relationship to Eazy-E brought those parties together. In Compton’s Kelly Park neighborhood, MC Ren lived between the several blocks between Eazy and Dre. Close with E, Ren was added to the fold. Additionally, Dre brought along then-production partner DJ Yella, who was with him in the World Class Wreckin Crew. He describes N.W.A.’s origin story, and corrects a few points from the Straight Outta Compton film, including the recording of the original “Boyz N’ The Hood.”
At the 29:00 mark, Dr. Dre speaks about his creative urges. “If it’s something that came out it’s something that I really felt,” he declares, admitting that it is not an exact science, and he has made some mistakes. “If you feel it, fine. If not, I did my best job. F*ck it.” Moments later he says, “I’m still tryin’ to make my f*ckin’ best thing. As a matter of fact, I’ve had this feeling, L. Like, man, there’s something in me that needs to get out creatively. I drive my wife crazy with this sh*t, man. I know the best thing I’ve ever done is [still] in me, and I’m having trouble finding it. I don’t know where to go to get the inspiration. I don’t know. I know I’ve done a lot of great things, but I don’t think I’ve done the best thing.” LL Cool J says he relates. Dre admits that he understands if it’s purely the motivation to keep working. He declares “I’m chasin’ it.”
“You can’t learn if you’re talkin’,” Dre says of his shyness towards the spotlight. “I like to listen. I’ll listen, and I’ll speak up and give my opinion when necessary. And, it really depends on who I’m in the room with.” Dre admits that he aims to be an inspiration, more than a high-profile mogul. “I want my work to talk for me, and hopefully the work I’m doin’ and the way I carry myself to be an inspiration.”
At 36:00, Dr. Dre describes starting Aftermath Entertainment to move away from the financial battles at Ruthless and what he calls “the bullsh*t” at Death Row. He admits that his 1996 Aftermath compilation was not his best material. However, within months, he would link with Marshall Mathers, who brought an energy to Dre’s fledgling label. He describes a vault of “hundreds and hundreds of songs,” in reference to late 1990s Eminem recordings together. Dre says he was listening to that material recently with marvel. However, he adds that lyrically, Em’ may never want the 2019 public to hear these records. “[It is] us just goin’ in the studio and experimentin’. That’s what we used to do. We’d go in and just cut.” Z-Trip asks how Dre decides what makes the releases.
“This is the thing: I’m a recording artist, and I just love recording,” Dre replies. “Most of the sh*t that I do is not for the public. I’m gonna go in the f*ckin’ studio and work tonight, it’s just for us and how we like to feel. It’s a habit. It’s a hobby. It’s a passion. This is what the f*ck I do; I just love making music. Some of it can come out and be a commercial success or whatever the f*ck. But I would say 75-80% of this sh*t is just for us, just for us to vibe to and have fun with. Because most people have this f*ckin’ thing in their head, ‘Whatever I do, I want people to hear’ or ‘it’s supposed to come out.’ I’m the opposite.” LL Cool J asks Dre to elaborate. “I think it comes from an egotistical place to be honest with you. I just want to work and I just want to create.” LL calls that humility. “Nobody’s ever mad at humility,” Dre responds. “So that’s where I like to live.”
At 38:00, Z-Trip asks if Dre’s archives “will ever see the light of day.” Besides Eminem, there are reports of vaults that include unreleased Rakim, Game, 50 Cent, Nas, King T, Joell Ortiz, Anderson .Paak, and countless others. “Maybe, possibly. Let’s just say, for example, a new artist comes in and I’m like, ‘Yo, I did this sh*t 10 years ago that you’ll sound perfect on.’ It just depends on who I meet. The tracks are always available. It just depends on who I meet that’s gonna f*ckin’ complement it.”
LL Cool J speaks on their work in the vaults. “We did unbelievable music; we have what, 30, 40 songs we’ve done together?” “At least; great sh*t,” Dre replies. “You never know,” LL details. “We’ll see,” Dre adds with a laugh. In early 2017, Z-Trip updated the public on the pair’s work together. In 2016, LL recorded a blistering freestyle to some fresh Dre production.
Dre reveals that his energies are geared towards expanding his film work. While Dre directed, acted, and produced movies in the ’90s and 2000s, 2015’s Straight Outta Compton raised the bar to another level. He also reveals that he draws with charcoal and details his commitment to his fitness and diet. Dre admits with a laugh that after doing two-a-day workouts, he is less likely to hit the bar with his friends. He describes eating organic, including eggs and poultry from chickens in his yard. Notably, Dre admits that the only material item he is proud of is the “dream-home” he and his wife Nicole just purchased and moved into. “I don’t like leaving home, ’cause everything is there for me.”
Dre also describes an odd place. As he broaches billionaire status, he looks back at his hunger pain days. At 1:00:00, he remembers, “Before, every morning I woke up, I had an agenda: I gotta f*ckin’ make this music, I gotta sell these f*cking records. That’s not something I have to worry about right now.” However, Dre admits that he still finds motivation to make records all night, but he is trying to find new compulsions to do it. “I’m trying to figure out what’s gonna be the next thing for me.” A few moments later he says, “That little thing is missing,” compared to providing for a family and bills.
Later in the interview, Dre says his current energies are focused on a Maryland MC named Kaan. At 1:14:00, he says the artist excites him in the way that Kendrick Lamar did when he first encountered K-Dot. Dre is also working with King Mez, who appeared on 2015’s Compton, and recently directed J. Cole’s “Middle Child” music video.
Other highlights from the interview are Dre describing his 30-plus-year brotherhood with The D.O.C. He recalls Snoop Dogg freestyling “Tha Shiznit” and “Gz And Hustlaz” for the Doggystyle album deadline. He also bigs up DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and RZA as some of his favorite producer peers.