On Dec. 15, 1992, The Doctor was in.
Freed from the acrimonious break-up of former posse N.W.A. and settled at a label of his own creation, rapper Dr. Dre was officially on the solo tip with debut album The Chronic. Packed with dense, groundbreaking production from Dre himself and memorable rhymes and features, The Chronic became a touchstone of hip-hop as it kept marching toward the mainstream.
In 1992, a year after departing N.W.A. following a dispute with Eazy-E and Ruthless Records head Jerry Heller, Dre re-emerged with a new label venture: Death Row Records. Dre's first solo work was the theme song to the film Deep Cover, which also introduced the world to his friend and collaborator Calvin Broadus, better known as Snoop Doggy Dogg. Months after the release of "Deep Cover," Dre began work on what would become his first proper album.
The Chronic featured a different sonic approach than what appeared on the N.W.A. albums. Here, Dre took laid-back samples of funk and soul acts like Parliament-Funkadelic, James Brown and Donny Hathaway and paired them with unique live instrumentation like heavy basslines and high, keening synthesizers. This technique, known as "G-Funk," came to define the sound of hip-hop on the West Coast.
The album also turned heads for its raw, boundary-pushing lyrical content. Dre, Snoop and collaborators like rappers Daz Dillinger, Kurupt and RBX plus singer Jewell spun score-settling tracks that retaliated against Dre's foes, including Eazy-E, "Fuck Compton" rapper Tim Dog and Luke of 2 Live Crew. The album also didn't shy away from stark assessments of life in Compton, Long Beach and other California neighborhoods after the Rodney King beating and subsequent riots that took place that year.
The Chronic was a fast seller, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and spinning off a pair of Top 10 hits, "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" and "Dre Day." Third single "Let Me Ride" won a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1994, and the album was later cited as one of the greatest ever by magazines like TIME and Rolling Stone.
Moreover, the album established Dre, Snoop and Death Row were some of the genre's biggest names through the '90s. (Both men eventually left the label after the death of fellow rapper Tupac Shakur in 1996.) Dre continued to produce through the decades while occasionally rapping on albums like 2001; he would further the careers of acclaimed rappers like Eminem and Kendrick Lamar. But it was the haze of The Chronic through which fans first discovered his talents as a soloist.