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Dr. Dre’s seminal 1992 album, The Chronic, turns 20 next month. Though a sensation upon its release, the raw-but-melodic work’s legend has only grown in the ensuing decades, and today seemingly every MC-producer duo fancies itself the next Dre and Snoop Dogg. It has become the most influential rap work ever made, and perhaps even the greatest.
But it almost never happened. Despite the success Dre had experienced with N.W.A, he was entangled in contractual problems with his former crewmate Eazy-E’s label. For that reason, as well as Death Row’s dodgy reputation, The Chronic had a hard time finding release. It took the shepherding of renegade upstart Interscope Records, the financing of convicted drug kingpin Michael Harris and the steady hand of Suge Knight, an intimidating former defensive end, to give it life.
Our story begins with the 1991 inception of Death Row Records. Dre was then working closely with veteran record producer Dick Griffey, the founder of Solar Records, a successful R&B and soul imprint. (Griffey died in 2010.) Alonzo Williams, who kicks things off below, helmed electro-rap group World Class Wreckin’ Cru, which gave Dr. Dre his start.

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