Saturday, August 7, 2010

August 7: Dr. Dre, "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang"

Artist: Dr. Dre
Song: "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang"
Album: The Chronic
Year: 1993

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While every generation and decade has a number of songs that make it memorable, there tend to be only one or two songs that truly define that time period.  This elite group of songs are so closely tied to that era that even after decades have passed, they remain synonymous with those years, and those who were young during that time still see the songs as the defining songs of their lives.  Though the 1990's featured the birth of a number of genres, few are more directly tied to that time period than those of "grunge" and "gangsta" rap.  One can easily argue that it is Nirvana and Pearl Jam that represent the former of these two, and it is rather difficult to think of another artist more responsible for the latter of these styles than the one and only Dr. Dre.  Having honed his skills as part of the seminal rap group, N.W.A., as the new decade began, Dr. Dre reshaped this more aggressive style of hip-hop by fusing it together with a deep group and unique sound that would be dubbed "g funk."  It would be this new sound that pushed the West Coast rap scene to the forefront of mainstream music, and it would catapult a number of songs from Dr. Dre's iconic 1993 debut, The Chronic, to the top of the charts.  It was also this record that introduced the world to future star, Snoop Dogg, and with all these elements in play, The Chronic remains not only one of the most memorable albums of the decade, but one of the most influential in this history of music.  Filled with phenomenal music, beats, and rhymes, there is no brighter moment on the record, and perhaps no song that better defined the 1990's as a whole than Dr. Dre's legendary 1993 single, "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang."

From the moment the song begins, "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" sounds like nothing else before it, as the bass kicks hard over the wonderfully slinky, rhythmic keyboard loop.  What follows from the keyboard may very well be the most recognizable riff from any song of the 1990's, and it in many ways defines the "g funk" sound.  The entire musical portion of the song was created and performed by Dr. Dre, and his use of these sounds alongside perfectly picked samples was an early sign of how far beyond his peers he was as a producer.  "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" features to prominent samples, yet unlike a majority of the "g funk" sounds, neither come from a George Clinton song.  The first of the two is Leon Haywood's "I Wanna Do Something Freaky To You," and it is this song that provides the entire core of the songs' music, yet it is Dre's small alterations to it that gave it a modern, heavier feel.  The other sample that comes through clearly on "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" is the composition "Uphill (Peace Of Mind)" which was originally written and performed by Frederick Knight.  The way in which these two tracks are integrated alongside Dr. Dre's funky, bouncing bassline and keyboards proves to be a perfect combination, and even nearly two decades later, "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" can still be heard blasting from cars as it comes off just as fresh and fantastic as it did when it was first released.

Without question, the music on "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" became the anthem of a generation, but in many ways, it was the delivery and lyrics found on the track that make it nothing short of iconic.  As a part of N.W.A., Dr. Dre had been able to showcase his rhyming talents, but on this song, they become more clear, and the song also represents the beginning of Dr. Dre's trend of being able to find the "next big thing" in hip-hop.  There are few emcees in history that bring as natural yet powerful a delivery style as Dr. Dre, and there is also a strong sense of authenticity to the words he brings that makes songs like "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" even more captivating.  However, while Dr. Dre delivers a fantastic performance on this track, it is in many ways Snoop Dogg that steals the show in what for most people was his recorded debut.  Bringing a swagger and a sound unlike any other emcee in the entire history of the genre, Snoop Dogg almost instantly became an icon across musical boundaries, and his style continues to be mimicked to this day.  The contrast in the sounds of Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre make "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" flow like nothing else, and later singles would solidify these two as one of the greatest pairings ever.  Along with being a phenomenal emcee, all of the lyrics to "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" were penned by Snoop Dogg, and quite literally, every single line of the song has become iconic over the years, and portions have been reused more times than one can count.  It is this final element that makes "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" such massively important song, and solidifies its place atop the world of hip-hop as well as nearly every song released during the 1990's.

Truly iconic songs know no boundaries as they are able to catch on with listeners of nearly any genre from anywhere in the world.  Breaking through in a world that was still shaking off the horrors of "hair metal" and struggling to find the sound that would define the new generation, "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" set the stage for an entire decade and was the final nail in solidifying hip-hop as a major force in the world of music.  It is "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" that defines the "g funk" sound, and there was nothing even remotely similar before this song, which serves as a testament to the creative prowess and courage that lives within Dr. Dre.  Taking the gritty, in-your-face style that he had perfected with N.W.A., Dr. Dre constructed a sonic structure that is nothing short of perfect on this song, and the level of genius one finds within is proven by the fact that nearly twenty years later, it remains the high-water mark for hip-hop composition.  Along with the perfectly played music, one would be hard pressed to find a more iconic rhyming pair when compared to Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, and it is largely the songs of these two (whether together or solo) that would dominate the entire decade, and it is songs like "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" that instantly brought respect and credit to the talents of West Coast emcees.  Remaining perhaps the most important song of the entire decade, there are few singles with that have had similar longevity and continued impact as one finds in Dr. Dre's iconic 1993 song, "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang."

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