In the wake of the 20th anniversary of Dr. Dre’s seminal album 2001, the West Coast rapper sat down with Interscope’s Jimmy Iovine to speak about the state of the industry in an interview with Apple Music.
“Right now, I have to really, really search hard to find something that I really like, as far as hip-hop goes,” he said. “But I think it’s just about the substance. Right now, it feels like it’s a little more quantity over quality. ‘Made a song last night, I need to put it out tomorrow.’ What are you gonna dedicate yourself to, the art or the money? It’s that simple.”
Iovine specified what sets Dre apart. “Some artists in music, all they are is searching for inspiration,” he said. “And then there are artists that are just searching for hits. He’s only searching for inspiration, and if hits come, great.”
The Compton rapper underscored this generational shift by reflecting on the ‘90s era. “In 1996, it’s like fucking hip-hop Vietnam,” he said. “In the ‘90s, hip-hop was a contact sport. All of a sudden, I’m on my own again, and I have to go find new artists, new musicians to work with.” His rift with Suge Knight shaped 2001—he had to change the name of his legacy-redefining album.
When he was searching for collaborators, he discovered that Eminem was the “missing link.” “Hearing that demo with Eminem and how it made me feel, and then meeting him and how we saw eye to eye as far as the work goes,” he recalled. “He was hungry, and I was hungry. That spontaneous combustion – we just clicked. That just brought everything and everybody together that was happening at that time.”
When it came time to make 2001, Em’s demo vocals ended up making it to the final version of “Forgot About Dre.” “That was Eminem’s idea,” he said. “He wrote the song for me and Snoop originally. He laid reference vocals for Snoop, and I liked the way it sounded. So we just kept it that way. I laid my vocals, and that was it.”
Dre also recalled how Iovine encouraged him to reconfigure the lead single. “I thought ‘The Next Episode’ was the single, and he said, ‘I will lay down on the street in front of these trucks before we let that go first.’ When you’re trying to come up with your single at the end, it’s extremely difficult. It’s either not as good as what you’ve done or it sounds like something you’ve done already.”
“It was a great song,” Iovine added. “I just felt the album needed something coming at it from a different way.”
Iovine’s request prompted Dre to turn to JAY-Z for “Still D.R.E.” “JAY-Z wrote those lyrics. I think they came back in maybe 24 hours with the whole song written.”
He released his latest solo full-length, Compton, back in 2015.
Watch the Apple Music interview above, and catch up on all the lyrics to 2001 on Genius now