The Chronic vs. Doggystyle
n The Doctor's Advocate, The Game dropped an estimated 2,573 references to both Dr. Dre and Snoop, falling several hundred shy of the mark set on The Documentary. This time out, it was mostly a binary system; for Dre, Game was waffling between remorse and moving on like a jilted girlfriend, but Uncle Snoop remains the coolest motherfucker who ever lived. But when referring to either The Chronic or Doggystyle, they're almost always in tandem. It's hard to imagine it being any other way; few albums are more joined at the hip than these G-funk classics. But rarely will you get someone's definitive opinion in regards to which one is actually better. That's because evaluating them as a whole is like the G-funk "Sophie's Choice." If you liked The Chronic, it was almost certain that you bought Doggystyle and liked it just as much. And if you don't like either, you're probably not much fun to be around, so be gone with you. With the West Coast somewhat in vogue, there's no better time to give these classics the head-to-head they deserve.
This really isn't a fair fight. "Nuthin' But a G Thang" is in rarified territory, probably one of the five best hip-hop tracks ever recorded, and also one of the most important. Besides, it marked a cultural shift, ushering in the West Coast dominance of hip-hop that spanned a good portion of the early '90s. Without this song, we don't get "Regulate" or even "Ghetto Jam."
It doesn't hurt that "What's My Name" is one of Doggystyle's most unremarkable songs. It’s not bad, but as an introduction to Snoop, it seems redundant after "Nuthin' But a G Thang," not to mention the fact that it’s one of Dre's most hands-off P Funk interpretations.
Snoop comes back strong on this point. There are few situations in your life that can't be made more fun by "Gin & Juice." Or "Doggy Dogg World" for that matter. And while "Murder Was the Case" diverged from the party atmosphere of the first couple of tracks and Doggystyle as a whole, it resulted in the second-best VMA stage performance of the mid-‘90s. (Sorry, but there was no way you were topping Bone Thugs bringing a horse-drawn casket on stage.)
The follow-ups on The Chronic couldn't help but be a little muted by comparison. "Dre Day" doesn't really have a hook, but the video took care of that (more later). And while the bass on "Let Me Ride" is as good as it gets, it's more solid as a whole than it is spectacular.
Considering his recent collaborators (50 Cent, The Game, Eminem) and their complete and utter humorlessness, it's hard to remember that Dre used to surround himself with some hilarious guys. Nowhere was this more evident on "The $20 Sack Pyramid," quite possibly the funniest two minutes in hip-hop history. Even if nobody has ever heard one actual word that Tim Dog has ever said, the skit hasn’t aged at all. "The Doctor's Office" is pretty pointless, but let's not forget about the intro to "Deeez Nutz," which probably changed the way you live life.
There are no "skits" per se on Doggystyle, but there are four interludes clocking in at about 45 seconds apiece. None of them match the scripted brilliance of "Pyramid," but you have at least five friends who have memorized the entirety of "Interlude 2" (better known as "A Moment of Silence for This Small Chronic Break"). Still, it's tough to find anything that quite matches the hilarity of Snoop's falsetto on The Chronic's intro, so this one is obvious.
From the moment I first had a cassette copy of The Chronic, I wondered why Dr. Dre had his picture in my grandma's mirror. And he's still not very pleasant to look at. Doggystyle's iconic cartoon wins by default.
There aren't any real sore thumbs on The Chronic, but particularly in the second half, a few tracks don't quite measure up. "High Powered" never attempts to be anything more than just an exhibition for an RBX verse, and "The Roach (Outro)" never gets irritating despite being a soundtrack to its participants getting high as fuck.
As for Doggystyle, you’ll find a lot of arguments for the highlight of the album, but you'll never hear anyone say "Pump Pump." In fact, I doubt people would notice if future pressings left it off completely.
For all the talk about G-funk being overwhelmingly violent, misogynistic, and damaging to our children, the videos were often imbued with a low-budget charm and never took themselves all that seriously. Let's face it; rap videos really aren't funny anymore.
The clip for "Nuthin' But a G Thang" is perfect, full of indelible moments; the toddler doing a hand-motion right on cue with "it's like this…," the volleyball game, the heat-packing BBQ chef, MTV blurring out "Directed by Andre Young" for some reason, and of course, the climax which uses a shower of forties to teach proper party etiquette. "Let Me Ride" was basically a car commercial, but let's not forget the hilarious plot of the "Dre Day" video…"I work for Sleazy E…" "Will rap 4 food." Could you imagine Game doing something like that to anyone on G-Unit?
"What's My Name" is marred by some seriously dated morphing effects, but "Gin & Juice"'s uproarious house party ("what you need is a jobby job!") makes up for it, as does the swank clip for "Doggy Dogg World." But in the end, with "Nuthin' But a G Thang" in the equation, it's not a fair fight.
Most people who claim the superiority of Doggystyle will point to this, as you can make the case that some of the album tracks are more famous than the singles. Even if it's a straight cover, "Lodi Dodi" is a respectful and instantly memorable tribute to the architect of Snoop's flow. Meanwhile, "The Shiznit" flaunts a classic introduction ("if you're lickin' nuts, that's WBALLZ") and the best MC'ing on the album. Hell, why not throw in "G'z & Hustlas" as well?
As for The Chronic, there isn't that one track that everyone can point to as a buried treasure. "Lyrical Gangbang" might've been the best heist of the drum-break from "When the Levee Breaks," but it's still a general posse track. Nothing transcendent.
Picking the most ho-smacking track on either of these albums isn't exactly an easy affair, but "Bitches Ain't Shit" and "Ain't No Fun" clearly rise above. Dre's contribution to the argument brings a little more to the table in terms of creativity, as his first verse is about Eazy-E (something my 12-year old self didn't pick up at the time…I thought it was Mary Wright). "Ain't No Fun" finds me being a little conflicted; while I won't question its party credentials or its quotability, it's in the same category as "Caress Me Down" and "Put It in Your Mouth," co-opted by drunken college girls who might let you hold their hand by the fourth date, but have no problem singing along with "cause you gave me all your pussy and you even licked my balls."
But "Bitches" gets demerits for not even announcing its presence on the original pressing of The Chronic. Funny how after an entire album of bitches, fucking, and additional bitches, Dre finds himself apologetic about this one track and slaps it on the end of the album. To be honest, I'm not settled on going with "Ain't No Fun" here, but it has a chorus that's more acceptable to sing in public.
Well, shit…there we are at 4-4, and I didn't even intend for it. Literally, I picked ten categories off the top of my head, and the evenness of these two just got us here. But I guess we're going to have to go for a tiebreaker…
Before you start criticizing this as being the deciding factor: can you name anyone who came of age during the early '90s who doesn't miss her? Nate Dogg's getting valuable minutes taken by the likes of Akon and Sleepy Brown, Daz and Kurupt keep on making albums that sell about 25 copies outside of California and as for RBX, your guess is as good as mine. Meanwhile, we'll always have "Afro Puffs."
Snoop makes the bolder move of giving the Lady of Rage the first verse on Doggystyle, and she makes another appearance on "4 All My N*ggaz and My Bitches," probably the last song from the album that I memorized. However, on The Chronic, she's arguably the star on the posse-minded second half, lacing "Stranded on Death Row," "Lyrical Gangbang," and that shit you're hearing in the background on "High Powered." Most importantly, she single-handedly carries parts of "The Roach (Outro)" when no one else seems sober enough to do so. And for that, we owe it to her to name The Chronic as the ultimate winner by the thinnest of margins.