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The 40 Greatest Dr. Dre Productions

With the rapper-producer set to headline next month’s Super Bowl halftime show, we look back at the productions that made him an essential hip-hop icon, from World Class Wreckin’ Cru to N.W.A to Snoop to Eminem

Photographs in illustration by Al Pereira/Getty Images; Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images; Jason DeCrow/AP; Patrick Downs/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images; Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Dr. Dre’s production career spans three decades and some of the most famous moments in American popular music. The Los Angeles musician is responsible for introducing so many acts to the pop mainstream — from childhood friend Eazy-E to Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and many others — that it’s difficult to narrow his achievements to a few dozen picks. Meanwhile, readers of this list will notice the absence of Kendrick Lamar: While the Doctor has played a crucial role in Lamar’s career, Dre technically hasn’t produced any of the rapper’s hits … yet. With Dre, Snoop, Lamar, Eminem and Mary J. Blige set to headline the Super Bowl 56 halftime show next month, we look back at the productions that made him a legend. Take this list as a starting point for exploring an essential hip-hop icon.

From Rolling Stone US

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Eminem, “So Bad” (2010)

After producing most of Eminem’s poorly received Relapse, Dr. Dre was largely absent for the Detroit rapper’s 2010 comeback, Recovery. However, he (and co-producer Nick Brongers) worked on “So Bad,” a deep-cut gem that didn’t get widespread attention until it was used in the Despicable Me 3 ad campaign in 2017. The track is a vintage Dre head-nodder, from Brongers’ buoyantly operatic strings and harp-like horn effects to deep bass drums and Sean Cruse’s wah-wah guitar licks. Like much of Eminem’s sobering, cathartic self-analysis on Recovery, “So Bad” finds him unpacking his pop-culture reputation as a misogynist dog and rapping about how he loves ‘em and leaves ‘em.

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The Firm, “Phone Tap” (1997)

It should have been a triumph of East Coast-West Coast unity: a supergroup featuring Nas, AZ, Foxy Brown, and Cormega, with Dre overseeing production. But trouble brewed shortly after the Firm debuted “Affirmative Action” on Nas’ 1996 hit It Was Written. First, relatively unknown rapper Nature replaced Cormega, sparking a dispute between Nas and the Queensbridge OG that lasted for years. The following year, the Firm’s The Album flopped among fans and critics, and became one of the biggest casualties of rap music’s gilded “jiggy” age. The only song everyone seemed to like was “Phone Tap,” which found Dre and co-producer Chris “The Glove” Taylor stripping down his signature G-funk melody to an eerily whirring buzz. Despite that small victory, Dre would often refer to the biggest flop in his career as a “firm fiasco.”

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World Class Wreckin’ Cru, “Turn Off the Lights” (1987)

Before Dr. Dre shifted his focus to the burgeoning N.W.A posse, he gave the World Class Wreckin’ Cru their biggest single. “Turn Off the Lights” is a funk slow jam between Dre and his girlfriend Michel’le, with the former calling seductively in a spoken-word cadence, eliciting Michel’le’s loud and impassioned vocal response. The synthesized keyboard beat is as slow as molasses, perfect for bass systems in low riders. “Mona Lisa was the singer who did most of the hooks, and this particular night she didn’t make it to the studio,” Michel’le told HipHopDX in 2010. “I went down, did two takes.… About two weeks later, I hear the song on the radio!” Peaking at Number 84 on the Billboard Hot 100, it became Dr. Dre’s first pop hit.

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The D.O.C., “It’s Funky Enough” (1989)

When the D.O.C. dropped “It’s Funky Enough,” he seemed to many like a new and exciting voice from the rapidly growing Ruthless empire. In fact, the Texas rapper had been a part of the camp since Dre discovered his onetime group Fila Fresh Crew while on tour. Fila Fresh Crew contributed to the 1987 compilation N.W.A and the Posse, and the D.O.C. contributed lyrics to Eazy-E’s Eazy-Duz-It. The ragamuffin flows and sharp yet fluid delivery of “It’s Funky Enough” are matched by Dr. Dre’s funky blend of Foster Sylvers’ “Misdemeanor” and multiple James Brown tracks. The two have since had an off-and-on relationship, with the D.O.C. contributing to Dre’s 2015 comeback album, Compton (A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre). “I’ve always said that Dre is more like a film producer than a music producer,” he told Vibe in 2020. “One of, if not the dopest of all time.”

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Eazy-E, “Eazy-Duz-It” (1988)

Thanks to the underground success of “The Boyz-N-the-Hood,” Eazy-E became the first breakout star of the N.W.A crew. (Meanwhile, J.J. Fad scored a major Billboard pop hit with the Arabian Prince-produced “Supersonic,” which helped fund Eazy’s Ruthless label.) As the explicit title track and lead single from Eazy-E’s debut — radio stations usually opted for the self-explanatory B-side “Radio” — it unfolds like a miniature symphony, and Dr. Dre orchestrates multiple tempo and rhythmic changes amid scratches and cuts from DJ Yella. It’s all grist for Eazy’s unforgettably unique voice. “Once Eazy found out he could do it and knew that he was good since he had a voice and an image, people wanted more,” Ice Cube told Complex in 2013.

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Dr. Dre, “Been There Done That” (1996)

In the wake of Dr. Dre’s abrupt departure from Death Row, as well as the September 1996 murder of 2Pac, “Been There, Done That” felt like a necessary pause for reflection as hip-hop fans wondered if reality rap was worth the residual damage it seemingly caused. “You got drama, you got the gun, I got the gat/But we both Black, so I don’t wanna lay ya flat,” he rapped as he bragged about million-dollar homes and cars. Fans respected Dre’s call to renounce violence and focus on making money, but “Been There, Done That” didn’t quite resonate with them like his earlier work. “Most of the feedback I got from ‘Been There, Done That’ was ‘That shit is nice.… now let’s hear some dope shit.’ And they were totally right,” he told The Source in 1999. “Been There, Done That” is an early example of what would later be called “grown-man rap,” and as rap stars age and try to reconcile their maturity with their hellion public images, it deserves a special place in the Dre canon.

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Xzibit, “X” (2000)

L.A. rapper and Likwit crew associate Xzibit had recorded two well-received solo albums when Dr. Dre recruited him for Snoop Dogg’s 1999 hit “Bitch Please.” The duo’s partnership continued throughout Dre’s 2001-era projects, including Xzibit’s platinum-certified album Restless. Its lead single, “X,” has a booming, club-rattling tempo, perfect for his emergence from underground acclaim to mainstream stardom. “I had just finished [Dr. Dre’s “Up in Smoke” tour], and was feeling on top of the world,” Xzibit wrote on Instagram in 2018. “I went to the studio and released all the energy that I had built up over two years touring performing recording with the greats … this album came out and changed my life.”

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Dr. Dre, “Talking to My Diary” (2015)

Dre’s critically acclaimed 2015 comeback Compton didn’t yield an official single, but this plaintive yet hopeful closing number is a close equivalent. It was the only song used from the album in the Straight Outta Compton biopic. And while most of Compton is stuffed with featured guests, “Talking to My Diary” finds Dre alone, marveling at his journey through 50 years of life. “It gets the hardest when I think about the dearly departed/Like the nigga I started with/I know Eazy can see me now looking down through the clouds,” he reminisces over a track he co-produced with DJ Silk and Mista Choc. The track, he told Beats 1 during a 2015 interview, fulfills his goal of making Compton an inspirational coda to a legendary career. “I want this album to be inspiring. I want it to be motivational,” he said. “The record is just me reflecting, and I’m basically just talking to myself.”

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The Game feat. 50 Cent, “How We Do” (2004)

As the myth goes, the Game was happy to be a G-Unit soldier until he realized he had a hit on his hands. By the time “How We Do” came out at the end of 2004, the West Coast upstart and 50 Cent were feuding. Their casual vocal interplay on “How We Do” is reminiscent of Dre’s and Snoop’s mic-trading skills on “Nuthin’ but a G Thang.” Dre’s minimalist beat makes spare use of piano keys and chime effects, and keeps the spotlight on the Game and 50 Cent’s performance. Unlike the inseparable Dre and Snoop, though, the duo’s appearances on the Game’s double-platinum debut, The Documentary, seemingly won’t be repeated. The Game has stayed loyal, though – he turned his 2006 album Doctor’s Advocate into an homage to Dre, and recently appeared on the West Coast legend’s 2015 Compton soundtrack.

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Eminem, “The Real Slim Shady” (2000)

The celebratory feel of Eminem’s signature hit doesn’t really sound like anything else on The Marshall Mathers LP. He reportedly made the track after the rest of his dark, tortured masterwork was finished, and his management team decided they needed a lead single. “We began with a drumbeat that Dre programmed into an MPC3000,” Mike Elizondo told Sound on Sound in 2006. Elizondo co-produced the track with Dre and Tommy Coster Jr., the latter devising the track’s memorably “harpsichord-like” melody. But it’s Dre’s thumping bass drum that makes the track bounce and gives Eminem fuel. When Eminem descended on the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards with dozens of white boys in white T-shirts “that look just like me,” this hit single felt like a call to arms, and everyone wondered what would happen next.

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N.W.A, “Alwayz Into Somethin’” (1991)

N.W.A’s second and final album, efil4zaggaN, has a curious reputation. Though it was a chart-topping hit and named by the Source magazine as its album of the year, it was marred by intragroup conflicts as well as a noticeable decline in lyrical quality due to Ice Cube’s acrimonious 1989 departure. Still, songs like “Alwayz Into Somethin’” are clearly prototypes for Dr. Dre’s subsequent G-funk renaissance. The tempo is slower, bluesier, and shorn of the Bomb Squad-style sampling flurries that marked Straight Outta Compton. The track is a highlight for MC Ren, whose cool delivery matches Dre’s funky-worm groove. (He also calls Ice Cube a “bitch.”) Meanwhile, a ragamuffin chorus from Admiral D reminds us that dancehall reggae was just as popular on the West Coast as it was in the East.

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N.W.A, “Dope Man” (1987)

For a follow-up to Eazy-E’s street anthem “The Boyz-N-the-Hood” and the official introduction of the L.A. supergroup Niggaz Wit Attitudes, Ice Cube wrote another memorable tale of a crack dealer on the make. Yet “Dope Man” was also a breakthrough for what soon became the Dr. Dre sound: loud, slick, and booming, with fanciful twists on the Ohio Players’ “Funky Worm,” a noodle-y keyboard line that he virtually made his trademark. Released as the B side to the generic club-friendly electro track “Panic Zone,” it quickly became a calling card for N.W.A’s hard, uncompromising reality rap.

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2Pac, “California Love“ (1995)

“California Love” was Dr. Dre’s last great moment with the world-conquering label he and Suge Knight co-founded. New signee 2Pac, one of hip-hop’s first great workaholics and a pioneer for rap’s “make 1,000 songs” model of studio profligacy, chafed at Dre’s perfectionist tendencies. Dre, for his part, plotted an escape from Death Row, alarmed at the label’s increasingly wayward drift. (He also spent some time in prison on drunk-driving charges, an experience that he later said forced him to clean up his lifestyle.) Despite behind-the-scenes tensions, “California Love” immediately became the kind of party starter that, 20 years after its release, can still set a dance floor on fire. Dre ingeniously mixed Roger Troutman’s talk-box vocals with an interpolation of the well-worn B-boy break of Joe Cocker’s “Woman to Woman.” The combination gives the song a classic feel; a blend of East Coast sample sensibilities and West Coast funk vibes that went unnoticed during the height of hip-hop coastal tensions. And with his deep, authoritative voice, he matches 2Pac’s more antic, fire-breathing delivery. “I’ve been in the game for 10 years making rap tunes/Ever since honeys was wearing Sassoon,” he boasts on this essential West Coast anthem.

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The Lady of Rage, “Afro Puffs” (1994)

“Afro Puffs” brought a spotlight to the Lady of Rage, a Virginia rapper that Dre discovered through her association with production team L.A. Posse. Dre weaved together a Johnny “Guitar” Watson loop with his signature fried-G-funk keyboards, while Rage got “ruff and tuff” with a bellowing hardcore flow. “Go on with your bad self,” chanted Snoop Doggy Dogg in appreciation. Released as a single from the Above the Rim soundtrack, “Afro Puffs” marked a too-brief moment for a talented artist that Death Row didn’t quite know how to market. She didn’t get to release her solo debut, Necessary Roughness, until 1997 — well after Dr. Dre’s departure and Suge Knight’s imprisonment had left the company on the brink of collapse.

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Dr. Dre, “Still D.R.E.” (1999)

Dre had already launched a modest comeback with his work on Snoop Dogg’s fan-favorite “B Please,” and Eminem’s multiplatinum debut, The Slim Shady LP. Yet the stakes couldn’t have been higher for the sequel to his masterpiece, The Chronic. So he recruited East Coast rap god Jay-Z to ghostwrite lyrics for the first single of what was initially known as Chronic 2000. (Counterprogramming moves by friend-turned-foe Suge Knight led Dre to change the title to Chronic 2001, and finally just 2001.) “At first, he wrote about diamonds and Bentleys,” Dre told Blaze magazine in 1999. “So I told Jay to write some other shit. Jigga sat for 20 minutes and came back with some hardass, around-the-way L.A. shit.” While Dre renders Jay Hova’s rhymes about hittin’ corners on Lo-Lo’s in his distinctive baritone cool, he collaborated with rising producers Scott Storch and Mel-Man to craft an easygoing stride-piano rhythm that cruises at an impressively low hum. “Guess who’s back?” Dre announces, yet he sounds like he isn’t breaking a sweat about it.

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N.W.A, “Express Yourself (Remix)” (1989)

For the remix of “Express Yourself,” Dr. Dre lifted the chorus from Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street’s similarly named track, giving the song a joyously accessible pulse that feels muted in the album version. The video proved to be an MTV favorite, blending scenes of Dre triumphantly leading a parade, a cameo from “Wild Thing” rapper Tone-Loc, and a concept that showed white supremacy’s evolution from slavery overseer to crooked police officer to executioner. It all symbolized N.W.A’s strength of street knowledge, mixing funky fun and serious themes for hip-hop domination. Hilariously, Dr. Dre claimed “I don’t smoke weed or sess,” something that would obviously change in the years to come.

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Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg, “Deep Cover” (1992)

Released as the lead single from Dr. Dre’s Deep Cover soundtrack, “Deep Cover” prefaced the creative brilliance and backroom shenanigans that marked Death Row, his new alliance with bodyguard-turned-entrepreneur Suge Knight. Dre brought Snoop Doggy Dogg, a Long Beach newcomer whose casual insouciance and laconic delivery instantly made him the hottest rapper in the industry. His chorus, “’Cause it’s 1-8-7 on an undercover cop!” not only rang through the streets during the summer of ’92, but also brought reactionary criticism from law enforcement. Meanwhile, Knight’s strong-arm tactics against original distributor SOLAR Records resulted in a flurry of lawsuits – which may be the reason why the soundtrack remains unavailable on streaming services.

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N.W.A, “Gangsta Gangsta” (1988)

With Dr. Dre’s production — a swinging, funky rhythm lifted from Steve Arrington’s “Weak at the Knees,” the sampled voice of Lady Reed, and allusions to Boogie Down Productions’ “My Philosophy” and William DeVaughn’s “Be Thankful for What You Got” — “Gangsta Gangsta” sounds more like a freewheeling Compton backyard party than an ominous threat. Ice Cube takes command with an increasingly foul-mouthed antihero’s tale before reaching a surprisingly moralistic conclusion. “Now I’m dressed in county blues,” he says. Then the track gives way to a “surprise” final verse from Eazy-E, a crowd-pleasing twist akin to John Travolta’s post-murder reappearance in Pulp Fiction.

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Dr. Dre feat. Hittman, Kurupt, Nate Dogg, and Six-Two, “Xxplosive” (1999)

“Xxplosive” is another Dre cult classic that didn’t get an official single release, yet became ubiquitous on urban radio anyway. Dre and Mel-Man weren’t the first to sample Soul Mann and the Brothers’ cover of Isaac Hayes’ “Bumpy’s Lament” — that honor belongs to Fabian Hamilton, who flipped it for Lil Kim’s “Drugs.” However, it’s “Xxplosive’s” sensuously atmospheric reimagining of the Blaxploitation chestnut, setting it over a back-stiffening trap drum rhythm, that Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady” and too many other tracks to mention here subsequently copied. Nate Dogg’s vocal revisits his earlier star turn on “Ain’t No Fun,” while Texas newcomer and “freakaholic” Six-Two adds to the lasciviousness. “I got these hoes clapping they hands, stomping they feet/Every now and then they put they mouth on me.”

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50 Cent, “In da Club” (2003)

By the time “In da Club” dropped in January 2003, at the height of rap’s mainstream dominance, 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was the most anticipated rap debut since Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle. It topped the Billboard charts for an impressive nine weeks and turned into Dr. Dre’s biggest hit as a producer to date. Its nightlife ubiquity around the globe endures, thanks to its medley of operatic keys, and a hook from 50 that virtually commands you to “find him in the club.” “As soon as he walked into the studio, he picked up a pen, and we were done in an hour,” Dre told Rolling Stone in 2003. The beauty of “In da Club” is its charming simplicity. 50 sounds like a thug comfortable in his own skin, and someone who can party just as easily as “crack your head with a bottle of Bud” if you step out of line.

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Snoop Dogg, “Murder Was the Case (Remix)” (1994)

This might be the closest Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg have come to making a horrorcore epic. Originally made for Doggystyle before being remixed and issued as the title single from a straight-to-VHS flick, “Murder Was the Case” found Dre ramping up the whining G-funky-worm melodies to an ear-piercing volume as a backing chorus cries out “Murder!” It’s a sensational G-funk freakout enhanced by Snoop’s tormented raps about making a pact with the devil to conquer his block. The Gothic tones of “Murder Was the Case” mirrored Snoop’s real-life troubles: He faced allegations of conspiring to murder a rival gang member before a 1996 trial acquitted him. During a memorable appearance at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards, Snoop ended his performance of “Murder Was the Case” by declaring, “I’m innocent! I’m innocent!”

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Dr. Dre, “Forgot About Dre” (1999)

Dre may have admitted to feeling a little pressure before the release of 2001, but save for a few key numbers, it didn’t show. One of those moments is “Forgot About Dre,” an angry pushback against critics who prematurely claimed he fell off. “All you niggas that said that I turned pop/Or the Firm flopped/Y’all are the reason that Dre ain’t been gettin’ no sleep,” he barks over a twangy bounce track he co-produced with Mel-Man. Meanwhile, Eminem plays Flavor Flav to Dre’s Chuck D by riffing a tale about killing two pedestrians and some barking dogs, and then burning down a house. It made no sense in the context of the song, but it was funny anyway.

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Eminem, “My Name Is” (1999)

Thanks to 1997’s The Slim Shady EP, which spread quickly in the early years of internet .wavs and Real Audio streaming, Eminem was already an underground sensation when Dre and Jimmy Iovine signed him to Aftermath/Interscope. The trick was translating his foul-mouthed humor and complex rhyme schemes to a mainstream audience. Dre and Eminem reportedly finished “My Name Is,” the song that would introduce him to white America, in around an hour. Dre makes fanciful use of Seventies British singer Labi Siffre’s “I Got the …,” and the loping bass rhythm gives the song a shrugging “Who, me?” quality that suits Em’s vocal quirks and Cheshire-cat lyrics. Eminem has a goofy irreverence that helps the listener absorb some of his more outré comments, like claiming he “ripped Pamela Lee’s tits off” and “I just found out my mom does more dope than I do.” Dre humbly plays the father figure on his protégé’s star turn: “Slim Shady, you’re a basehead.”

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Mary J. Blige, “Family Affair” (2001)

Mary J. Blige was perhaps the greatest R&B singer of the Nineties, and Dre dominated West Coast hip-hop during that decade. Remarkably, however, neither scored a Billboard Number One pop hit until “Family Affair.” The song finds Blige effectively shaking off the ghosts of her well-documented past traumas, and Dre matches her with a buoyantly stomping club beat. “We don’t need no hateration,” she sings happily on the Grammy-nominated single. “Get your ass on the dance floor!” “I don’t think I realized I was successful in music until ‘Family Affair,’ ” she told radio host David Morales last year. “That’s when I realized I was, like, huge.”

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Eve, “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” (2002)

As Eve of Destruction, Philadelphia rapper Eve Jeffers was one of the first artists signed to Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment. But it didn’t work out. “I was 18 when I first got signed. I just wanted my album out, but I didn’t know who I was as an artist, and I think Dre works really good with artists who know their own directions,” she told XXL magazine in 2004. A second deal with Ruff Ryders set her on the right path, and by the time she rejoined Dre for the biggest hit of her career, she was one of rap’s biggest stars. “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” has the same ringing blues-guitar melody that girded Dre’s “Xxplosive,” but it sounds lighter here, and Gwen Stefani’s sassy chorus gives it a winningly pop tone. Eve keeps it hardcore, though. “Drop your glasses, shake your asses,” she commands. Perhaps inspired by the Top 10-charting, Grammy-winning success of “Let Me Blow Ya Mind,” Eve rejoined Dre’s Aftermath camp in 2004. Sadly, history repeated itself: Save for a memorable 2007 hit, “Tambourine,” nothing much came out of her second stint at the label, either.

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Snoop Dogg, “Gin & Juice” (1993)

“With so much drama in the LBC/It’s kinda hard being Snoop D-O-double-G,” begins this quintessential tale of a good day in the hood. “But I somehow, someway, keep coming up with funky-ass shit like every single day.” Dre’s track made fanciful use of funk sources, from a rhythm bed he cribbed from George McCrae’s “I Get Lifted” and buried underneath his own keyboard arrangements, to transforming Slave’s “Watching You” into the song’s decidedly adult singalong chorus. Overall, it found Snoop Dogg and Dre evolving from the “lyrical gangbangs” of The Chronic to a demimonde of California sunshine, afternoon car cruises, and liquor-fueled backyard parties. When Vibe magazine asked Snoop in 1993 if he considered himself a gangsta, he responded, “Oh, I’d like to say I’m a smooth macadamian.”

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Dr. Dre, “Keep Their Heads Ringin’” (1995)

After Dre dominated 1993 and 1994 with The Chronic and Doggystyle, “Keep Their Heads Ringin’” kept his name on the charts during a brief period of inactivity. The track teems with ideas, from the “Buck-buck-buck-booyakasha!” vocal snipped out of KRS-One’s “Mad Crew” to a backing trio of women who mimic the Sequence’s “Funk You Up” by chanting “Ring-ding-dong/Ring-de-ding-ding-dong!” The Billboard Top 10 single is a smooth and infectious G-funk party track where Dre goes “for your neck, so call me Blacula,” and demonstrates the good Doctor’s emphasis on quality over quantity.

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Snoop Dogg feat. Nate Dogg, Warren G, and Kurupt, “Ain’t No Fun” (1993)

With its bouncy, glitter-ball-illuminated groove, “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)” is Dre’s version of a boogie-funk epic. While never released as a single, it has endured as an urban-radio staple and a frequent source of inspiration: Mariah Carey essentially lifted the rhythm for her “Heartbreaker (Remix)” hit in 1999. Just as famous as Dre’s disco-fried beat is Nate Dogg’s opening vocal, and the way he makes heartless pimping sound so playfully likable. “When I met you last night, baby, before you opened up your gap/I had respect for you, lady, but now I take it all back,” he sings. “’Cause I have never met a girl/That I loved in the whole wide world.”

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Eazy-E, “The Boyz-n-the-Hood” (1987)

As detailed in the hit 2015 movie Straight Outta Compton, the first N.W.A single happened on a lark. Dr. Dre was locked up for unpaid parking tickets, and Eric Wright bailed out his friend on the condition that they develop a record label. Ice Cube wrote the lyrics for “The Boyz-n-the-Hood,” a tall tale of a young, flashy drug dealer “cruising on the streets in my ’64” inspired by Ice-T’s “6 ‘n the Morning.” The initial plan was for a Brooklyn rap group then staying in Orange County, California, to record the track, but they balked at the violent and hyperlocal lyrics. Dr. Dre prodded a reluctant Wright to try rapping the lyrics. The sound of Wright’s twangy, off-center cadence and nonchalant attitude against Dre’s hard synthesized bass proved to be instant magic — the birth of the legend known as Eazy-E.

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Dr. Dre, “The Next Episode” (1999)

On this standout single from 2001, Dr. Dre and co-producer Mel-Man open with an orchestral flourish lifted from famed producer and composer David Axelrod. (Axelrod returned the gesture with “The Dr & the Diamond,” on his self-titled 2001 comeback album.) What follows are inspired performances from Snoop Dogg, Dre, Kurupt, and Nate Dogg. There are too many quotable moments to mention here, but the one everyone knows is Nate Dogg’s legendary kicker “Smoke weed every day!”

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Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg, “Fuck Wit Dre Day” (1992)

If “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” established Dre as a visionary exponent of L.A. sunshine, good weed, and afternoon barbecues, then “Dre Day” revealed the grim underside of the G-funk era and its promise of retributive violence. Dre’s arrangement, co-written with bassist Colin Wolfe, turns an interpolation of Funkadelic’s “Not Just Knee Deep” into a scarily ominous portent of conflict. Each verse licks shots at rivals — Dre takes aim at friend-turned-foe Eazy-E, Snoop clowns “Fuck Compton” writer Tim Dog, and they both mock Miami entrepreneur and 2 Live Crew leader Luke Campbell as “quite bootylicious.” Fans who sent “Dre Day” to Number Eight on the Billboard singles chart were thrilled at Dre and Snoop’s mordant battle rap. It also helped burnish Death Row as the world’s most dangerous record label, a reputation that eventually became its undoing.

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N.W.A, “Straight Outta Compton” (1989)

As the opening track of the group’s classic Straight Outta Compton, Ice Cube, MC Ren, and Ice Cube present a statement of hardcore purpose, without the thuggish jokes that animated “Gangsta Gangsta.” The video clip for the single shows the crew stomping through L.A.’s blighted streets amid scenes of barking dogs, barbed wire, and fires. “I’m coming straight outta Compton!” each bellow, just before a slowed-down vocal sample from Ronnie Hudson and the Street People’s “West Coast Poplock” flutters by. “It was the best song of that album,” DJ Yella remembered for the Straight Outta Compton movie DVD. “It went right to the point. Wasn’t no sugarcoating. Nothing. This is where we from. This is how it is.”

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Dr. Dre, “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” (1992)

According to Dr. Dre, the origins of this seminal ode to Compton party-rocking lay in a stack of records he found at his mother’s house. Then he sought out Snoop Doggy Dogg, who was in jail on unknown charges. “I really wanted this demo done, so he called in and I taped the receiver of the phone to the mic,” Dre told an L.A. radio station in 2015. After Snoop was released, the two cut a proper version of the song that would help G-funk go pop upon its release, with backing musicians such as bassist Colin Wolfe replaying elements of the key Leon Haywood sample. More than its wormy keyboard melody and Blaxploitation groove, though, it’s the vocal interplay between Dre and Snoop Dogg — like a West Coast update of Run-DMC’s mic-trading sessions — that makes “G Thang” such a marvel to hear and one of the greatest songs in hip-hop history.