His music career started as a DJ when he was a teenager. He explained to Vibe
magazine: "I heard 'Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel
,' and that made me want to DJ. It made me want to know what hip-hop was. That was the song that did it. I immediately went home and called some friends and we were taking apart one of my friend's mother's stereo sets. They called them component systems back then. We figured out how to make a mixer from the balance button and got it cracking—started making tapes. Not too long after that, my mom got me a Numark mixer for Christmas and I was off and running from there. I still had the raggedy turntables, but it made it a lot easier."
When Dre's mother married for a second time, rapper Warren G became his stepbrother. It was through Warren G that Dr. Dre discovered Snoop Dogg in 1992.
He started rapping with The World Class Wrecking Cru, which included DJ Yella, Dr. Dre, Shakespeare, and Cli-N-Tel. A couple of years later, he found fame through the Rap group N.W.A, along with creator Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Arabian Prince, MC Ren and DJ Yella. Hits like "Straight Outta Compton" and "F--k tha Police" detailed a life of drugs, guns, sex and violence with unflinching honesty. By 1991, however, Dre felt like he wasn't getting an equal piece of the pie. He handled his negotiations Compton-style - allegedly sending bodyguards armed with guns and lead pipes to meet Eazy-E with an ultimatum: let Dre out of his contract or suffer the consequences, which included the fates of Eazy's mother and N.W.A's manager Jerry Heller who were being held hostage. Eazy signed the contract and Dre went on to a successful solo career.
Dr. Dre is considered by many to be the father of G-funk, a sub-genre of hip-hop music that emerged out of West Coast Gangsta rap in the 1990s. His first solo album The Chronic (1992) debuted the G-funk sound. Some people, however, attribute the development of gangsta funk beats to Big Hutch a.k.a. Cold187um from Above the Law.
Dr. Dre has more hit songs and classic albums than any other producer in hip-hop history: Snoop Dogg's album Doggystyle
, Eminem's "My Name Is
", 2Pac's "California Love
" and Blackstreet's "No Diggity
" are just a few. In 2010 Vibe
crowned Dr. Dre "Greatest Producer of All-Time."
His stage name is a combination of his first name (Andre) and the nickname of one of his favorite basketball players: Julius Erving, better known as Dr. J.
Born Andre Romelle Young in Compton, California (the dangerous Los Angeles suburb that was later made famous by N.W.A's "Straight Outta Compton
"), he began his music career as a DJ under the name "Dr. J." By the time he joined the World Class Wreckin' Cru in 1984, he personalized the moniker as "Dr. Dre" and it stuck.
Dr. Dre came out strong as a solo artist with his debut album The Chronic, which included several collaborations with Snoop Dogg, including the singles "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang," "Let Me Ride," and "F--k wit Dre Day (and Everybody's Celebratin')." His trademark blend sinewave synthesizers and P-Funk grooves can be traced to Dre's influence in N.W.A's "Alwayz into Somethin'" and his debut single for the 1992 film Deep Cover.
Dre won his first Grammy Award for Best Solo Rap Performance for "Let Me Ride."
As a producer, Dr. Dre was a key influence at the start of many notable rap and R&B careers through Death Row Records and Aftermath Entertainment. After Snoop Dogg was featured throughout his own debut album, The Chronic
, Dre produced Snoop's record-breaking debut Doggystyle
. It was the first album to ever make its debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 charts. He also collaborated with up-and-comer 2Pac's "California Love
" and produced Eminem's breakthrough single "My Name Is
" and several hits on the Marshall Mathers LP
, including "The Real Slim Shady
." He co-produced four tracks on 50 Cent's debut album Get Rich or Die Tryin'
and produced The Game's "How We Do" in 2005.
His mother was 15 years old when she got pregnant with Dre, and many people suggested she get an abortion. Dre says that this has always motivated him, as he felt he had to be successful in order to prove those people wrong.
In 2014, he sold his stake in Beats to Apple, earning a huge payday. Forbes declared him the highest-paid musician of the year, with estimated earnings of $620 million - mostly from the sale. Beyoncé was a distant second at $115 million.
Dre purchased the former home of NFL quarterback Tom Brady and his supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen in the spring of 2014 for a whopping $40 million.
Dre says he has "social anxiety," which is why he's so reticent in interviews. His shy nature has created an aura of mystery about him.
He excelled as a producer, rapper and entrepreneur, but Dre is not a lyricist. His rhymes are written by others - Ice Cube, Eminem and D.O.C. have all written for him.