Dr. Dre/Andre Romelle Young (1965- )

Dr. Dre, November 2, 2011
Dr. Dre, November 2, 2011
Photo by Commondr3ads (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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Dr. Dre, pioneering West Coast hip-hop producer, rapper, and entrepreneur, was born Andre Romelle Young in Compton, California on February 18, 1965. His father, Theodore, and his mother, Verna, were both singers and members of bands before and after Dre was born. His parents soon separated, and Verna, who was 16 when she had Dre, remarried and brought stepsiblings, including stepbrother Warren Griffin III (aka Warren G), into the family.

Dre never showed a great interest in school, but he did inherit his parents’ love of music. He immersed himself in the early Los Angeles hip-hop scene and, in 1984, formed the World Class Wrecking Cru, a romance-themed, techno-style group whose song “Surgery” was a local hit. In 1986, Dr. Dre teamed up with Eazy-E (Eric Wright), Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson), MC Ren (Lorenzo Patterson) and DJ Yella (Antoine Carraby) to form the seminal rap group Niggaz Wit Attitude, or N.W.A. Dre’s production talents received widespread exposure on N.W.A.’s second album Straight Outta Compton (1988), which sold over 500,000 copies in six weeks with virtually no radio or video play.

One song on Straight Outta Compton in particular, “F-ck tha Police,” garnered widespread attention for its discussion of police brutality and racial profiling. Numerous law enforcement organizations protested the song, including the F.B.I., which sent a letter of reprimand to N.W.A.’s record label, Ruthless Records. Following Ice Cube’s controversial departure, Dre produced the group’s final album, Efil4zaggin, in 1991. The album debuted at number two on the Billboard chart and reached number one the following week.

In 1991, at the height of N.W.A.’s popularity, Dr. Dre left the group over accusations of financial mismanagement and formed Death Row Records with former bodyguard Suge Knight. In 1992, Dre collaborated with Snoop Doggy Dogg for the first time to produce the title track from the film Deep Cover and then released his own debut solo album, The Chronic. Dre’s reputation as a producer had matured to the point that his sound and style now had a name: “G-Funk.”

In 1995, Dre teamed with Death Row label mate Tupac Shakur on the #1 hit song “California Love,” but left Death Row Records amid a contract dispute shortly afterward. He then started another new label, Aftermath Entertainment, and released Dr. Dre Presents: The Aftermath in 1996. Aftermath struck gold in 1998 when Dre signed an unknown white rapper named Eminem and helped produce the Detroit native’s multi-platinum debut album, The Slim Shady LP. Although Dre released another solo album called 2001 (1999), he focused mainly on production, including subsequent albums by Eminem and 50 Cent.

Dr. Dre has appeared in several films, including Set It Off (1996), The Wash (2001), and Training Day (2001).  He has won a total of six Grammy Awards, three as a performer and three as a producer. In 2008, Dre introduced the “Beats by Dr. Dre” line of headphones, whose massive visibility and popularity soon drew computer maker HP to include “Beats” audio in all their laptops and headsets. Six years later, Apple, the giant computer corporation, purchased the company for $2.6 billion in cash and $400 million in company stock. The transaction made Dr. Dre hip-hop’s first billionaire and included an executive position for him at the corporation.

Dr. Dre has five children: son Curtis (born 1982), Andre Young, Jr. (1988-2008), son Marcel (born 1991), son Truth (born 1997), and daughter Truly (born 2001). He married Nicole Threatt in 1996.