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25 Greatest Songs Produced by Dr. Dre and Jimmy lovine

Their remarkably successful partnership as producers, label owners and business executives has resulted in hits that shaped our culture

25 Greatest Songs Produced by Dr. Dre and Jimmy lovine

Joe Pugliese /AUGUST/HBO

The Defiant Ones, set to premiere on HBO on July 9th, explores Andre “Dr. Dre” Young and Jimmy Iovine’s years of collaborations. To prepare for the four-hour documentary, we’ve assembled a murderers’ row of Dre’s best tracks dating back to 1992, when Iovine’s Interscope label began distributing Dre and Suge Knight’s Death Row Records. Not every Dre production is listed here, only the gems he made under the Interscope umbrella. But save for a few stray tracks – his work on Mary J. Blige’s “Family Affair” comes to mind – this list closely follows Dre’s heyday through the turn of the millennium. 

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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 that 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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Dr. Dre feat. Hittman, Kurupt, Nate Dogg & 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 & 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 was “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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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 who devised 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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D12, “Fight Music” (2001)

Eminem’s D12 project is truly underrated. Despite coming up in the same thriving 1990s Detroit rap scene, Em’s friends never quite shook their underserved reputation as bandwagon riders on his supernova fame. “Fight Music” was a highlight of the group’s solidly effective Devil’s Night debut, and a key moment for rap fans that couldn’t stomach some of their other shock-inducing horrorcore tracks. (That’s excepting the typically misanthropic Bizarre’s verse, and his decidedly nasty bars about his grandmother.) Dre’s bass rhythm and Mike Elizondo’s ringing guitar lines lend the performers a raw, emphatic sound over which to unfurl their cipher. 

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Bilal, “Fast Lane” (2001)

This is one of Dr. Dre’s most unexpected collaborations. A highly touted member of Questlove’s Soulquarians movement, Philadelphia musician Bilal Oliver’s excellent debut 1st Born Second anticipated the P-funk-meets-Prince inspired “nu-funk” trend that would define the soul underground for much of the decade. However, the Interscope album didn’t quite catch on with the mainstream, despite Dr. Dre and Jadakiss’ assist on “Fast Lane,” which peaked just outside of the Top 40 of Billboard‘s R&B Singles chart. Dre’s clean drums and eerie synths underlined Bilal’s haunted vocal about depravation in the projects, while Jadakiss rhymed with panache, “I’m a left lane/My life is much faster than yours.” Bilal would go on to collaborate with Kendrick Lamar, the Game and Solange – while being the best soul singer you’ve never heard of.

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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 Dr. 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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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 Trying 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 “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 RS 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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50 Cent, “Heat” (2003)

This deep cut from 50 Cent’s six-times-platinum Get Rich or Die Trying showcases Dre’s
imagination as a producer of noisy, action-filled tableaus. It opens with a
snippet of 50 executing a drive-by before Dre drops in an off-kilter
stutter-step rhythm punctuated by gunshots and keyboard high notes. The
alternating squalls of keys and gunshots highlights 50’s rep as the
hammer-carrying bad man. “The DA can play this motherfucking tape in
court. I’ll kill you,” says 50 before harmonizing, “I ain’t playin’,
hear what I’m sayin’.” It’s riveting stuff. Dre may be a pop icon now, but
he’ll always know how to make gangster shit.

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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” 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 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 it 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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50 Cent feat. Mobb Deep, “Outta Control” (2005)

Arriving at the tail end of 50 Cent’s reign as the biggest star in rap, “Outta Control” has the untroubled panache of a man at the peak of his powers. His harmonized, subtly halting hook – “You…know…I…got…what it takes to make the club go outta control” – sounds like effortlessly made ear candy. Havoc and the recently deceased New York rap hero Prodigy easily segue from their Mobb Deep reputation as Queensbridge murders to thugs sipping bubbly and enjoying the models at the party. Dre and Mike Elizondo’s sparsely effective interplay of halting piano keys, skidding strings, and Dre’s patented bass drum thumps makes “Outta Control” a mid-2000s hit that’s easy to love, but hard to reproduce.

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Busta Rhymes, “In the Ghetto” (2006)

“The fact that Aftermath is my new home speaks for itself,” Busta Rhymes told XXL magazine in 2004, a sign of Aftermath’s reputation as the top rap label in the industry. Despite heavy publicity and decent album sales, Busta Rhymes’ Aftermath bow The Big Bang didn’t live up to its sky-high expectations. But at least it yielded “In The Ghetto,” a worthy tribute to the near-mythical king of funk-punk who died in 2004. Dr. Dre and DJ Green Lantern sampled Rick James’ from his “Ghetto Life,” as well as a snippet of his infamous appearance at the BET Awards, then built a dramatic track out of punchy horn chops, bass bumps and subtle flutes. James’ voice is nearly as prominent as Busta, who weaves a lyric about hood life before commanding us to “rep your ghetto.”

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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 this year. The track is a vintage Dre head-nodder, from Brongers’ buoyantly operatic strings, horns harp-like 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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Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg and Akon, “Kush” (2010)

Before Dre abandoned plans to drop his long-delayed Detox – a project that he eventually ditched despite spending nearly a decade of work on it – he released two pre-release singles. “I Need a Doctor” was the most successful of the two, climbing as far as Number Four on the Billboard charts. But “Kush” was arguably the better track. Produced solely by DJ Khalil, it found Dre reunited with his greatest protégé Snoop Dogg, as well as a baritone hook by Kobe Honeycutt that invited comparisons to the late Nate Dogg. “We roll shit that burn slow as fucking molasses,” rapped Dre as Khalil crafted a resonant bass-and-piano arrangement that recalled the good doctor’s work. Despite bad timing and the Detox debacle, “Kush” is a solid effort.

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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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