Tuesday, May 03, 2011

90's Hit Parade #68

2Pac w/Dr. Dre - California Lovin'

When Dre dropped The Chronic back in...wow, was it '92? Seems like it should have been later. Anyway, I didn't really take to it at first, and as it ended up being a hugely influential album (pretty much defining the sound of popular hip hop over the following years), I started resenting it more and more. In '92, the period that I consider hip hop's golden age was still going strong. The best rap records had hard, fast funk beats and James Brown samples, and the rappers would just grab those beats like a dog goin' to work on a bone, and spit out unbelievable tongue twisters and word play over them. Then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, you had crews like A Tribe Called Quest, that were sampling jazz records and getting this ultra-mellow sound. I loved both of these extremes, but The Chronic, with it's laid back Parliament-derived sound, seemed like a mushy middle, and that's where everything seemed to be ending up.

I was wrong of course. Dre's G-Funk sound may not be either PE or ATCQ, but it's its own thing, perfect for warm summer nights and hot days tending the grill. My favorite Dre track from this era is not from The Chronic, though. It's this 2Pac single, all vocoder and poplockin' synths, sampled or maybe just ripped off from Ronnie Hudson & the Street People's 80's funk jam "West Coast Poplock" and set to a hydraulic bounce of a beat. 2Pac released this single when he got out of prison, and it just feels like a goddamn party. Nobody's trying to overexert themselves, they're just having a good time. I guess that's what annoyed me about this stuff at the time, but it's what I love about it now. It's all about home state pride, but I love what they're proud of: it's "the Sunshine State where the bomb-ass hemp be/The state where you never find the dance floor empty." "California knows how to party" indeed.


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