Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, one of hip-hop’s most influential albums, has spent the past 15 years going in and out of print and on and off streaming services. Today, a couple of months after its official 30th anniversary, it’s back.
“I am thrilled to bring The Chronic home to its original distribution partner, Interscope Records,” Dr. Dre said in a statement. “Working alongside my longtime colleagues, [Interscope execs] Steve Berman and John Janick, to re-release the album and make it available to fans all over the world is a full circle moment for me.”
The album originally came out on Dec. 15, 1992 and ultimately spent 97 weeks on Billboard’s chart thanks to gritty, funky, cutting singles like “Nothin’ but a ‘G Thang’,” “Fuck Wit Dre Day (and Everybody’s Celebratin’),” and “Let Me Ride.” “Cops and other folks get wasted … in a sometimes frightening amalgam of inner-city street games that includes misogynist sexual politics and violent revenge scenarios,” Rolling Stone’s original review of The Chronic asserted before adding, “Throughout, The Chronic drops raw realism and pays tribute to hip-hop virtuosity.”
Although the LP established Dre as a solo artist, ratified gangsta rap’s “G-Funk” subgenre, and launched the career of one Snoop Doggy Dogg — not to overlook how it provided a springboard for Kurupt, the Lady of Rage, and Nate Dogg, as well as Warren G’s enduring “Deeez Nuuuts” intro — Dre has battled for control of the album. The record originally came out on Death Row Records, a label he cofounded with rapper the D.O.C., former bodyguard Suge Knight, and producer Dick Griffey, and Interscope.
After Dre stepped away from the label in the Nineties to form Aftermath, Knight capitalized on the record, releasing the compilation Suge Knight Represents: Chronic 2000 in 1999 (prompting Dre to put out 2001 later that year) and reissuing the original record with a big marketing campaign in 2001. After the label went bankrupt in 2006 and its assets were auctioned, another distributor purchased the rights to Dre’s album and reissued it as The Chronic Re-Lit and From the Vault with bonus tracks in 2009.
The record was on streaming services briefly but removed in 2011, when Dre won “digital rights” to the record in court. Dre touted its return when he helped launch Apple Music in 2015. In 2020, eOne, the distributor that controlled Death Row at the time, announced the LP would be available on all streaming services (not just Apple) on 4/20 of that year. (Despite false reports, Snoop Dogg did not get control of The Chronic when he purchased Death Row last year.) Now it’s back again, this time through Interscope.
“To have this album at Interscope once again where we work with Dre and his amazing team at Aftermath day in and day out is incredibly gratifying for me personally and all of us at Interscope,” Steve Berman, Vice Chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M, said.
Rapper the D.O.C, who wrote many of the lyrics on The Chronic, recently told Rolling Stone how he convinced Dre to make the record. “We were having problems with [N.W.A’s label] Ruthless, and it just seemed like it wasn’t going anywhere,” he said. “The idea was for us to branch out and do something on our own, but we didn’t have an artist. It was so simple to me, ‘You’re the artist.’ And Dre was never a solo guy. That was never his train of thought. So I had to beat it into him. Like, ‘What else are we going to do? We got these great songs you’re making. Let’s go.’ But once Snoop came, I think Dre began to see the possibilities. After that, everything snowballed.”
“I needed a record to come out,” Dre told Rolling Stone in 1993. “I was broke. I didn’t receive one fuckin’ quarter in the year of ’92, because Ruthless spent the year trying to figure out ways not to pay me so that I’d come back on my hands and knees. If I had to go back home living with my mom, that wasn’t going to happen.”
In 2020, the Library of Congress inducted The Chronic into its National Recording Registry. The induction signaled its status as an “aural treasure worthy of preservation because of [its] cultural, historical and aesthetic importance to the nation’s recorded sound heritage.”