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*** 1/2 VARIOUS ARTISTS, "Dr. Dre Presents . . .The Aftermath," Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope

November 24, 1996|Cheo Hodari Coker

As the one-man Holland-Dozier-Holland behind the mighty Death Row Records sound, Dr. Dre raised the sonic level of hard-core rap to a level of true greatness. His first formal album since leaving that troubled camp is very much a gangsta rap record, despite Dre's disavowal of the controversial genre. But it's gangsta in attitude--hard beats that ask no quarter, lubricious bass lines that won't take no for an answer--rather than high-carnage content.

On this collection, featuring artists and producers he's signed to his new label, Dre (who produced or co-produced all the tracks and mixed all the music) is like the post-Lakers Pat Riley: He's working without his old championship-level superstars but is still able to bring the best out of his new team.

The outstanding performance, musically and lyrically, belongs to Dre himself--the highly effective "Been There Done That," a track that urges the end of gangster attitudes in favor of cooperative economics. Only the symphonic funk of "Fame," featuring RC's crooning juxtaposed with nasty guitar licks (a sound Dre calls "ghetto metal"), comes close to outdoing the melodious, meticulous, near-perfect funk beneath "Been There."

Mel-Man is no Notorious B.I.G., but it's hard not to enjoy the beauty of the sonics behind the slow flow of his fun, funky "[Expletive] on the World." The same goes for songs such as Kim Summerson's "Choices," which rides a sample of Curtis Mayfield's "Give Me Your Love," and the talented Maurice Wilcher's self-produced "Please"--beautiful R&B tracks that float by yet leave a heavy impression.

Snoop Doggy Dogg, Rage, Nate Dogg and the rest of the Death Row team that Dre originally assembled are certainly missed. There's just no quick substitute for that level of talent, and matched with Dre they had a special magic.

But "The Aftermath" proves that Dr. Dre, coupled with assistant coaches--er, producers--such as Bud'dah and Chris "The Glove" Taylor, and a roster of maturing talents, is still going to make the finals.


Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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