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A Remedy for 'Chronic' Headache?

April 25, 1999|STEVE HOCHMAN

Dre versus Dre?

"Chronic 2000" versus "Chronic 2000"?

What was shaping up to be the rap war of the century looks to have fizzled before it even went public.

Dr. Dre and Marion "Suge" Knight, Dre's former partner at Death Row Records, seemed ready to step into the ring over the legacy of Dre's 1992 album "The Chronic," a West Coast rap landmark that introduced Snoop Doggy Dogg to the world and established Knight's Death Row Records as rap's powerhouse.

Dr. Dre, who severed ties with Death Row in 1996, has been readying his first new album since then, with much of its original cast (including Snoop) as well as his new, hot protege Eminem involved. The planned title: "Chronic 2000."

Meanwhile, Knight, still incarcerated at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo on a nine-year sentence from a 1996 parole violation conviction and the man Los Angeles homicide detectives have now reportedly identified as a key suspect in the 1997 ambush slaying of rapper Notorious B.I.G., had been preparing his own collection.

The two-CD set had been built around unreleased Dre tracks from the original "Chronic" sessions, including an outtake of the hit "Nothing but a 'G' Thang" featuring Dre and Snoop, plus two tracks by the late 2Pac and several new artists on the label. It's title: Yup, "Chronic 2000."

But, after legal threats from Dre, Knight has removed the seven Dre-related "Chronic" leftovers that he'd planned to use on his release, due in stores next month. And Dre is said to be reconsidering the title of his album, which is expected to be released sometime in the summer.

Given the supercharged atmosphere of rap, which seems to thrive on confrontation, the biggest surprise may be the tone of conciliation that's coming from each of these two camps. Word from Interscope Records, which distributes Dre's Aftermath label, and from Priority Records, which distributes Death Row releases, is that a public confrontation will be avoided.

"The albums have very little to do with each other," says Priority President Bryan Turner. "I told [Interscope Chairman] Jimmy Iovine the other day that Dre should simply call his 'Chronic 2000' and put it out when he wants to. These are totally different records."

Would the public be clear on the difference right off the bat, though, especially considering that Knight's album will be out first?

"Some folks may get confused initially," says Dorsey Fuller, music director at Los Angeles hip-hop and R&B radio station KKBT-FM (92.3). "But ultimately, whoever puts out the best product is going to win."

The betting heavily favors Dre on that count.

"Dr. Dre can rely on his creativity," says Alan Gordon, executive editor of hip-hop periodical Rap Pages. "He's the guy who started it all. For Death Row, the album now is a move to new things. The only songs on there from the original camp are now two Dogg Pound songs, plus the two [Shakur] songs, which will attract some interest."

He agrees with Turner that the two albums, even if they have the same title, will stand on their own.

"Any controversy would probably help both albums in sales," he says. "But now it looks like there's not going to be any rivalry."

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