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Dr. Dre: Dr. Dre 2001

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As the first new album in seven years from the man who changed the face of rap (and pop) music with Straight Outta Compton and The Chronic, Dr. Dre 2001 has a lot to live up to. Maybe that's why Dr. Dre sounds so defensive on the record's terrific single, "Still D.R.E.," as he reaffirms his place over a nodding, hypnotic beat that speaks volumes about the doctor's still-unparalleled skills as a producer. Dr. Dre 2001 isn't likely to have anywhere near the revolutionary impact The Chronic did, if only because Dre seems less interested in exploring new sonic ground than in perfecting the G-funk he created on that classic. He sounds defensive and paranoid throughout 2001, railing against enemies real and imagined, defending himself against rumors that he sold out with projects like The Firm and The Aftermath, and disputing charges that he's abandoned gangsta rap and the 'hood by moving out of Compton. Dr. Dre 2001 is Dre's most personal album (even if most of his lyrics are ghost-written), and the autobiographical nature of the lyrics is both a blessing and a curse. While they make 2001 more human and personality-driven than most hip-hop records, they make the abundant misogyny that much harder to forgive. The most violently sexist Dre-produced album since N.W.A's Niggaz4Life, 2001 is a half-masterpiece that matches some of Dre's best work with bile like "Housewife," Eddie Griffin's painfully unfunny monologue "Ed-ucation," and the unremarkable gangsta narrative "Murder Ink." In relatively new collaborators Xzibit and Eminem, who team up for "What's The Difference," Dre has found rappers on par with old compatriot Snoop Dogg. Conversely, in new sidekick Hittman, who graces no fewer than nine songs, he's uncovered a lackluster Kurupt for the new millennium. Dr. Dre 2001 is one of the best rap albums of the year, but it's not quite the groundbreaking masterpiece it could have been.