Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Jake Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Stanton Daily. Posted by Jake Frost
Founder and CEO of Aftermath Entertainment and Beats Electronics, Former Co-Owner of Death Row Records
Currently Known For:
Rapper, Songwriter, Record Producer, and Entrepreneur
1980s - Present
“We were just trying to entertain our neighborhood, just us trying to be hood stars. It just became something that was much, much bigger than we ever thought, than I ever imagined.” Known for working with rappers like Snoop Dogg, Eminem, 50 Cent, Knoc-turn’al, Kendrick Lamar, and The Game over his stellar 30+ year career, Dr. Dre has built an incredible legacy and brand as the third richest man in hip hop today with a net worth climbing over $740 million. Once the co-owner of Death Row Records alongside Suge Knight, Dr. Dre later launched his own label, Aftermath Entertainment, and proved his talents as a rapper with the album The Chronic and Grammy Award-winning singles like “Let Me Ride.” In recent years, he’s continued working with some of the biggest names in the business while also venturing into a billion-dollar industry with Beats Electronics, a headphones and speakers company generating over $1.5 billion in annual revenue! So, how does the 53-year-old do it all? Let’s find out!
Long before he was known by his stage name, Andre Romelle Young came into this world on February 18, 1965 in Compton, California as the oldest child of Theodore and Verna Young. By the time he was three years old, his parents separated and later divorced in 1972 after losing their second son, Jerome, to pneumonia when he was only a year old. Shortly after, Dr. Dre moved in with his grandmother in the New Wilmington housing project in Compton while his mother remarried and divorced a handful of times adding three more children and four step-children into the mix.
Even as a child, Dr. Dre experienced a lot of hardships especially with the gang violence that rampaged his hometown of Compton. In fact, gang activity was so bad at Vanguard Junior High School that he later transferred to Roosevelt Junior High School, which was in a safer neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles. However, the change did little to encourage Dr. Dre to excel in the classroom as his grades suffered and he was denied acceptance into the Northrop Aviation Company’s apprenticeship program. With his first dream shattered, he focused on his second dream—to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, following in the footsteps of his cousin, Sir Jinx. “We were just trying to entertain our neighborhood,” Dr. Dre said of his early attempts at becoming a rapper, “just us trying to be hood stars.”
Rise to Fame
That young “hood star” became a regular at the popular Los Angeles club, Eve After Dark, in the early 1980s when many aspiring rappers and DJs tried out their talents in front of live audiences. Dr. Dre was a natural and took inspiration from “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” to make his debut as a DJ named “Dr. J,” a moniker taken from his favorite basketball star, Julius Erving. While performing at Eve After Dark, Dr. Dre’s network grew as he met aspiring rappers like Antoine “DJ Yella” Carraby of the future N.W.A. Before long, he dropped his original stage name and adopted “Dr. Dre, the Master of Mixology.”
Behind the scenes, Dr. Dre and DJ Yella teamed up to record several demos before they joined the electro-hop music group World Class Wreckin’ Cru in 1984. At the time, hip hop was huge on the West Coast, which made it easy for the band and Dr. Dre to find local fame as they released their first single, “Surgery,” which generated 50,000 sales in Compton alone. Two years later, the band dissolved leaving Dr. Dre to collaborate with a young rapper named O’Shea Jackson, otherwise known as Ice Cube. Early into their friendship, Ice Cube introduced Dr. Dre to Eazy-E of Ruthless Records, which is how Dr. Dre made his way onto the label where he produced hit singles for N.W.A. like “F—k the Police” and their Straight Outta Compton album. “It was always about free speech, being able to express yourself, whether people like it or not,” Ice Cube said of N.W.A.’s often controversial lyrics. “That’s the great thing about being in this country, is to be able to speak your mind and not be censored.”
After Ice Cube left N.W.A. in 1989, Dr. Dre stepped in and performed on most of the group’s second album, Efil4zaggin, before he left the group in 1991 after a disagreement with Eazy E. Although he was in the middle of his contract with Ruthless Records, his bodyguard at the time, Suge Knight, helped him get out of his contract early and invited Dr. Dre to sign on as his first artist on his newly founded Death Row Records. Happy to start over, Dr. Dre signed on with Knight and released his first single and the title track to the 1992 film, Deep Cover, featuring Snoop Dogg. He followed the single up with his debut solo album, The Chronic, which earned widespread praise from rap fans thanks to collaborations with young artists like The Lady of Rage, Nate Dogg, Jewell, Daz Dillinger, and RBX.
While working with Death Row Records throughout the 1990s and releasing his own music, Dr. Dre often stepped behind the scenes to produce for other wrappers including Snoop Dogg’s first album, Doggystyle. Dr. Dre also produced songs for various film soundtracks like Above the Rim and Murder Was the Case in addition to collaborating with Ice Cub to release the 1995 hit, “Natural Born Killaz.” Then, as Death Row Records signed on rapper 2Pac to the label, Dr. Dre’s collaboration expanded as Dre helped the artist on the commercial hit, “California Love,” which marked both Dr. Dre’s and 2Pac’s first single to reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100!
Making the Move to Aftermath
After his blossoming success with Knight and Death Row Records, Dr. Dre took a huge leap of faith and founded his own record label, Aftermath Entertainment, in 1996. He released his first album under the label, Dr. Dre Presents the Aftermath, and spent the next two years finding his feet before he made one of the biggest decisions of his career in 1998—to sign a young white rapper named Eminem. Producing three of Eminem’s first singles and even providing vocals for two songs on The Slim Shady LP, Dr. Dre skyrocketed to fame alongside his newest star.
By the new millennium, Dr. Dre released his second solo album, 2001, which featured collaborations with Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Devin the Dude, and several others. It also earned Dr. Dre a Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, which inspired the rapper to start work on his third album, Detox, which has never been released. Instead, Dr. Dre has focused more on his work behind the scenes starting as a producer on “Family Affair” with Mary J. Blige,” “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” with Eve and Gwen Stefani of No Doubt, six tracks on Eminem’s award-winning Marshall Mathers LP, and 50 Cent’s debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’.
Continuing to support his leading Aftermath Entertainment artists over the next few years, Dr. Dre struggled to make time for recording his own music especially after he launched Beats by Dr. Dre in 2008. Since then, Dr. Dre has had little time for anything else as the headphone and speaker line generated over $1 billion in annual revenue, which caught the attention of Apple who bought Beats in 2014 for a cool $3 billion. As a result, Dre became the richest man in hip hop surpassing his longtime friend and fellow rapper, Sean “Diddy” Combs.
Recent Work and Life Today
In 2015, Dr. Dre announced the release of his final album, Compton, which was inspired by the N.W.A. biopic, Straight Outta Compton, which generated over $200 million and was named one of the top 10 films of the year with an Academy Award nomination. “It’s crazy how we were getting criticized for this years ago,” Dr. Dre said of the film and N.W.A.’s controversial lyrics about inner-city life. “And now, it’s just like, ‘OK, we understand.’ This movie will keep shining a light on the problem, especially because of all the situations that are happening… It’s definitely going to keep this situation in people’s minds and make sure that everyone out there knows that this is a problem that keeps happening still today.”
Outside of his final album and the film, the 53-year-old who is credited with popularizing West Coast G-funk is ready to make his next move after signing on with Apple to star in the company’s first original scripted television series, Vital Signs. Apart from that, Dr. Dre is focused on building his $740 million empire that extends from his stellar career as a rapper to Aftermath Entertainment, Beats, and Straight Outta Compton. “We want to inspire. We want to motivate,” he says. “These kids from Compton, came from the streets and built an empire. That’s what I want people to see now: inspiration. That they can do it too.” After all, Dr. Dre is the first to admit that his stardom is much bigger than he ever imagined.