Who: Dr. Dre f. Snoop Dogg
What: “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang”
When (was it released): 1992
Where (was it featured): Dr. Dre’s The Chronic album
Why (did the song happen): Dr. Dre knew all eyes were on him. The Compton, California rapper-producer had just wrapped a remarkable run as the sonic architect of Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records. His premier production for J.J. Fad, Eazy-E, N.W.A, The D.O.C., Michel’le, Above The Law, and others gave the West Coast its first hit factory – and Dre was the one making all the musical calls. But after the 1991 release of N.W.A’s Efil4Zaggin album, Dre left for what seemed like greener pastures at Death Row Records, his label with Suge Knight. Dr. Dre returned with “Deep Cover,” the title track of the 1992 film that introduced his new protégé, the then-Snoop Doggy Dogg, to the world. The slow, menacing song followed the movie’s theme of handling undercover cops with unforgiving street tactics. Dr. Dre was in prime form.
How (it became iconic): The closest sonic cousin Dre gave us to “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” was “Alwayz Into Somethin’,” a laid-back single from N.W.A’s largely riotous Efil4Zaggin album that was a stark sonic departure from the typical fare from the self-proclaimed World’s Most Dangerous Group. But “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” was different. Using Leon Haywood’s “I Want’a Do Something Freaky To You” as his foundation, Dr. Dre built “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” in a manner much different than most of his work with Ruthless Records. At Eazy-E’s label, the sound and the lyrics were often as confrontational and hardcore as anything in rap at time. “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” changed the calculus by slowing things down and making Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s venomous lyrics sound less harmful. In fact, with a warm, mesmerizing bassline and relaxed keys, the rappers almost seem as if they could be inviting you over for a picnic (maybe that inspired the setting for the iconic video). Snoop Dogg’s laid-back, charming delivery didn’t hurt, either. “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” provided a new rap blueprint: a slow, soothing soundbed as the backdrop for rugged gangster lyrics, a song that didn’t sound “scary” or “angry.” Indeed, the song was embraced in a way that N.W.A’s music never was. Thanks to the gangster walls Schoolly D, Ice-T, N.W.A, and others had broken down, “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” found newfound rap allies at commercial radio and the ever-expanding MTV and BET empires. With one song, Dr. Dre made gangster rap palatable for mainstream audiences. Expect the love to continue during Dr. Dre’s Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show performance.