I know it might be hard to picture it, but in the late ’90s, Dr. Dre wasn’t the revered music mogul that he is now. In fact, he was struggling.
After a legendary run at Death Row Records which included the one-two punch of The Chronic and Doggystyle, Dre had a falling out with label co-founder, Suge Knight, and officially left March 22, 1996.
Dre launched his new label, Aftermath Entertainment, and started working on his sophomore album to prove that he was still strong in the rap game. The stakes were higher than ever for Dre; he needed to make a comeback statement.
Around the same time, Jay Z was one of the hottest rappers alive, along with DMX and a surging Eminem (who had just signed to Aftermath), so for the album’s lead single, “Still D.R.E.”, the producer asked Hov for help to pen the lyrics.
“At first, he wrote about diamonds and Bentleys,” Dre explained to Blaze Magazine in a 1999 interview. “So I told Jay to write some other shit. Jigga sat for 20 minutes and came back with some hard-ass, around-the-way L.A. shit.”
It was also revealed later on that not only did Hov write Dre’s lyrics, he penned Snoop Dogg’s verses as well. Snoop told The Breakfast Club: “He wrote Dre’s shit and my shit and it was flawless. It was Still D.R.E and it was Jay-Z and he wrote the whole fucking song.”
In a recent interview with LeBron James and Maverick Carter, Hov talked about ghostwriting for both Dre and Snoop, as well as his admiration for the two West Coast legends:
On that reference track, I’m doing Snoop and Dre, both of them. But yeah, you gotta have like somewhat of a reverence for them, the music they were making. The Chronic and all of that. In order for me to really nail the essence of Dre and Snoop, it had to be like a studied reverence of what they were doing.Jay-Z discusses writing entire ‘Still D.R.E.’ track for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg | NME