While Snoop, Daz, RBX, and other Death Row rappers overshadowed Dre on the vocals, The Chronic's 1970s musical foundation became a star (again) in its own right. Taking the most infectious, melodic clips from that decade's soul and funk, "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" and other Chronic songs started with a spark of inspiration and were then built around the sample.
For "Nuthin'," Dre looped the first 40 seconds of Leon Haywood's "I Wanna Do Something Freaky to You," a smooth, sensual track about exactly what you think it's about. Dre focused on letting Haywood's mid-tempo keyboards and smooth guitar create a sense of immersion into the "G" world.
In contrast to Parliament's funk songs, which were largely about having a good time and letting loose, Haywood's song represented a different dimension of funk, which prized extreme relaxation, carnal human connections, and ditching your cares. Public Enemy also sampled the song in 1990, likely due to Dre's inspiration, and it has since been sampled by Redman, Aaliyah, Rappin' 4-Tay, Twista, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, and Mariah Carey.
When he started out as a club DJ, Dr. Dre often said his specialty was "mixology," but for nearly 25 years, it seems as though his focus might be better categorized as surgery, given his ability to piece together music hits with unbreakable concentration and steady hands at the studio sound board.
As a producer, Dre has been the major musical influence behind N.W.A., Death Row Records, Aftermath Records, and has collaborated with artists such as Jay-Z, Eve, Gwen Stefani, and Trent Reznor. Though Eazy-E is generally referred to as the Godfather of Gangsta Rap, Dre deserves an equal share of that title. His time in N.W.A. and at Death Row served as a springboard for the monstrously successful careers of Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, 2pac, Eminem, and 50 Cent, who all in turn introduced the rap world to Tha Lench Mob, Westside Connection, the Eastsidaz, Thug Life, D12, and G-Unit.
Dre's virtually uninterrupted musical success from the mid-80s to today can be attributed to two things: an inexhaustible work ethic and the ability to recognize potential in an unlimited amount of musical resources.
Again, it comes back to his surgical skills. Just listen to the entire Chronic album, and when you're done, play a few tracks from Parliament Funkadelic's Greatest Hits. Or check out Dre's music at Who Sampled to hear seemingly insignificant elements of songs experience a rebirth as the catchiest sounds of the G-Funk catalog. Though Dre built his own songs on the Parliament foundation, they are original collages that could only he could have envisioned. From Parliament's music, to the beats his studio musicians jammed out, to the thousands of hours in the studio with Death Row artists that would only produce about 10 hours of music, Dre has been labelled one of the most scrutinizing and hard-to-please producers in the music industry.
As an artist, Dre has always preferred to stay in the background. During the Straight Outta Compton era his contribution to the vocals was limited, but he was suddenly a full-time rapper on the second album, Efil4zaggin, when Ice Cube left the group. During the sessions that would result in the Chronic album, Dre originally intended for Snoop Dogg to be the debut artist for Death Row, but again, was forced to step into center stage because he was the only "name" the label had at the time.
Dre's commitment to the success of other artists is a primary element of both the Chronic and 2001 albums, as he always seems to be a guest star on his own releases. (In fact, many of Dre's verses have been ghost-written by Ice Cube, RBX, Snoop, and Eminem.)
"Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" is an early example of all the qualities that make Dre the most successful rap producer of all time: the mix of 70s soul and gangsta attitude that would shape the G-Funk ideology and allowing Snoop to steal the song, gracefully deferring to the rapper with the flow smooth enough to match the laid back music. While Dre has been called an obsessive compulsive perfectionist and at times overly concerned with his reputation, the producer-rapper's role in constructing the G-Funk sound, classically represented by "Nuthin'," demonstrates that only one thing, at bottom, mattered to Dre: the music.
The lyrics to "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" aren't very specific. It seems Dre and Snoop are too caught up in the music and pumping themselves up to really get to the "thang" they're talking about. Take these lyrics:
Now it's time for me to make my impression felt
So sit back, relax, and strap on your seatbelts
You never been on a ride like this before
with a producer who can rap and control the maestro
At the same time with the dope rhyme that I kick
You know, and I know, I flow some ol' funky s--t
to add to my collection, this selection
symbolizes dope, take a toke, but don't choke
If you do, you'll have no clue
of what me and my homie Snoop Dogg came to do
The delivery is in traditional couplet form, but "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" doesn't really have a subject. At best, the lyrics hover around gettin' funky on the mic or delivering rhymes, but the typical rap braggadocio and location promotion obscure what the "G Thang" really is.
In a sense, the G-ness is communicated through the entire aesthetic experience of the song, from the music, the lyrics, the pitch of Dre and Snoop's voices, to the corresponding imagery in the video.
For a comparison, take a look at some Parliament Funkadelic lyrics from "Give Up the Funk":
We're gonna tear the roof off the mother sucker
Tear the roof off the sucker
You've got a real type of thing going down, getting down
There's a whole lot of rhythm going round
We want the funk, give up the funk
we need the funk, we gotta have that funk
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo, ow
And that's it—that's the whole song. The Parliament song has no easily identifiable subject. It's about the funk, whatever that is. Like "Nuthin'," the purpose of the song lies in its experiential qualities. Both songs were composed during impromptu jam sessions, which is probably part of the reason why they can be so effective and sound so authentic even while failing to define the "funk" or the "thang."