Dr. Dre & "The Chronic" Elitist At The Quietus
I suspect from the tone of moral outrage of Angus Batey's “Dre Ain't Shit: 25 Years On And The Chronic Still Stinks” that a charge of racism would seem abhorrent, over the line. He likes hip hop, demonstrates a broad knowledge of the culture and its history. Racist? No way! But he knows better than Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg (or “the accessory-to-murder suspect with the lazy flow,” as he's described - hmmm...) So maybe a better word is elitist. This article wallows in elitism, and its pervasive tone destroys the author's credibility. Put it another way - Mr. Batey is Dylan's "Mr. Jones".
Mr. Batey refuses to accept Dr. Dre's The Chronic on its own terms. It's a preposterous position for a critic. “I didn't like The Godfather because it should have focused on Kay.” Well it doesn't. Specifically, Mr. Batey wanted a conscious rap album from Dr. Dre. “Lil' Ghetto Boy” is the only track that meets his approval because “Snoop writes with an air of reflection.” I'm sorry, but Snoop was 21 years old at the time of this album's release. Was I “reflective” when I was 21? Once in a while, maybe. But one “reflective” song on a 16 track album feels just about right for that age. Anything else would have been pandering and insincere.
Maybe pandering is preferable to Mr. Batey, but not so much for millions of listeners and hip hop culture, which has long since accepted "The Chronic" as a classic. This is not to say that it's above criticism, but it's quite safe from the impotent arguments in this piece. It says more about Mr. Batey's cloaked prejudice than the album itself. He writes: “If, for some unfathomable reason, you're still thinking about getting hold of a copy of this album, the version to go for is the European vinyl release from 1993.” This is just a snotty way of saying that he disapproves of the final track “Bitches Ain't Shit.” Fair enough. But to think that someone would track down a rare expensive release just to not be confronted with a song, well that sounds just like Mr. Batey, who admits to cowering in fear over writing this review of an album which he views as an “ominous tombstone.”
But let's not disregard his core argument, which objects to its “misogynistic and violently sociopathic lyrics.” I feel like we've already had this discussion, back when Frank Zappa testified to the PMRC senate hearing. That is, Mr. Batey's ham-fisted attempts at progressiveness are not only detrimental to artistic expression but they cloud the real issues he seems to care so much about. He wants this music on his terms, from his perspective, refusing to accept an approach that makes him uncomfortable. So this piece which seeks to call out Dre and Snoop for ignorant lyrics manages to tip the scales due to his narrowly enforced morality. The tone is not authoritative but simply petty.
My issue is not even so much with the criticism of the lyrics but rather the disrespect that Mr. Batey's overarching argument has for the listener. I love "The Chronic". I'm not a misogynist. I'm not a violent sociopath. I support any woman who comes forward to put a check on aberrant behavior in this “post-Weinstein era.” I put these beliefs in practice in my own life where I can influence others rather than sniping at a 20+ year old gangsta rap album.
I'm open to the idea that "The Chronic" in hindsight was a step back from the Public Enemy/De La Soul era, that it hasn't aged as well Nas's Illmatic. But Mr. Batey is not the one to make that argument. This piece is filled with such revisionist nonsense and veiled prejudice to render it mute. Maybe next he'll dissect the Rolling Stones' Exile On Main St. That is also an album that celebrates “the drink-and-drugs lifestyle,” though not from the perspective of “the indolent gangbanger,” as he describes The Chronic. I'll take both over the perspective of “the elitist critic.”
You really don't understand do you?