The working-class blocks of Compton, Calif., the birthplace of gangsta rap, are a far cry from the mansion-studded hillsides of Calabasas in the San Fernando Valley. But Andre Young -- better known as Dr. Dre -- has breached the psychic distance in a hip-hop minute. On this Saturday afternoon he's totally at home in the den of his $1 million French provincial home, eyes glued to the big-screen TV. Forget the gorgeous view through his windows. He's looking at something far prettier: the video of his new duet with Tupac Shakur, "California Love," which is guaranteed to be a hit and extend his reign as rap's most successful artist and producer.
The 30-year-old Dre has dominated the urban airways for more than 13 years -- with more than 30 million albums sold worldwide that he either produced, rapped on or both. Dre entered the spotlight with the stunning success of his first group, the World Class Wrecking Cru, which he joined when he was 16. He later formed the legendary rap group N.W.A (Niggaz With Attitude), which he cofounded with Ice Cube and the late Eazy E in the mid-1980s. Death Row Records, his newest enterprise, sells about $50 million worth of recordings a year. The company has produced the work of Snoop Doggy Dogg and "Dreday," a song that features Dre rapping about finally getting his "props" (respect). Dre credits his mother for his success. "More was 16 when I was born, so we grew up together and we liked the same things," he says. "I was the music man for her parties. I've alwaysknown what good music was."
But Dre's extraordinary career hasn't escaped controversy. Credited as one of the originators of gangsta rap, Dre, as well as other members of N.W.A. has drawn fierce criticism for many of the group's songs, including the infamous "F --- tha Police." In the early days he also had several run-ins with the law, which resulted in charges ranging from assault to drunk driving. Today the 6-foot-1 former deejay with the hearty laugh and the boyish grin says he's older and wiser. "You take a 17-year-old from the ghetto and give him six or seven figures, and you're going to get some out-of-control s--t happening. But I've definitely matured in the last five years."
'World Odor': Dre's partner, Suge Knight, has always been more of a magnet for criticism than Dre himself. Knight, an ex-football player with a long police record and plenty of cash from a previous music-publishing deal, helped form Death Row in 1992. He has made enemies of other players in the industry. His alleged feud with Sean (Puffy) Combs has kept the industry buzzing (page 48).
Dre maintains he's not involved in a feud with anybody. He's simply the man behind the music. "I know that the rumors are out there, but I don't get involved with that," he says. "My job is making music, and that's what I do."
Dre won't be slowing down next year. He plans another solo album entitled "A, New World Odor, Papa's Got a Brand New Funk." He's also working on a deal with the entertainment firm Interscope to write, direct and produce films. Living up to the legacy of Quincy Jones is what Dre says he hopes to achieve. "Quincy Jones is my mentor in every aspect, and I want to be out there just like him, doing things, still being in the mix." In other words, Dreday, every day.