Here at Cave Dweller Music, we want to spend part of Black History Month thinking about black artists and their contributions to art of all kinds. Music is obviously a big part of that. The influence of a person’s artwork can reach far and wide and can impact people far beyond the artist’s intended scope. Black artists time and again have contributed to the world of music – more than that, they have shaped it, sometimes in ways that people don’t always expect. To that very point, today I would like to share with you all how one particular black artist shaped my own life and helped lead me to where I am today – here with you all.
Written by Yari Wildheart
When I was quite young, a cousin of mine was a huge fan of oldschool west coast hip hop, and he absolutely idolized Eazy E and Tupac Shakur. At that point I was so young that I barely knew anything about music – certainly not old enough to really know about things like genres, and I barely knew the names of any artists. But even at that age, I knew when I loved the sound of some music. Hearing Thriller for the first time, or Beethoven’s 5th Symphony – you know, that instant knowledge of “this is hype stuff, I need more of this in my life.”
That’s exactly what I experienced the first time I heard Dr. Dre. My cousin had all these music videos, and he showed me the video for Fuck Wit Dre Day from Dre’s 1992 solo debut album, The Chronic. Honestly, it was a pretty weird music video to see as a kid. The song is fantastic, but there’s a skit at the beginning that goes for just under a minute making fun of Eazy E, who I didn’t really know at that time. Eazy and Jerry Heller hyping each other up to make loads of money, and this skit continues later on in the video, with Eazy bringing in fresh young rappers to sign their entire life away to Heller, before Dre turns up to blast the villains, laser sighted pistol in hand like a black James Bond. My cousin did his best to explain the old beef between Eazy and Dre to my young self, but to me at that time it was all just some hilariously great comedy.
Originally I wanted to get all these Dr. Dre albums I imagined were out there. I figured, if he’s this good, surely he must have dozens of records out there. Little did I know that Dr. Dre was famous for being a perfectionist in the studio, rarely being happy with a track enough to release it to the public. Add to that his love for production work, and that leads to me as a young fan craving more music that just didn’t exist. At first, I was just wanting to listen to “more of what I liked” which meant just Dr. Dre – kid stuff, you know. But I branched out pretty quickly, figuring that Dr. Dre’s friends must be good too, if he made sure to put them in his tracks like he did with Snoop. So I tried to get copies of any tracks with Dr Dre in them that I could – to my absolute delight, Dre had even done a track with B-Real from Cypress Hill.
Like when my cousin, years later, showed me the video for Natural Born Killaz with Ice Cube. My cousin and one of my siblings were both raving about how cool Ice Cube was and tried relentlessly to get me to understand. My kid brain didn’t fully grasp it til I heard Cube rap these bars:
“So fuck Charlie Manson
I’ll snatch him outta his truck,
Hit with with a brick, and I’m dancin’”
Hearing that sent me. The absolute brag, the fact that he’d say that on a track when most of the other music you heard was fairly mild radio stuff. You kind of felt that he would really do that, too, being who Manson was. Also, the idea that there was a rapper talking about beating up racists was great to me, especially given that I really hated racism even from a young age.