Never discount humble beginnings. As the great Paul Arden quote goes, “it’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.” Dr. Dre went from being a rapper in the gangsta-rap group N.W.A. to launching Beat electronics – and he is now poised to become the first billionaire in rap. Of course, all this didn’t happen overnight. Everything that’s worthwhile takes time, effort and dedication. Here are the steps along Dr. Dre’s journey to wealth and abundant prosperity.
The NWA Years: 1986-1991:
This was the world’s official introduction to Dr. Dre. The N.W.A. crew was really stacked with talent. Other members of their posse included Ice Cube, MC Ren, Eazy-E and DJ Yella. Their first album in 1987 was titled Straight Outta Compton and it definitely took the music industry by surprise. It was raw and grimy and it was helmed by explosive songs like “F**k the Police.” Ice Cube would go on to leave the group and the remainder of the crew released a second album called Efil4Zaggin which packed the same ferocity and intensity. This LP performed well too, but the group was signed to Ruthless Records which was co-owned by group member, Eazy-E. Dr.Dre didn’t have the creative and financial control he desired, so he decided to leave the N.W.A. fold and find greener pastures.
The Death Row and Chronic Years: 1992 – 1996
Dr. Dre ended up at Death Row records, a budding musical empire which was run by the notorious Suge Knight. At Death Row, Dre produced and rapped over the title track for the movie Deep Cover. That song featured a young artist from Long Beach California called Snoop Doggy Dogg. The track was immensely successful and served as the appetizer single for Dre’s seminal solo album, The Chronic. This album had amazingly produced tracks like “Nothin’ But A G Thang” and “Let Me Ride” and it featured more appearances from Snoop Dogg and The Dogg Pound. The album was a huge success and it sold 3X Platinum (3 million records). After that, Dre served as the executive producer and creative force behind Snoop Dogg’s own debut album, Doggy Style and that album ended up going 4X Platinum. Following those dual successes, Death Row records ruled the rap game, and their catchy g-funk sound was earning all their artists millions of dollars.
The Blockbuster TuPac Collaboration:
In 1995, Death Row Records embraced the rebellious rapper TuPac into their fold. He was fresh out of jail and looking to impress, and Dr. Dre was the perfect producer to give him the backing music for his popular, rhyming style. The first single the duo put out was called “California Love.” It was a total smash that hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and it went 2X Platinum. By then, it was fully accepted that Dre had the magic touch in the studio. But he inevitably had a falling out with the rough-edged Suge Knight, and Dre decided to venture out on his own once again.
Launch of Aftermath Entertainment:
When Dre left Death Row records, he formed his own record label called Aftermath Entertainment. With this new venture, his aim was to step away from the gangster-rap tag that he had embraced his entire career and develop a more mainstream acceptable sound. His first few releases did reasonably well on the Billboard charts but the fans didn’t really respond warmly to the new sound.
The Eminem Discovery:
However, a record executive named Jimmy Iovine, who was the main guy at Interscope records (the parent company of Dre’s label) gave him a hint that would change Dre’s career forever. Iovine mentioned a young white rapper from Detroit named Eminem and suggested that Dre should produce his debut album. Dre immediately saw the talent in this young upstart and scooped him up to his Aftermath label. The debut album from Eminem was a huge global success and Eminem was immediately a permanent fixture on the rap scene.
The Second Dre Solo Album – 2001:
Dre used that momentum of Eminem’s debut album to release his second solo album titled 2001. This was a huge hit too, and he continued to craft lucrative songs for a slew of urban artists. Some of those included huge hits for Mary J. Blige, Bilal , 50 Cent (who was signed by Eminem) and Truth Hurts. It is reported that during this period, Dre made $52 million in 2001 and in 2004 he made another $11.4 million – mainly for royalty production for other artists.
The Launch of Beats Audio:
The same music industry executive Jimmy Iovine who tipped him about Eminem would also be his partner in the venture that would really take Dr. Dre over the top. The entrepreneurial duo launched an audio equipment company called Beats by Dre in 2006. The benchmark of Beats was their stellar sounding headphones which apparently allows the listener to really hear the music in a way that totally eclipsed the competition. The headphones were quickly embraced by professional athletes, other rappers and legions of consuming masses. It was definitely a runaway hit, and by September 2013, the company was ranked to have a net worth of $1 billion. In 2012, Dre’s net worth was estimated to be $270 million and in early 2014, Forbes mentioned that Dre had a net worth of $350 million.
The Apple Announcement – May 28th 2014:
There had been rumors going around about it for a couple of weeks, but it was officially announced on May 28th of this year that global tech behemoth Apple would be purchasing Iovine’s and Dre’s Beats audio company (which now includes a Pandora-like streaming service). The price tag: an unbelievable $3 billion dollars. When all the dust settled, Dre’s net worth had quickly jumped to a whopping $800 million dollars. Dre and Iovine will also be joining Apple as part of the company’s creative and product development team. Congratulations Dr. Dre, you are on your way to becoming Hip-Hop’s first billionaire.