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G Funk Specialist

12/21/2000 9:00 PM, Yahoo! Music
Marci Kenon

It's been a very good year for Dr. Dre . First, he masterminded the Up In Smoke package tour, one of hip-hop's most successful tours ever. Fans who weren't fortunate enough to witness the live performances of Dre, Eminem , Snoop Dogg , Ice Cube , and Xzibit on the tour now have the opportunity to buy an Up In Smoke DVD, which also features exclusive backstage footage.

His own Aftermath record label also released his long-awaited follow-up to The Chronic , Dr. Dre 2001 , which has sold more than 6 million units to date. Aftermath also dropped Eminem's sophomore album, The Marshall Mathers LP , which has sold more than 7 million copies. Meanwhile, No Limit released Snoop Dogg's Tha Last Meal , which features Dre's production and mixing talents on several cuts, and Loud Records released Xzibit's Restless , which Dre executive-produced; sales expectations for both albums are very high.

"I have definitely had a good year," Dre admits, as he sits in his trailer during the video shoot for "X," Xzibit's first single. "It's cool."

Dre seems surprised by the hoopla surrounding his affiliation with Xzibit. "I didn't know [ Restless ] was the most highly anticipated record," he says incredulously. "I knew people were waiting to hear it and sh-t. I didn't know it was like that. That's cool. That's good sh-t. He's a good guy. He deserves it."

Just how did Dre become so intrinsically involved in the making of Xzibit's album? "He just asked me," Dre chuckles. "It wasn't no big decision-making process. He came to the studio and asked me if I would executive-produce his record, and I said, 'Yeah.' We started blueprinting it out, coming up with a plan of how we were going to do it."

This hip-hop veteran may have started out as a member of the legendary Compton rap group N.W.A. , but now he's as famous for his production skills as he is for his own music. This creative genius and savvy businessman is quick to shed some light on the difference between executive-producing an album and producing a song:

"A lot people just figure that they can pay for the record, and get the title of 'executive production' when that's not the case," he explains. "Executive-producing, in my mind, is helping pick the tracks, maybe producing some of the tracks, really being hands-on with the actual music: my saying, 'Xzibit, that track you got from so-and-so is not hot, let's use this track over here from so-and-so. Maybe you should rhyme about this.' Just basically helping put the record together. A lot of records have come out that have executive production credits on them, and it's just people paying for studio time--if that. Producing [on the other hand], is going into the studio and directing a record from bottom to top. My producing a record is my starting from the first hi-hat 'til the mix is done."

As soon as Dre produces a record, he knows whether it's going to be a hit or not. "I have to feel it," he says with an earnest gleam in his eyes, adding with a laugh, "I get this little tingling sensation in my balls and sh-t. Then I know it's right."

So how does Dre think his latest production protégé will sell? Is he getting that familiar tingling sensation? "I think [ Restless ] is going to do well," he predicts. "[Xzibit] will probably do 2 or 3 million copies off of this album, but the next album is going to be the one to look for. I guess I can compare it to Eminem. His first album grabbed everybody's attention; the next one, his album that is out right now, is going to sell 10 to 12 million albums."

Dre has a reputation for being a perfectionist in the studio, and he doesn't deny that. He confirms this assessment with a nod and one word: "Definitely." However, the artists who have worked with him don't seem to mind his perfectionism, considering his track record.

"There is definitely a high standard when you walk into the studio," Xzibit assures. "It's not as strict and straight-up as everybody thinks--it is a work environment, but it's relaxed and impromptu. He works with actual live musicians. You go in with more of a vibe, then once you get a direction going, you put the pieces together."

Eve has been in the studio with Dre working on tunes for her second album, Scorpion , dropping on Ruff Ryders/Interscope on February 20. "We never worked closely before," says the platinum-selling hip-hop diva, who was once signed to Aftermath before eventually signing to the Ruff Ryders ' label, which released her debut, Let There Be Eve...Ruff Ryders' First Lady . "I did one song [with Dre], and I am going back to L.A. to do one more. He wanted me to come up with a certain type of flow. He's really involved as far as how I flow--not so much my words, but my bounce on the track. It's great. He's very creative, and he's very excited about the project, so it's been real good energy."

It will be a challenge for Dre to top the year 2000. In 2001, he'll be turning his attention to some R&B projects, including Truth Hurts, a St. Louis-based R&B songstress signed to Aftermath. He'll also lend his production to some up-and-coming rap acts on a new West Coast rap label called L.A. Confidential.

However, despite all this outside activity, it doesn't seem like fans will have to wait too long for his next solo album. "The Internet's going to be the concept for my next album," Dre says, a surprising revelation considering his lawsuit against Napster in early 2000. "I'm probably going to start on it in summer 2001, and it's probably going to take me 10 months to a year to make the record right."

Seems like for Dre, it'll indeed be 2001: A Musical Odyssey...