The success of Dr. Dre’s 2001 was hardly guaranteed. In the seven years fans waited patiently for its arrival, their expectations waned. By the time The Firm, Dre’s supergroup, flopped in 1997, even his biggest fans were starting to give up hope.
And then 2001 dropped, and all was right with the world. Against all the odds, it not only rivaled the immense achievement that was Dr. Dre’s 1992 album, The Chronic, but, arguably, surpassed it. 2001 was heralded by fans and critics alike, boasting ubiquitous hit songs like “Still D.R.E.” and such beloved deep cuts as “The Message.” It was West Coast hip-hop at its most cinematic—G-funk tuned to a unique, extraterrestrial frequency. If it weren’t for the album’s repugnant misogyny, it would be perfect.
Two decades later, the legacy of 2001 continues to thrive. Despite the countless kids who learned how to pirate music just so they could listen to it without their parents’ knowledge, 2001 has sold over 10 million copies worldwide. Multiple generations have come of age trying to nail the timing of Nate Dogg’s iconic “The Next Episode” outro. And now that these generations are the current torchbearers, they continue to embody the spirit of 2001 in ways they may not even realize.
To celebrate the album turning 20, we assembled this list to highlight its immeasurable influence on hip-hop and the world at large.
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