From DJ to music producer to headphones brand pioneer Dr. Dre has blazed a trail of consistent innovation within the music and entertainment industry.
His career began with the World Class Wreckin’ Cru, an RnB group that achieved moderate success throughout the mid-1980s. It may not have been Dre’s most groundbreaking move, but it cemented his role as a producer.
His next venture saw him partner with the street-smart Eazy-E, founding Ruthless Records and the critically acclaimed rap group N.W.A., who rode a storm of frenzied media attention, even reaching as far as the F.B.I.
From that point, Dre went on to build a Hip-Hop empire with Death Row, AfterMath, and Interscope with artists like 2 Pac, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, and many others.
The Dr. Dre Sound
What sets Dr. Dre apart from many others is his incredible aptitude for sonics and his relentless work ethic when it comes to achieving perfection on his mixes.
SSL SL 4000 E
The 4000 Series E was a major hallmark of Dr. Dre’s sound even before he acquired a console of his own. Its sonic warmth and clarity are the ideal characteristics for his production style and the flexible routing makes it a creative mixing platform.
What’s more, the precise but musical-sounding EQ section gives you the power to carve out any frequency range. So when you combine this with Dre’s MPC workflow which we’ll discuss later, you get an extremely powerful production system for sample-based music.
If you don’t have the budget for a console, summing your mix into 8 channels through a compact mixer like the SSL Big SiX can still change the character of the sound completely.
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SSL Big SiX
Of course, Dre didn’t only use samples in his music, he also recorded instrumentalists and worked closely with top collaborators like Scott Storch and Mike Elizondo.
From 2001 onwards, Dre used the KORG Triton workstation synthesizer for its wide range of high-quality sounds. The Triton series offered many advancements, from a multi-sample library and a powerful synthesis engine to sequencing and effects.
KORG is still a major force in the world of workstation synths, so the Nautilus provides a great option for creating sounds and sequencing music without a DAW.
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Korg Nautilus 88 AT
AKAI MPC 3000
The MPC 3000 has been used by some of the greatest Hip-Hop producers, but Dre brought it into his workflow with a much larger-scale approach than most.
At times, he would use 4 or 5 MPC’s, each mapped with a different set of drum samples or one-shots. Meanwhile, an additional MPC would be used to sequence the keyboard in the session, whether it was the KORG Triton or the Yamaha SY77.
MPC’s have changed considerably since the 1990s, and while many purists prefer vintage models, the MPC X SE still provides an incredibly versatile platform for music production in any genre.
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AKAI Professional MPC X SE
Sony C-800 G
Crystal vocal clarity is another key aspect of Dr. Dre’s sound, which is why the famous Sony C-800 G tube condenser was his first choice when it came to microphones.
You can hear it in use on many of the Eminem recordings where capturing the range of his voice artistry as cleanly as possible was the priority rather than adding colour to the sound.
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The Roland TR-808 was the quintessential sound of Hip-Hop in the 1980s. You can hear it in use on Gangsta Gangsta from the debut N.W.A. album, where it carves out the distinctive rhythm section of the track.
The 808 has punch, clarity, and most importantly, pitch. Even though not all of the drum voices can be pitched, once you sample them into the MPC you have another set of sound creation tools to work with.
There are many ways to get 808 sounds today, and it has certainly changed over the years, but the Behringer RD-8 offers an authentic and affordable recreation.
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Behringer RD-8 MKII
Which of your favourite artists would you like to see in our Sound-alike series? Please let us know in the comments below!
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- Korg Triton: Korg
- AKAI MPC3000: RL Music
- Sony C-800G: SONY
- Roland TR-808: Roland