EDITORIAL: No Way Out vs The Chronic – Who Wins??
September 4, 2012 in Editorial
Back in the grand year of 1997 (which was the epitome of bittersweet), one of (if not THE) greatest rappers of all time was abruptly taken away from us on that now infamous L.A. strip. The whole Hip Hop community was devastated and stunned, no matter what horse they were riding on during the East/West conflict, and wondered where the game was going without arguably its brightest star of the moment no longer here. Another question many were whispering was W.W.P.D. (What Would Puffy Do)?? Riding his highest ever as an exec and label owner, most would figure that losing the main cog in his well-oiled machine would prove to be damaging to his brand, not to mention the emotional trauma such a tragedy can cause to a person. But Puff, as he has over the years time and time again, put on his finest of linens and danced his way through the adversity, all the while creating one of the most undervalued albums of all time in his opus, No Way Out, and reaching levels of success he hadn’t see up until that point.
Now rewind a little further back to 1992. Fresh off of splitting with his group N.W.A.(you may have heard of them) amid financial disagreements, the greatness that is otherwise known as Dr. Dre formed a new business relationship with former bodyguard and tough guy Suge Knight to create Death Row Records, with his quasi-solo debut in The Chronic serving as a deafening battle cry for the West’s crusade for worldwide domination, in the rap game at least. With a slew of hit singles and a sonic cohesiveness that arguably has yet to be rivaled, in most circles The Chronic ranks as a unanimous Top 15 (at worst) album in the history of our still growing culture and has served as the golden standard for all West Coast albums ever since.
Now, lets get back to the present. It is currently September 2012, 15 years and 20 years after the release of both projects respectively, and after many years for 20/20 hindsight to kick in, a question that would once come off as a blatant joke to most is now a viable question: Is No Way Out actually, dare I say, BETTER than The Chronic?? The album that REALLY put the West on the top for that mean early-mid 90′s winning streak, the album that largely introduced the omnipresent artist formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dogg, the album that embodied the mentality of L.A. residents after the cultural shockwave known as the L.A. Riots??? Again, to some the mere thought of this comparison would conjure disgust in the most reasonable of Hip Hop purists, who initially labeled Puff’s debut as The Devils Spawn..and that’s putting it in a kind way.
But the more I’ve though about it, the more I’ve started to lean to the side of white (linens/suits/etc). While The Chronic showcased the pure nihilism of urban Los Angeles amid police brutality (“The Day The Ni**az Took Over”), gang wars, and poverty, No Way Out is more known for its dark ambiance, with the always superficial Puff giving a TRUE glimpse of the inner-workings within his soul (“If I Should Die Tonight”, “Do You Know”, “Pain”), which he has rarely done ever since. With both albums being a compilation of sorts, I’ll give the nod to better supporting actors to the Bad Boy team, with Mase, The Lox, Lil Kim, and The Ghost Of Christopher Wallace trumping Snoop and the Death Row bench players.
While Dre’s production on The Chronic was more Tour De Force, the Bad Boy’s Hit Men took the production game to another level in 1997, concocting soundbeds similar to movie scores, with peaks and valleys to further showcase the various emotions working on the psyche of Sean Combs and the fam. And the singles??? “All About The Benjamins”, “Cant Nobody Hold Me Down”, “Victory”, “Been Around The World”, and the ubiquitous SMASH “I’ll Be Missing You”?? The Dre and Snoop combo is always a win, but I’ll probably give that lineup the edge against “G Thang”, “Dre Day” and “Let Me Ride”, by a reasonable margin as well.
Last but not least, while Dre’s flow was way more polished, we never saw Puff as a rapper in the 1st place so just the idea of him putting (err..reciting) competent rhymes together and the emotions behind the project gave him a little wiggle room in that department.
So, what do YOU guys think? The Chronic or No Way Out?? Let the debates begin and send all hate-mail to @preezydakid