October 26th is Deandre's birthday and to commemorate 11 years, I’ve decided to post a breakdown of the compilation album I put out for Dre after he passed. Originally I released 2 versions of the project as Dre’s Tape (October 26th Edition) with 13 tracks to commemorate his birthday and Dre’s Tape (April 14th Edition) with 8 tracks for the day he died. Eventually, I condensed them into one for The Complete And Final Edition with 2 extra songs and removed a couple of the interludes to fit neatly onto a CD, one of which used to sit at his grave.
Music is everything to me and I still make it. At the time of his death, I hadn’t made anything in a while and it was only fitting that I did. Dre and I had a group, which I’ll explain on “It’s Just Me (Remix)” and I even had separate groups afterward, but I was at a standstill. Dre’s passing reinvigorated me and I got to work right after, literally recording the first songs in June after he passed in April. And a BIG shout out to my friend Angel AKA The Missionaire. In looking for a place to record, I came across his services on Craigslist and we became fast friends. He showed me how to make a minimal home recording studio setup, recorded, and mixed those songs. Every new song created for each tape was recorded and mixed by him and we even went on to record other songs afterward together. I continue to use his methods to this day and I’m forever grateful. With that said, let’s get to it.
1. “Dre’s Introduction” - In 2009, Dre had a crush on a woman on YouTube who did hair tutorials and since I had a camera, we decided to record a video reply to her for him to profess his love. These days I would’ve told him ‘absolutely not’ but I’m glad we did it because I used audio from it to have him introduce his own tribute (with clips from our own songs interspersed.) I wanted to use as much as I could from him in his tribute so this was super helpful. Also, the woman in question didn’t formally respond but I’m sure she saw it as she didn’t have a large following. I do wonder what the hell we were thinking at the time but it worked out.
2. “A Brotherhood (In 4 Acts)” by Brilliance Proper - This was probably the most ambitious song and I think the first recorded. It’s obvious I hadn’t rhymed in a while and was still emotional about it all but the show must go on. It gives a rundown of our relationship from getting cool in detention all the way until the end of his life and his funeral as a true story. Everything said is accurate and it’s pretty straightforward in the storytelling and I used several beats from a 14KT beat tape called Nowalataz that had come out earlier. Years later it sounds like I barely knew how to rap but my heart was in it more than anything. One day I may re-record the whole thing with a budget.
3. “Rahman’s Dedication” - The plan was to have several people recall stories of Dre as interludes. Dre’s sister was to be one of those but she stopped speaking to me over time and ended up not making the project entirely. Rah (Rock) was first up as he, Dre, and I established a trio called The TRYAD and had an early version of a podcast created in the early 2000s during the MySpace era. We had conference calls and recorded a few episodes that were uploaded but we were just great friends in general. Although Dre and I met first, The TRYAD existed from the time we all linked up and Rah was actually the last between us to actually speak with him the night before he died. Rah recorded his tribute on his phone in a closet and sent it to me. You can hear him start crying towards the end and the first time I heard it, I cried as well. Bang bang, TRYAD Gang indeed.
4. “2nd Life” by Brilliance Proper - I’m an atheist but I honestly want to believe in reincarnation. The thought of dying early scares the hell out of me because, to an atheist, that’s it. This track is my way of hoping that if Dre was reincarnated, his 2nd life would be better than the first and he could maybe see things differently to want to live. On top of that, I then had to live a 2nd life as well: one where he wasn’t alive in the future with me. I also produced this beat from scratch which I’m pretty happy about. It’s somber but that bass knocks.
5. “Tribute” by Q-Rock - Marquis is someone that Dre and I went to high school with. While he wasn’t necessarily a part of the inner circle on the same level as Rah, we still were cool. When he came to visit Texas after Dre passed, I got him to record his song over this instrumental from a Dela beat tape at Angel’s place. Unfortunately, Marquis and I really aren’t speaking any longer due to some differences but I’ll always appreciate our contributions together. We even made songs after Dre’s Tape (something I address later in this album on “Flowers”) and there’s another track we’ll discuss on this tape.
6. “It’s Just Me (Remix)” by Paraminds - Dre and I initially got cool over music and wrote rhymes together as a group called Paraminds (Pair-Of-Minds). We have a book of rhymes that I still have where we wrote songs together but because of certain limitations, we NEVER recorded together while he was alive, something that saddens me to my core. The original version of “It’s Just Me” is a solo song from a separate group that I was in called Misalliance Squadron. We dropped an album that sold 30 copies (maybe less) in 2003 in Tennessee and it was basically my way of proclaiming myself as an outsider even in the group as the other 3 members knew each other for years before I came into the fold. Unbeknownst to me, I sent Dre a copy of the album and he recorded a separate verse of his own to the beat of my song (that I produced on the eJay program before I switched to FL Studio a year or two later.) When he passed, I wanted us to have SOMETHING together, so I Frankensteined a version of my solo song for the album. The only recorded Paraminds song in existence. I put the sound effect in the middle because the levels he used to record with were WAY off but I was told later it sounded like a gunshot when it’s an explosion. My fault. I also re-recorded my verse to sound a little better and to adjust it slightly as the original had the N-word included and I don’t say it in my music anymore. I’m glad he recorded it.
7. “Endurance” by Brilliance Proper - Another beat I produced (there’s also a reverse version of this beat with the piano placement arranged differently) more or less, it’s me discussing how I endured everything to get through his loss. I also mentioned his white wrestling belt which is his WWE Intercontinental Title belt he had displayed on his living room table. After he passed, I talked to his family and asked if it was okay for them to give me the belt and they agreed to give it to me whenever they got the chance to go through his things...keep a pin in that.
(From here, the tracklist is off by one due to SoundCloud removing a song that was a compilation of other songs strung together. It was up for a while before they started pulling things for copyright reasons. Honestly, I’m surprised several songs on here are still up but...I digress.)
8. “Flowers” - by Brilliance Proper and 15. “Time To Choose” - by N-No-Sent ST - Dre has a younger cousin who was an incredibly talented rapper. I never met him but I have a demo tape Dre produced for him plus some loose tracks here and there. One song that always struck me was called “Time To Choose” where Dre created this lovely and dark piano beat (my favorite kind of beat) that showed off his cousin’s talent with a beautiful backdrop. It’s about his cousin being a drug dealer and his girlfriend making him choose between him and the drug game. It’s an old idea but sounded fresh when he did it...especially since he wasn’t actually a drug dealer but had an active imagination. I added it to the album because it was a great song that inspired me to create “Flowers”.
Regarding “Flowers”, I created a video called “Flowers For The Dead” about how people at cemeteries bring flowers to alert the living that the dead are still loved and appreciated since the dead can’t appreciate the flowers themselves. I nagged Dre for YEARS to give me the “Time To Choose” beat because I just...wanted it. I still love it to this day. He never did and so when he died, I sampled as much of the original as I could and created the beat for “Flowers.” This was the first song I recorded for the April 14th Edition and the only song that has a video. In it, I discuss in more detail how I had been after he died and talked “to” him, and voiced my frustrations with his death. I also referenced the white wrestling belt again. Sadly, I never got it from the family as I lost contact with them before this came out. If you can tell, I sounded more comfortable on the remaining songs on the album as I started recording more regularly in between the projects, so there’s a change in quality between the first and second half. With all of that said, I’ve never met his cousin and maybe one day I will. But that’s for another day.
9. “Catch A Phrase” by LSD - Dre’s rap name was Lyrical Sniper Dre or LSD. With that, he recorded very little but did at least come out with this. “Catch A Phrase” was self-produced and about all of the random catchphrases that so many rappers had. He had an ear for the same old patterns so he made, what I thought was, a clever song about rap in the early 2000s. I wanted to have his voice throughout this project as much as possible, which is why he’s on 5 tracks. Also, I’ve never released any of the book of rhymes but Dre was hands down one of my favorite emcees in the world and I’m not joking. He was ahead of his time, especially for his age. I can’t even imagine how good he would’ve been now, especially with more time in the studio. This is just a glimpse.
10. “Still D-R-E” by Brilliance Proper - This song has the most streams on SoundCloud because of the title. And while it does use the Dr. Dre instrumental of the same name for obvious reasons, it’s obviously different. The last verse was actually another verse I had written for something else but fit into the theme of this song being positive in the name of Dre. Not much to this one, just a fun song for Dre. Admittedly though, not my favorite to on here.
11. “Toast” and 18. “Toast (Original)” by Q-Rock - The first version on the album isn’t the original version of the beat. I added it to the end after I realized I was wrong in putting this one up. Marquis self-produced the original beat to the song and when I heard it, I wasn’t impressed. I asked him for the vocals only and added them to this beat from a Cormega instrumental tape. It made it more dramatic and it fit perfectly. When I first mixed it, I impressed myself and convinced him this was the best version. Then I went back and listened to his original...was it the super sweeping production with all of the drama of the beat I gave him? No. But it had plenty of heart and wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought on my first listen. To make it up to him, I added this as a bonus to close out the album. His full version is chill, making me think of him in a room by himself reminiscing over Dre. It grew on me and I actually listen to the original version more now.
12. “Timo’s Story” - Timo is a longtime friend of ours all the way back to high school. He and I were actually pallbearers at Dre’s funeral. He wasn’t super enthused to record, which is why his is so short, but after Dre’s sister didn’t come through, he agreed to record something in her place. It’s a story about us going to watch WrestleMania at Buffalo Wild Wings. Dre was a HUGE Shawn Michaels fan. I even mentioned this fact in “Flowers”. Wrestling was a big part of our friendships, especially with Timo and me now. I'm still happy he showed up for me once again. I own him a lot.
13. “Speeding” by Brilliance Proper - My other favorite song on the album produced by my homie James The Pool Boy who I haven’t heard from in about a decade. Regardless, this beat was too good to pass up and it fit perfectly regarding something Dre and I used to do a lot: run from shit we got ourselves into. And we ran a LOT. This song is dedicated to three different running incidents (one at school, one in a car, and the last related to the car incident) and they’re funny as hell. I feel like I should do a video commentary breakdown to explain it in more detail but really, everything that happened is included. Another showing of my comfort being back on the microphone and storytelling. So much happened as a result of me recording this project but I’ll save that for the book.
14. “Dre’s Unused Beats” - I want to say Dre was producing on the eJay program or something else simple back in the early 2000s. One day he emailed me this compilation of unused beats as he narrated their supposed use. It was a pleasant surprise, especially since he wouldn’t give me the damn “Time To Choose” beat. There wasn’t enough free space on the beats for me to use as regular songs (and they were pretty dated when he sent them to me, but I do still have a few more) but it’s nice to hear him in those moments to get inside his head. Things like this make me cherish his memory even more.
16. “TRYAD Radio Talk” by the TRYAD - This was our early radio/podcast/MySpace show we recorded on our phones. Three episodes were recorded and while I do have all of them still, this is probably the least problematic of them and it was still...of its time. I mainly put this on here to show how our personalities worked together. We had great times and lots of laughs (and afterward lots of GROWTH because holy shit was wild) on top of just being like brothers. I feel like Rah and I need a good long phone call…
17. “Know That” by Brilliance Proper - The beat is from the first Mos Def album and I had overlooked it for a while. We were in the Power Zone on post together (look it up) and someone had put the CD in one of the stereos. He skipped to that song and turned the volume ALL THE WAY UP. He excitedly started reciting the words and I realized how fucking amazing the track was. When it came down to the last song to record, I had to use this one as a send-off to let him know that I still love him.