"Ah neee owder ellows!"
Those are Dr. Dre's shouted instructions, heard through a storm of bass and beats so deafening that a full-size couch is actually lurching off the ground, like a great green whale preparing to breach. Realizing that he can't be heard, Dre touches a button on the mixing board and the music stops. "I need louder cellos," he says in a normal voice to the recording-studio technician. Then quietly to himself, "Cellos make everything sound evil."
Dr. Dre is not an instrumentalist. "I bought a trumpet a couple of years ago, and everybody started hiding from me," he says with a cackle. Yet Dre, ne Andre Young, 36, has been producing and recording music for 20 years. He started as a DJ with the disco-inspired World Class Wrecking Cru, and went on to form N.W.A., help create gangsta rap, have a multiplatinum solo career, discover Snoop Dogg and Eminem, win the 2001 Grammy for Producer of the Year and infuse rap with a permanent musicality that buoyed it across the mainstream.
Dre is also a global phenomenon. The two most recent albums he has produced, his own Chronic 2001 and Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP, have sold 25 million copies worldwide. He's a multiplatinum seller in territories--Japan, New Zealand, Australia and Eastern Europe--that were distant hip-hop outposts a few years ago. Dre's distributor, Interscope Records, receives 4,000 requests a year from labels in such places as India, Turkey, Southeast Asia and Israel that want to add Dre tracks to international hip-hop compilations. Beyond his mere reach, Dre has also brought depth. Pepe Mogt, a composer who founded Tijuana's hip Nortec Collective of DJs, says, "What he did with his music was very influential for us because he created music that described the place of his origin [Compton, Calif.], which is something we try to do. Also, his sound is just incredible."
Currently, Dre is holed up in a Los Angeles recording studio putting the finishing touches on the sound track to the film The Wash, in which he co-stars with Snoop Dogg. "First off," he says, hands folded in front of him as he waits for a track to be re-cued, "I want to be known as the producer's producer. The cellos are real. I don't use samples." He says this with a touch of derision, as if sampling is a vulgarity in the producer's palette. "I may hear something I like on an old record that may inspire me, but I'd rather use musicians to re-create the sound or elaborate on it. I can control it better." Control is Dre's thing. Every Dre track begins the same way, with Dre behind a drum machine in a room full of trusted musicians. (They carry beepers. When he wants to work, they work.) He'll program a beat, then ask the musicians to play along; when Dre hears something he likes, he isolates the player and tells him how to refine the sound. "My greatest talent," Dre says, "is knowing exactly what I want to hear."