Atlantic / Ruthless, 1989
Born in Houston and raised in Dallas, The D.O.C., known as Doc-T, began his Hip Hop career as a teenager in the early 80’s with his group Fila Fresh Crew alongside Fresh K and Dr. Rock. The latter joined forces with Dr. Dre in the World Class Wreckin’ Cru, which later allowed them to meet the other members of Ruthless and N.W.A. The Fila Fresh Crew also appeared on the first N.W.A. compilation, N.W.A. and The Posse, released in 1987. After a first album with his band, Tuffest Man Alive, in 1988, Fila Fresh Crew will split and The D.O.C. will continue a solo career with a contract with Ruthless and will settle in Los Angeles.
While evolving alongside N.W.A., The D.O.C. managed to get a first solo album, No One Can Do It Better released in 1989, entirely produced by Dr. Dre with whom he was very close. Dr. Dre always knew how to find and recognize talent, The D.O.C. was the first, and together they made one of the best rap albums of the late 80s.
Although never an official member of N.W.A., The D.O.C. has always been very close to its members. He also wrote part of the lyrics of Straight Outta Compton for Dr. Dre or Eazy-E alongside Ice Cube and MC Ren, as well as made an appearance on the track Parental Discretion Iz Advised. As a very skilled lyricist, the Dallas rapper has always been in the shadow of Ice Cube, and to a lesser extent MC Ren, both official members of the group. However, The D.O.C. is extremely talented, I would even say that he is the best lyricist of Ruthless, if it can be discussed compared to Ice Cube, it is already less debatable compared to MC Ren.
While he was Dr. Dre’s “ghost” writer for a very long time, during his N.W.A. period but especially for The Chronic, The D.O.C. has a much more researched style than Ice Cube and MC Ren, who are much more direct and aggressive in the narration. I don’t question the writing talents of N.W.A.’s two lyricists, this aggressive, uncompromising and claiming gangsta rap is of course what appealed to the listeners, but The D.O.C. had an ability to stay street and gangsta while being much more clever and subtle.
Mind Blowin, The D.O.C.A little something for the bretheren with intellect to truly understand it
It’s like a message from the one who’s gettin candid
Making a mark on the strength with rhyme ain’t like nuttin
when you’re pumpin, somethin that’s bumpin
Did it, cause it’s like I had to make one
Better than the last one, cause a mistake? None!
But somethin new, was needed in the mix to
make it as lethal, so lethal that I would think you
couldn’t be made to invade certain areas
No other jurisdiction, but that was fiction!
As you progress, and you’re enlightened
And the better you’re writin by never bitin you’re excitin
to the crowd, club, congregation, or gatherin
Homies in the street they’ll be thinkin you O.G.!
Smooth, wordy example of how I’m livin
By gettin this prime, pumpin records that’ll blow your mind
Fan of groups like Public Enemy or Run D.M.C., and globally of the East Coast, The D.O.C. is totally inspired by this more subtle style to write his lyrics. And it is also what differentiates him from N.W.A. with a much less claiming tendency, or at least much more fine in the writing. He has an incredible ability to create clever rhymes while remaining street and gangsta enough, he doesn’t fool his audience. The D.O.C. doesn’t sound pretentious or smug on the mic, he wants his message to be understood without insulting the intelligence of his audience, with a vocabulary that is both simple and sophisticated. He will not look for the most complex metaphor that could hinder the understanding for all, on the contrary, he will find effective rhymes that slide in the ear without being too direct or aggressive. The Dallas rapper has all the makings of an orator when it comes to writing lyrics.
Beyond his talent as a lyricist, his talent as a rhymer is amazing, The D.O.C. doesn’t make a false rhyme, he hits all the right notes. He slides his rhymes across the lines while staying perfectly in the beat, he doesn’t miss a beat. His breath control is prodigious, even with a cadenced flow, Lend Me An Ear, or slower, Mind Blowin, he always remains fluid and percussive with an indecent naturalness and an imposing hoarse voice. A real presence at the microphone.
Add DOC’s presence to Dre’s productions and we get a classic explosive cocktail. The bass line on It’s Funky Enough is truly and amazingly melodious. Most of the tracks are funky with a mix of synth, drum machines and live instruments. But there are also rock influences, very noticeable with the electric guitar riff of Beautiful But Deadly, inspired by Run D.M.C and Public Enemy. Let The Bass Go has a little funky air with its sample of No Name Bar by Isaac Hayes. The little flute whistle on the chorus of The Formula is beautiful, not to mention the incredible instrumental closing of the track. We’re talking about the chemistry of Dre and Snoop, even if it’s less obvious between Dr. Dre and The D.O.C., it’s present. The orchestration and the mix are perfect for a unique atmosphere mastered with precision.
Unfortunately, a few months after the release of the album, The D.O.C. will undergo an almost fatal car accident, which will affect irremediably his vocal cords. Even if we will still be able to enjoy his writing talents on albums like The Chronic, his talents as a master of ceremonies are definitely destroyed. Even if we will have other albums like Helter Skelter or Deuce, The D.O.C. will never be the same again.
As tragic as his accident is the recognition of The D.O.C. as an MC and lyricist, and the place that No One Can Do It Better occupies in Hip Hop today. An outstanding album, unparalleled, perfect in every way, and yet it seems to have been forgotten by the collective Hip Hop culture. Nevertheless, the first album of The D.O.C. is a rap masterpiece. And it’s only by listening to this album that one understands what Hip Hop has lost as a result of this accident. No one could do it better than him at that time.