Doctor Dre: Hip-Hop Pioneer
The man who brought backstreet music to mainstream America is aiming to battle the diabetes health crisis.
Can’t Stop Hip Hop
In New York, during the 1980s, hip hop began its takeover. High-powered beats thumped through boomboxes on the streets and subways, and men with high-top fades beatboxed to ladies in gold knocker hoops on brownstone steps. Soon after, the Sugarhill Gang introduced hip hop in the Bronx, and it began to whirlwind into something bigger than life. Today, hip hop isn’t just a style of music; it’s a culture, lifestyle, and worldwide phenomenon.
André “Doctor Dre” Brown is part of that hip hop revolution. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, people could tune in weekly to see his face and jovial spirit as a co-host on Yo! MTV Raps, an urban music television show. Doctor Dre broke down barriers and helped bring hip-hop music to the mainstream. He is a celebrated American radio personality, hip-hop entertainer, DJ, actor, talent scout, rapper, composer, diabetes activist, and author. He’s rubbed shoulders with hip-hop icons like Run DMC and Jam Master J, Public Enemy, Ice T, Bobby Brown, Tupac, NWA, TLC, Shaquille O’Neal, along with these legendary actors, John Amos and Pam Grier.
He plans to release a book later this year called The Doctor Dre Episodes 1989 -1995, detailing the highs and lows of being at the forefront of hip hop.
On the Airwaves
Brown is a native of Newcassel/Westbury, Long Island. His passion for music started when he was a DJ at WBAU, a New York-based radio station with offices in Adelphi University in Garden City. Together with a group of DJs at the radio station, Brown founded the DJ group “the Concept,” a hip-hop music group in the early 1980s. The group was known as Original Concept after 1985 and in 1988 recorded an album called Straight from the Basement of Kooley High on Def Jam Records.
Their most known record is Pump that Bass, a popular urban song that has been sampled by over 130 artists like Eric B. and Rakim, and Lil’ Wayne. The success of this album, coupled with his media knowledge and infectious personality, gained the attention of MTV.
In 1989, MTV was a thriving music TV channel that mainly played rock and similar genres. Yo! MTV Raps was the network’s attempt to reach a broader urban market. And thanks in part to Doctor Dre, Yo! MTV Raps was a success. He joined the cast a year after the show debuted. Doctor Dre was a weekday co-host with Ed Lover. Later, T Money, an original member of the Original Concept music group, joined them, and on weekends, the program was hosted by the legendary Fab 5 Freddy.
Although surrounded by famous hip-hop legends, he stayed grounded through his family. “We had lots of notable guests on our show, but our favorite ones were our moms,” he says.
Plugged into Entertainment
After Yo! MTV Raps, Doctor Dre starred in Who’s the Man, a 1993 film that was directed by Ted Demme, who was both the co-director and co-creator for Yo! MTV Raps. He also co-hosted another radio morning show with Ed Lover when the legendary HOT 97 (WQHT) radio station re-launched in the early 1990s.
He also worked as a DJ for a New York City-based hip-hop group known as the Beastie Boys. Doctor Dre recorded another album in 1994 with his friend and MTV co-host Ed Lover called Back Up Off Me on Relativity Records, a New York-based recording label. In 2003, he co-starred with Lover and Denis Leary in the Who’s the Man film’s Comedy Central Roast. He has also made appearances on TV shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Beat with Ari Melber.
Beyond the Beat
Aside from his love of hip hop, Doctor Dre has another cause that he is deeply tied to. After being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, he partially lost his eyesight. Undeterred, Doctor Dre didn’t lose sight of his overall mission to make the world a better place.
Today, Doctor Dre is a champion for healthy living and type 2 diabetes advocacy. Diagnosed in the early 2000s, he explains how he didn’t take his health condition seriously. According to him, it was his “stubbornness” that led to his worsening health conditions. However, he has since vowed to encourage others not to make the same mistakes he did and take pride in their health. “We should take our health seriously because no one is promised tomorrow, and the only thing you can be responsible for is your health and wellness,” he says.
Doctor Dre has learned a lot about himself since his diagnosis. He has worked with various “holistic doctors” and focuses on what he puts into his body. He’s scheduled a weight-loss surgery to help minimize the effects of the disease, and he’s had a retina reattachment surgery. Doctor Dre created the Victory Foundation to assist with the visually impaired, enhance diabetic treatment, and begin the health and wellness revolution. According to Doctor Dre, “Without your health, you are not wealthy.” His wish is to create a coalition of people to engage in the epidemic of diabetes through his health and wellness revolution campaign.