As a proud hip-hop head and member of the vestigial population of CD buyers, I was happy to add “The Chronic” to my collection this summer. I would finally be able to bury my most shameful secret: I’d never actually listened to the seminal Dr. Dre album. Sure, I knew “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” like everyone else, but I needed to fully immerse myself in that Compton wordplay. Shit made Tipper Gore’s crusade against ’80s rock stars look like an attack on Nick Jr. for its sex and violence.
Driving somewhere that wasn’t as important as the music I’d be listening to, I popped “The Chronic” into my car stereo. I felt like I did the day I spun “Illmatic” for the first time, when I stayed parked in my garage until the album finished. I’d have to remember to cut the ignition this time.
Did the disc just skip? Maybe they censored the intro as a joke. I stopped the car. I didn’t want to get pulled over for reckless driving. Sir, have you been drinking tonight? No, officer, I just found out I bought the clean version of “The Chronic.”
How the hell did this happen? What kind of cashier lets a customer walk away with a censored gangsta rap album? Who the fuck censors that shit in the first place? Here’s a brilliant idea: Let’s take the dirtiest music in America and clean it up so half the words are chopped up and backwards.
I canceled all my plans for the night and went home to lie in darkness and brood. I needed to make this right; I had to listen to “The Chronic” the way it was meant to be listened to — in all its profane glory. I could just download the album. After all, I had bought a copy, even if it wasn’t the right one. I wouldn’t have to feel like I was snatching food from Dre’s children’s mouths. But it wasn’t about the money. I had to avenge the good Doctor’s disgraced masterpiece.
I decided to dish out another $12. After finding a copy with a parental advisory label, I closed and opened my eyes repeatedly, making sure the label was there each time. When I was satisfied, I returned to the car and shoved the disc into the stereo, ready for the sound of redemption.