By Matt Kuhnen
Dr. Dre is an institution for hip-hop heads, crate diggers, and bedroom producers. He’s a true pioneer of the G-Funk Era who has influenced generations and launched careers. But why am I telling you this? You’re hip. You aint no mark-ass buster.
I’m dropping knowledge bombs as it’s that time of year again when a collective of likeminded musicians, performers, DJs and producers descend upon the iconic Double Door to celebrate the D-R-E with live performances, elaborate stage sets, a Chronic-inspired photo booth, a crip walk contest, and Dr. Dre karaoke. The night promises to deliver the West Coast gansta rap scene to the Midwest.
I was able to chat with Nigel Ridgeway, AKA DJ Trew (Altered Tapes, Groundlift Media, Style Matters DJs) one of the performers and organizers of the 7th annual Dre Day. Trew breaks down the origins of the event, how Dre has influenced him as an artist, and why this year’s celebration will be the biggest yet.
MK: What sparked the creation of Dre Day?
NR: Our friends at Burlesque of North America hosted the event originally in Minnesota. While listening to Dre’s classic track “Fuck wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)” the event began as an answer to the question, “What if there was really a Dre Day?” Eventually the idea caught on with our network of DJ friends and here we are. It’s a global happening now.
MK: How has Dre Day evolved since its humble beginnings?
NR: We first did Dre Day at Small Bar on a blistery cold Wednesday night in February 2009. It was mildly attended and consisted mainly of us drinking too many 40s and spinning to gangster rap. Honestly not much has changed, but we’ve grown considerably and sell out Double Door nowadays. The whole idea remains the same regardless of size though. You could in theory have a one-man Dre Day party.
MK: What is going to set this year apart from past Dre Days?
NR: Brass band! This year’s event falls around Mardi Gras, and in that spirit we’ve got a local brass band headlining and performing covers of classic Dre songs (Low Down Brass Band). There’ll be a 4 turntable showcase from Altered Tapes, and we’re expanding the lineup into the Double Door’s No. 3 space with DJ Sean Doe of MTV generation doing west coast and 90s rap video mixing.
MK: Why do think Chicago’s Dre Day is the best?
NR: BRO! You answered your own question. Because it’s Chicago’s Dre Day. We started this event with the intention of always going big. Other cities do bigger events too, while some are just bar nights. It’s all good either way. We all do this because as DJs and producers, there’s a lot of ways for us to appreciate Dre. #1 is he’s a digger, and #2, everything he’s produced, down to the most gangster-ish tracks, can all work on a dance floor. For a DJ that’s huge. His stuff is a go-to in my sets always.
NR: What are you brining to this event as a performer, and how has Dre’s music influenced you?
NR: Preforming as Altered Tapes, we just want to rock a solid set that pays homage to the various sounds he had over the years. We also want to showcase what Altered Tapes does, so expect live remixing and a lot of samples. I’d say the D.O.C. debut album is a major influence for me. The amount of sampling he does, the layers of sound… it’s pretty amazing right down to the song structure. But my personal history with it has always related somehow back to rebellion and partying. I can’t tell you how many house parties I’ve fueled just by putting on The Chronic or 2001 CD.
MK: Everyone involved seems collectively united by Dre. How did this camaraderie between everyone develop?
NR: Pretty much everyone involved has been a part of the Chicago hip-hop scene and working together for years. This is a guesstimate, but figure over 250 years total experience between us all, and that’s probably a low ball guess. We usually drink and party together so Dre Day is just a turned up, more theatrical version of that.
MK: Other than the music there is a ton to get the crowd involved and entertained. Describe the range in party goers, and how this adds to the overall atmosphere of the night.
The age varies, really. His career spanned such a long time, his music has easily touched on three generations by now, and the turnout reflects this. It’s all about the crowd though. We’ve cultivated a house party vibe, and just like in real life the party is only as fun as the partygoers. And our partygoers … let’s say they fully embrace the Dre Day theme. It’s a blast, and should be experienced at least once in your life!
For info on tickets and the full line up, visit http://doubledoor.com/events/dre-day-2015/