Sunday, April 4, 2010

Reginald C. Dennis: "regret" giving five mics to Nas Illmatic and "only" 4.5 to The Chronic

HipHopDX: Any albums you regret not giving the coveted five mic rating?
Reginal Dennis: In 1992, we gave Dr. Dre’s The Chronic four-and-a-half mics. Had I the opportunity to press reset, I would have given it a five. Here’s the story:

We got the advance of the album in October of 1992 and it immediately became an office favorite. And our version was a little better than the one everyone else got to hear because we had the joint that was sequenced differently, had different song arrangements and in some instances, different lyrics. It was all good. In fact it was too good — and I didn’t want to let the album out of my sight, so I decided that it would be reviewed totally in-house, meaning that a fellow Source editor would handle the task.

So my man Matty C, fellow editor and the king of "Unsigned Hype," did the do, and he gave it four-and-a-half — he thought "Lil' Ghetto Boy" was the weak link in the chain — and that was that. I was firm on my “no fives” rule and that was also that. If you check the actual review, you’ll see that the byline is attributed to “TMS” (The Mind Squad) — which, for those that don’t know, was how we handled things that were done by group effort or committee. I can’t remember why we didn’t use Matt’s name, but it couldn’t have been because of anything too serious.

Anyway, no one could have predicted the seismic shift that this album would produce. And it wasn’t like there was anyone on staff jumping up and demanding that this record be a five. We sent the review off to the printer around the time "Nuthin' But A G Thang" started to catch fire and we could all tell that the landscape was about to change. By the time the magazine went on sale the streets had declared that this album – an album that many folks had still yet to hear – (remember: one of the reasons why folks read The Source was because we’re getting the music first and regularly reviewing important albums two months before they hit the racks) – was going to be a classic. And to tell you the truth, we all knew it as well.

I remember going to the video shoot for Naughty By Nature’s "Hip Hop Hooray." It was being filmed in a studio just off Astor Place in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. I had the advance of The Chronic in my pocket the whole day. I didn’t let that tape out of my sight for a second. I watched Treach and Spike Lee do their thing for most of the afternoon, and if you’ll remember the video, much of it included footage of huge crowd scenes, which were being filmed that afternoon. So there were a lot of people around, maybe a couple of thousand all total; both inside the venue where the video was being shot and outside milling in the street and blocking traffic. You’ll also recall that that the video featured many Hip Hop guest stars, like Eazy-E and Run-DMC, who were also hanging out for their cameos. And because Naughty was so popular and because Spike was a celebrity director the video set became a news event and word began to spread that this was the place to be. It wasn’t long before The Source van arrived on the scene. And when I spotted it I came down stairs kicked it with my peeps. Well, since I had the Dre tape on me, and since the van had a ridiculous sound system, and since we had a huge crowd to play to… I put the tape in the deck and turned shit up full blast to get everyone’s attention and drown out the endless loop of Naughty’s constant "heeeeey, hooooo" chant.

Well, the whole block literally stopped whatever they were doing and converged on the van in order to get a better listen. People were astonished by what they were hearing and began to pepper us with endless questions about the album. It was quite a moment. And when Nate Dogg came in with the "You picked the wrong mutha-fuckin’ dayeeeee…" part, I thought I was going to see people’s heads explode. Fab 5 Freddy actually climbed in the van and damn near put his head on the speakers. It was unreal. So yeah we knew early on that this was going to be the shit. The streets had spoken.

DX: Any albums you regret giving five mics?
RD: I only gave one five under my watch and it went to Nas’ Illmatic. It was the only time I ever broke the no five rule. Jon Shecter [click to read] had gotten his hands on the album like eight months before it was scheduled to drop. And just like I was with The Chronic a few months earlier, Jon didn’t let the tape out of his sight. Not only that, but he constantly raved about it. Every day. He played it in the office about a million times and very early on began to lobby for this record to receive five mics. Now I was cool with Nas and had been a fan since [Main Source's] "Live At The BBQ," but I wasn’t really stressing his album. It wasn’t coming out for at least half a year and I had other shit to do. But Jon couldn’t wait. And he began to micromanage everything concerning Nas’ coverage in The Source. He’d be like, "So who are you thinking about getting to review this album? This is going to be an important release and we can’t give it to just anybody, and I think I should be in on that decision." I told Jon that we’d work all of that stuff out when it was time to review the album. But every day, Jon was like, "Yo, this album is five mics — seriously, Reg, five mics."