Soundtracking The Scene: Dr. Dre In 'Training Day'
By Stereo Williams
Soundtracking the Scene is an opportunity to look at how Hip-Hop classics have been used in famous movie scenes. Some of our most iconic filmmakers have masterfully incorporated these songs into some of our most acclaimed films; here we examine the synergy.
"You're in the office, baby..."
It's easy to forget just how magnetic and original Denzel Washington's Alonzo "Lonzo" Harris came across when audiences were introduced to him twenty years. Lonzo is central in Antoine Fuqua's gritty cop drama Training Day, a performance that earned Washington his second Oscar, and the character embodies all that is loathsome about crooked cops.
One of the movie's most memorable seasons is early on, when Ethan Hawke's idealistic young detective Jake Hoyt first meets up with his superior officer, Sergeant Detective Alonzo Harris. Harris is set to spend the day training Hoyt on the rigors of high-end policing in the darkest corners of Los Angeles, and they get to ride in style: Lonzo is pushing a slick, jet black Monte Carlo.
As they get ready to start their day, Lonzo turns the ignition and those instantly-recognizeable keys from Dr. Dre's 1999 hit "Still D.R.E." begin blaring out of the car stereo.
"This car is not from the motor pool," Hoyt deadpans.
And Alonzo is definitely not your typical detective. When Hoyt asks where their office will be located, Alonzo lets him know that they're riding in the office, as Dre's instrumental plays.
Dr. Dre's 2001 was an event album to close the 90s. Originally conceived as an official sequel to his watershed solo debut, 1992s The Chronic, this particular album maintained that spiritual connection to it's predecessor even after legal wrangling necessitated a name change. Dre famously defected from Death Row Records in 1996, yet The Chronic 2000 was the name for a Death Row-released compilation slated just before Y2K. Dre's old nemesis Suge Knight was overseeing that project; and Dre's Aftermath label decided to bypass any conflict by renaming his new album, first The Chronic 2001, and then simply 2001.
Regardless of any titling, the album was widely hailed as the good Doctor's return to form; and blazing single "Still D.R.E." was it's centerpiece. With those distinct keys from Scott Storch, who co-produced with Dre, the superstar rapper/producer made his return official. And his longtime partner-in-rhyme, Snoop, was along for the ride. Fitting that the track would find it's way into a Los Angeles-based movie about a savvy elder and his bright ward; echoing how Dre and Snoop initially came together in 1991.
Of course, Snoop and Dre's bond lasts a lot longer, and yields greater rewards, than Hoyt and Alonzo's in the movie. But Fuqua grabbing a Dre banger to soundtrack their first meeting was a stroke of brilliance. And it made it clear from the opening scenes that this was Denzel Washington unlike you'd ever seen him before.