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The Story of 2Pac and Dr. Dre's "California Love"

The Story of 2Pac and Dr. Dre's "California Love"

Who: 2Pac f. Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman

What: “California Love (Remix)” 

When (was it released): December 1995

Where (was it featured): 2Pac’s All Eyez on Me album

Why (did the song happen): After being released from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, Tupac Shakur flew to Los Angeles to unite with his new recording home, Death Row Records. Dr. Dre had been working on the follow-up to his landmark, genre-shifting debut album, 1992’s The Chronic. The two titans crossed paths in the studio, where Dr. Dre was crafting what would become “California Love.” Tupac asked to get on the track. Dr. Dre obliged, resulting in one of the most revered and celebrated rap songs of all time. 

How (it became iconic): “California Love” is built off of samples of Joe Cocker’s “Woman to “Woman” (the percolating piano EPMD also used on 1989’s “Knick Knack Patty Wack”); Zapp’s “Dance Floor” (that “Shake, shake it, baby”); and Ronnie Hudson & The Street People’s “West Coast Poplock,” (the now-famous “California knows how to party” line, among others). In addition to combining this sublime source material into a revved up, festive ode to the Golden State, “California Love” served as Tupac’s reintroduction to the world after serving time on a sexual assault charge. The beleaguered rapper was incarcerated after coming off a remarkable run and mounds of controversy. A Digital Underground protégé, Tupac released a string of hit singles from 1992 - 1995, including “Brenda’s Got A Baby,” “Keep Ya Head Up” “I Get Around,” “So Many Tears,” and “Dear Mama.” At the same time, Tupac had also earned rave reviews for his memorable roles in Juice, Poetic Justice, and Above The Rim, among others. His lore grew thanks to a series of run-ins with the police and after surviving a robbery/attempt on his life in November 1994 in New York’s Quad Studios. Thus, Tupac’s release from prison was met with tremendous anticipation, especially since he was joining rap’s most powerful label at the time (Death Row Records) and teaming with the genre’s best and most accomplished producer (Dr. Dre). “California Love” opens with thick, muscular funk and Roger Troutman’s signature talkbox serving as a clarion call on the extended intro. Dr. Dre’s dominant first verse trumpets his state’s allure, as well as his legacy as an entertainer. What follows is an extended chorus highlighted by Troutman emploring the ladies the “shake, shake it, baby.” By the time Tupac arrives on the second verse, the song has hit several crescendos. Tupac references his newfound freedom and celebrates his adopted homestate’s dress code and famous locales, as well as Death Row’s rebellious nature. It was a magical musical elixir that became an instant hip-hop classic and created a tsunami of anticipation for Tupac’s Death Row Records material. It also stands as one of Dr. Dre’s most popular productions. Today, “California Love” has been sampled dozens of times and stands as a critical and commercial triumph, helping push All Eyez On Me to diamond status. No wonder it earned a slot at the Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show.

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