Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rollin' with Dre: The Unauthorized Account, by Bruce Williams with Donnell Alexander

(hb; 2008: memoir)

From the inside flap:

"As Dre's confidant and the problem-solver to a stable of artists and others who came to know him as 'Uncle Bruce,' Williams was either there when the action went down or close enough to feel the hollowpoints whiz by: Dre perfecting the gangsta era's signature sound displayed on his highly influential The Chronic and its Snoop Dogg-helmed follow-up, Doggystyle; getting out from under Death Row Records, the label Dre co-founded with impresario Suge Knight; launching the careers of Eminem, 50 Cent, and The Game.

"Williams lays it out in black and white, from dish on Tupac Shakur's chaotic rise and fall to the deadly feud between The Row (formerly Death Row Records) and the East Coast MCs and bigshots, from Suge's legal battles to Dre's reconciliation with Eazy-E before E's untimely demise from AIDS, from the hard-won 'overnight' successes of Snoop and Eminem to what it was like rollin' with giants and legends-in-the-making -- and living the life (and bearing the burdens) as a bona-fide master of the game."

Review:

Engaging, solid read. Williams, a former soldier and former prison guard, comes off as a smart, level-headed individual who found himself befriending, and later working for, Andre "Dr. Dre" Young, who, while a genius DJ/producer at the mixing board, was disconnected from the day-to-day realities surrounding him. . . realities that Williams dealt with, on Dre's behalf, for fifteen years. These realities ranged from setting up parties, to chilling out "wilding" (out of control) friends and business associates. One business associate Williams was careful not to offend, but not kowtow to, was Marion "Suge" Knight, the shady, drug-dealing thug who ran the record company Death Row Records; Knight's strong arm tactics later wound Knight up in a prison. Williams also dealt with less volatile personalities, like rapper/lyricist The D.O.C. (aka, Tracy Curry), Tupac (who, less volatile than Knight, adopted the wild attitude of those around him), 50 Cent (aka, Curtis Jackson), The Game, and Eminem (aka, Marshall Mathers, a sensitive mostly-nice kid with a sharp tongue).

In between the gangsta-tale telling, Williams (with Alexander's help) sketches in changes in his own life, about how he went from being wowed by the opulent lifestyle of the rappers (but not the rappers themselves -- bear in mind, Williams had dealt with tough guys in the military and prison) and being a playa of women, to meeting his wife, Vivian, becoming a responsible, happy father of three, and becoming an L.A. club co-owner (with his wife).

He also talks about his friendship with Dre, how it waxed and waned over time. Williams, however, never talks bad about Dre, aside from being sad about opportunities that Dre and other promising friends/rappers lost when Dre dropped the ball in certain business and personal situations. Mostly, Williams, who never comes off as self important -- he shows himself as a witness to events, not a major player -- just seems grateful for the experiences and people around him who helped him get to where he is today: that's a large part of what makes this such a good read, besides the tight editing and the occasionally salacious tale-telling.

Good read, this. Check it out.

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