How Dr. Dre was convinced to release new music in ‘Grand Theft Auto’

A few years ago, hip-hop veteran DJ Pooh – producer behind West Coast classics like Tha Dogg Pound’s “New York, New York” and die-hard gamer – took a few playstations to a friend’s house. Most gamers are content to play with the millions of other enthusiasts who already own consoles. But Pooh had a more serious mission: to convert a skeptic.

The house belonged to Dr Dre, a friend of Pooh’s since their late teens. “Dre is the person who says no to everything, we all know that,” Pooh says. Yet he brought a copy of Grand Theft Auto with both consoles, intending to show Dre “how cool video games are.” The man behind hits like “The Next Episode” and “Xxplosive” “had no idea what [Grand Theft Auto] it was because he’s not a player at all, ”Pooh explains. “He never played them. But he was amazed [by] how deep you can go into the whole thing. He’s like ‘Oh shit!’ “

Thanks in part to Pooh’s evangelism, Dr. Dre is officially incorporated into the Rockstar Games universe this week, appearing as a character in Grand Theft Auto Online: the contract. Additionally, players will be able to hear six new songs from Dre over the course of the game – a rare occurrence given how little music he has released over the past two decades. The tracks include “Gospel “with Eminem,” Diamond Mind “with Nipsey Hussle and Ty Dolla $ ign, and” ETA “with Snoop Dogg and Anderson .Paak.

“We’ve been wanting to do something with Dre for a while,” says Rob Nelson, co-studio director of Rockstar North. “When he doesn’t release music that regularly, it’s a pretty special thing to be able to get music from him, let alone the exclusive music. Once we started talking, he started tossing around. demos – “Look at this, look at this, I did this with so and so.” It was a pretty surreal experience.

It also represents the latest musical hit from Rockstar Games, which has already introduced new music from D’Angelo and Moodymann – titans in their respective fields who work at their own pace and care little about commercial pressure – into its games. over the past four years. . Rockstar Games is capable of doing what the top record companies can’t: get these very independent artists to make music on someone else’s schedule.

Dre’s legendary perfectionism actually becomes a key plot point in the latest iteration of Grand Theft Auto. The producer misplaces part of his music and the player becomes a detective on the case in search of the lost tunes. “It is his treasure that you have to go and find for him,” explains Nelson. “We use a pretty classic video game lens, but we use songs [as the missing item] instead of cash or goods.

Nelson says it was the key to Rockstar Games that Dre’s incorporation into Grand Theft Auto made sense to longtime gamers – it wasn’t some out-of-the-ordinary celebrity cameo without a bigger focus. “When you’re dealing with someone as iconic as Dr. Dre, you can’t just bring him into the world,” Nelson notes. “He needed to be fully integrated for it to make sense. You work forward and backward at the same time, top to bottom and bottom to top: We want that person in the game; How do we do this in a way that makes it believable and fun? ”

In a cute example of an art-mimicking life, DJ Pooh, who originally brought Dre and GTA together, also plays a crucial role in connecting players with Dre. Pooh’s presence has already been felt in Grand Theft Auto for over a decade thanks to his in-game radio show, West Coast Classics. “We took it off the radio, into the world [of the game], “to help” connect the dots, “Nelson says.” We mirrored real life in this regard. “

Players have the chance to “meet Dr. Dre, to gain his trust through the work you do for him and to kind of become friends with him, to be able to attend a recording session or in a car listening to something.” thing with him for the first time. time, ”Nelson adds. “It’s an experience that very few people in the real world will have. This is only possible in our environment.

Dr. Dre and DJ Pooh in “Grand Theft Auto Online: The Contract”.

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To bring in Dre Grand Theft Auto, Rockstar Games built a set for him and got one of his favorite studio consoles. “We spoke to someone who has worked with him before and was able to provide us with one and we brought in at least the major components that he would use,” says Nelson. “For performance capture, you have to recreate the environment the character would be in the world so that they interact with all the right touchpoints. Dre donned a motion capture suit so his in-game alter ego was informed by real-life habits.

For Pooh, Dre’s decision to join Grand Theft Auto has a beautiful cosmic ring. The two met doing mixtapes at local exchange meets in California, and Pooh used to drive Dre to the studio when he didn’t have a car. In return, “Dre taught me how to work on a drum machine,” Pooh recalls. “He helped me as a producer; I learned a lot from him; and we worked a lot together. I did ‘New York, New York’ for Tha Dogg Pound, Dre mixed it for me and made it pretty.

Now they are helping each other again. Not only did Dre walk into Grand Theft Auto, but Pooh also went off the air and entered the game, doing his own motion capture work so he could appear as a character. “See me in the game looking all pretty and shitty?” I’m the happiest guy in the world, ”Pooh says with a laugh. “I’m kind of an action hero now.”

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