The D.O.C. had his comeback set up just right. Starting over with a new label (his own, Silverback Records) and a talented crew of local MCs (6Two, U.p.t.i.g.h.t., Cadillac Seville), he recorded a new album and titled it Deuce, because he considered it his real second album, his official follow-up to 1989's No One Can Do It Better. His head wasn't right when he released 1996's Helter Skelter; it was a dark record because he was in a dark place. He had yet to come to terms with the 1990 car accident that stole his voice, his presence. Hadn't figured out how to do it all again.
Deuce was a new beginning, and The D.O.C. was playing a new role. He could still write songs better than most (D.O.C. was, after all, one of the main scribes on N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton and Eazy-E's Eazy-Duz-It, not to mention Dr. Dre's The Chronic), so he concentrated on that. Like he did with a young Snoop Dogg on The Chronic, he used Deuce to teach his new crew the rap game: how to make their verses tighter, faster, leaner, meaner.
"Without D.O.C. there wouldn't be no Snoop Dogg," Snoop says at the end of Deuce, a snippet taken from the documentary Welcome to Death Row. "He put a lot of inspiration in me as far as being that superstar that was with me before I was a superstar, that made me feel like a superstar, enabling me to write songs with him, to take songs from him, to accept criticism from him, to critique his shit and critique mine. Man, me and D.O.C. was like Batman and Robin back then."
More than a decade after No One Can Do It Better proved that no one could, this was D.O.C.'s new position, and he was comfortable in it. He dropped his own verses (in the raspy growl that comes with a crushed larynx) and his name was still above the title, but Deuce was as much about introducing the world to 6Two, U.p.t.i.g.h.t. and Cadillac Seville as it was reintroducing The D.O.C. He scheduled the album to come out in February 2002--"all twos," he would say. Seemed lucky.
If you change the year at the end, it still works.
A year (and two unofficial release dates) later, Deuce is finally in stores, and minus a few samples (most notably, a swatch of the Eagles' "Hotel California"), it's the same disc he planned to put out last February. And then in June. And then, who knew when. It appeared as though it might never come out, that D.O.C. would keep knocking on the door but never step inside.
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But you can't keep a record that features Dr. Dre (credited here only as "A. Young," apparently for legal reasons), Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, MC Ren and Baby of the Big Tymers on the shelf forever. Especially since Cube's verse on "The Shit" might be his best since he left N.W.A. In the studio with D.O.C. again, Cube is once again the "crazy motherfucker" who kicked in the door more than a decade ago; he no longer sounds like the part-time rhymer who's more concerned with reading scripts--or not reading them, as was the case with Anaconda.
Throughout Deuce, D.O.C. brings out the best in his supporting cast, especially 6Two. 6Two isn't a star in the making; he's a star right now, with a delivery that's more slippery than a bucketful of bait and more confident than Shaq posting up on Shawn Bradley. Deuce might not be D.O.C.'s comeback as a rapper--he'll never be as good as he once was, and he knows this--but it continues his impressive history of developing talent. He's the best coach in the business, and with him back in Dallas, the home team has a much better chance of winning. And that's all D.O.C. wants.
"I didn't have any real issues about me," he said in a November 2001 interview with the Dallas Observer. You know, around the time Deuce was originally supposed to hit stores. "What I've done, and woo-woo-woo and woo-woo-woo. Pretty much, people know. And I'm not tripping on that. It's a new day, man. The things that have been in the past, we're gonna leave 'em in the past. We're fixing to write us a new thing, and it's all about D-FW now. I love everybody else, but it's really about Dallas-Fort Worth being the shit. Now. Like 6Two says in one of the songs, whoever goes next, we're not really concerned. But it's our turn right now. We want all our shit.
"There's always been a D-FW presence," he continues. "People have just never taken the time to look, I guess, or give a fuck about it. They'll just take it at face value and run with it. Which is the way, I guess, people are in general anyway. So you don't hate on it; you just do what you do. But like I said, now--at least in my mind--it's all about Dallas-Fort Worth. And I've got the perfect little team around me to really shake it up."