It is very easy to consider the story of Tracy Curry, better known since the 1980s as The D.O.C., in terms of what-ifs. What if he hadn’t gotten into that car wreck in 1989, not long after releasing his Dr. Dre-produced debut No One Can Do It Better? He lost his voice in the aftermath, and has only really performed once since then, at a 2015 show at the former Bomb Factory in Deep Ellum. What might he and Dre have done together after that? Would he be Snoop Dogg instead of Snoop Dogg? Where might rap music have gone if led by a fully operational D.O.C.?
All valid questions, and there are more, to be sure. But the what-ifs detract from what Doc (as everyone calls him) actually did. Behind the scenes, he helped Dre make The Chronic, encouraging him to do it and then helping write it. Remember that rap and hip-hop were still largely considered fads as the 1990s dawned. There was an expectation that rap music would eventually give way to something else. But The Chronic made Dre and Snoop rock stars, and rap began its ascent to the dominant genre. Doc was at the epicenter. Without him there is no Chronic but also no Death Row, and without that, the next 30 years looks a lot different.
People who know rap know Doc, but in the broader culture, he is a footnote. Straight Outta Compton, for instance, reduced him to a glorified extra, even though he helped write some of N.W.A and Eazy-E’s biggest songs. But a new documentary, The DOC, will help change that when it gets a wide release later this year. (It is executive-produced by both Erykah Badu and Snoop.) And my profile of Doc, from our September “Music Issue,” endeavors to get his story out, too. It’s online today.