The shoebox has recently been dominated by West Coast classics, but none of those deserve as much retrospective accolades as No One Can Do it Better, the beginning of a very short career for the D.O.C. sure his ubiquitous first single, “It’s Funky Enough,” will be held in the same breath as the multitude of landmark cuts from 1989 – but if you were to play this for someone with only a surface knowledge of that time period, they’d likely be unable to name the artist. It’s sad that Dr. Dre’s production on the album overshadows, at least in anecdotal remembrance, the performance of the MC in question.
Go back and listen again. The D.O.C. was not a protégée of Dre, more a prospect/blue chip for Ruthless Records, removed from his Texas home base and brought to Compton to help write for N.W.A. and eventually record a breakout of his own design. A skilled lyricist and witty rhyme technician, the D.O.C. was chosen to match well with Dre’s increasingly laid-back progressions as a producer. No One Can Do it Better was still pre-Chronic mind you, and it’s still to early to tell with these songs that’s where he’d eventually end-up, instead it was the storyteller who ran this show, Dre was mere co-conspirator, second in command. There’s certainly no denying the initial two-toned blast and rattlesnake shake of the samples and beats on “Funky” – was this low-rider cantina hip-hop, gruff dancehall on the streets of L.A.? Regardless of the appearance of Ren, Eazy, Cube, and even Yella (he plays live drums on “The Grand Finale”) this was above all not an extension of N.W.A. The D.O.C. was poised to be a superhero of his own right, a secret weapon to rival the East Coast in technique and wordplay – something his new found posse admittedly lacked. His debut, in the parameters of consistency and innovation bests any of the records released between Straight Outta’ Compton and the Chronic. Just give it another listen.
Not to discredit Dre in any respect though, throughout No One Can Do it Better his seamless mix of varied funk and hard-wired beats keeps the momentum on tracks like the brilliant “Whirlwind Pyramid” and what is perhaps the first g-funk anthem, “The Formula,” (which concocts a late-night, starry-skied, gangster motif Dre would go on to replicate many times down the road). Still, Trey Curry takes center stage on each track. Even the final, aforementioned “The Grand Finale,” group cut is highlighted by the D.O.C.’s last verse. Of course, if you don’t know the whole story, even before the release of his follow-up single “Mind Blowin’” (equally potent), he was involved in an auto accident that seriously damaged his vocal chords, giving his already rough rhymes no life. He returned seven years later, but by then everyone had (unfortunately) forgotten him in the first place. Here’s to resurrection, at least for this album.