Disney Wanted to Sign Dr. Dre After the Success of 'The Chronic'

The artist's attorney claims the proposed deal was $4 million

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Jul 7, 2022

Dr. Dre's 1992 solo album The Chronic needs little introduction, widely considered to be one of the best albums of that decade, and one of hip-hop's most influential releases. Perhaps it's no surprise to learn that the success of Dre's Death Row Records debut caught the attention of Disney, angling to sign the artist themselves after its release.

This tidbit of the house of mouse-turned-megacorp looking to make the West Coast icon's "G Thang" a "D Thang" was revealed by Peter Paterno, Dre's attorney, in a recent appearance on the Connection is Magic podcast.

Paterno recalled to host Samson Shulman how he was president of Disney's Hollywood Records at the time The Chronic was scaling Billboard charts, peaking at No. 1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.

At this point in time, Dre was a known commodity to Disney and Paterno's label, having produced a song for Disney Channel pop group the Party, comprised of cast members of variety show The All New Mickey Mouse Club.

"We'd have these music meetings every week with Michael Eisner at Disney, and Michael Eisner came by and he sees [The Chronic's] at No. 1 and he goes, 'I thought you had a relationship with this guy?'" Paterno recalled. After confirming that he did know the mind behind the chart-dominating album, he explained to Eisner how Dre's artistry may not be the most family-friendly listen around. 

"He said, 'How come we don't have this record?' I go, 'Well, Michael, let me just read you some of the lyrics … Motherfucker, motherfucker. And you know what this is on the cover? That's a marijuana leaf.'" When it came to terms of the proposed label signing, Paterno continued, "The deal was $4 million. [Eisner] goes, 'We can't do that!' I go, 'That's why he's not on the label.'"

Dre's 1999 follow-up, 2001, would find a home at Interscope Records and Dre's own post-Death Row label Aftermath. "To be fair, Jimmy [Iovine, co-founder of Interscope] would've probably would've gotten it anyway 'cause he was smarter than I was," Paterno conceded. "But I didn't even try. I mean, to be really honest I had enough problems with hip-hop with Disney."

You can hear Paterno — who has also represented artists including Beyoncé, Adele and Metallica — tell the story of the near Disney-Dre Day signing in the player below around the 30-minute mark.

In February, Dr. Dre performed at the Super Bowl Halftime Show, and appeared as himself in GTA Online. Last year, the artist was hospitalized after suffering an aneurysm.

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