by: The D.O.C.
An early landmark of West Coast rap, the D.O.C.'s debut album, No One Can Do It Better, remains sorely underheard today, largely because the car crash that destroyed the rapper's voice also cut short his time in the spotlight before he'd had a chance to really cement his reputation among the general public. When No One Can Do It Better was released the West Coast had just started to break nationally thanks to the gangsta movement and wasn't known for much outside of N.W.A and Ice-T. In the D.O.C., however, the scene found a new level of credibility: a highly skilled battle rhymer who could hold his own with any East Coast lyrical virtuoso. Though his chops are rarely mentioned in the same breath, the D.O.C. clearly ranks up near the master technicians of the era, Rakim and Big Daddy Kane; while he may not be as smooth as the former or as spectacularly wordy as the latter, he has a distinctively rough, commanding voice and an aggressive, hard-hitting flow all his own. There's another important reason to hear No One Can Do It Better: it's where Dr. Dre's legend as a producer really begins. Straight Outta Compton notwithstanding, Dre truly comes into his own here, crafting funky, varied tracks that blend synths, drum machines, samples, and live instrumentation. You won't hear anything that resembles a blueprint for The Chronic, but sonically, they're as rich as anything around at the time. Both Dre and the D.O.C. are remarkably consistent throughout, so special mention has to go to the rousing N.W.A posse cut "The Grand Finalé," which even features DJ Yella on live drums. It's a shame that the D.O.C. never got the chance for a proper follow-up, but in No One Can Do It Better, he at least has one undeniable masterpiece. ~ Steve Huey