Who the hell is the D.O.C.? It’s been nearly 25 years since the rapper released his astoundingly great debut album, No One Can Do It Better. It was produced by Dr. Dre when Dre was churning out hot product at an ironic-in-retrospect pace: In a single year Dre made the D.O.C.’s album, as well as N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton and N.W.A co-founder Eazy-E’s solo debut, Eazy-Duz-It. The D.O.C. was a cocky, charismatic young rapper with a knotty, complex flow—his delivery had more bob-and-weave than your average West Coast rapper’s, and he reminded people of East Coast guys like Rakim. The kid with the golden voice, he called himself. Within three months he’d sold half a million records—until injuries to his vocal cords sustained in a car accident rendered him barely able to speak and totally unable to rap.
After that, the D.O.C. was a living ghost. He made two would-be comeback albums, but his real career existed behind the scenes. It became an open secret that he’d ghostwritten rhymes for Dre on The Chronic and 1999’s 2001 and polished lines for Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle. The D.O.C. was a fixer, a problem solver, a hip-hop Winston Wolf. Once a breakout star, he now existed in hip-hop as a legend in the background of other people’s rhymes. Dre shouted him out (“Like my nigga D.O.C., no one can do it better”) at the end of “Nuthin’ but a G Thang,” the first single from The Chronic. More than 10 years later, so did Brooklyn-born Jay-Z on “Public Service Announcement”—“HOV, not D.O.C./But similar to the letters, no one can do it better.”