Forgot About Dre?

7 Dec

In the last fortnight, hip-hop related talk has been dominated by the response to Kanye West and Nicki Minaj’s respective album releases. However, in the same week as both LPs were made available, some news that many have been waiting for appeared to slip under the radar, or at least received a muted response. It was the liberation to the masses of the Dr. Dre single ‘Kush’ (see above), that is scheduled to be the first single from the long-awaited ‘Detox’ album, which was announced to be due for a February 2011 release. So why isn’t the music world jumping up and down screaming at this news?

Primarily, it’s more than likely that the underwhelming response stems from the notion that we’ve seen and heard it all before. Although precedent would suggest we would have to wait this long for a third Dre album (his 1999 LP ‘2001’ arrived seven years after his critically-acclaimed debut ‘The Chronic’), whispers of Detox’s imminent release date back to the early to mid-2000s. After initially stating that he had given up on rapping to focus on producing for his Shady/Aftermath record label (a roster that included commercial heavyweights The Game, Eminem, 50 Cent & G-Unit amongst others at the time) rumours of ‘Detox’ seeing a release date began to appear in 2004, most famously in the form of Dre’s “Watch out for Detox” announcement on The Game’s ‘Higher’. An autumn 2005 release was suggested, with Dre stating work had begun on the project. Nevertheless, 2005 came and went without ‘Detox’, although occasional Dre’s TV and radio appearances at the time suggested that it wouldn’t be long before its release, with talk from various parties discussing a plethora of tracks and collaborations scheduled for the album.

Slowly, however, the buzz around ‘Detox’ being released began to vanish as Dr. Dre appeared to go back entirely on his word and focus on the production of other artists on his Shady/Aftermath label. That was until a bizarre period in 2009, when several reference tracks for the album began to leak onto the internet. The tracks contained a variety of rappers – from Bishop Lamont and Eminem, members of the Shady/Aftermath label; to Southern rap giants T.I. and Ludacris – who were rapping lyrics for the use of Dr. Dre himself. Whilst this confirmed that Dr. Dre was inclined to the rap taboo of ghostwritten lyrics, it nonetheless showed that work was going on for the project.  The leaks themselves are unlikely to find their way on the completed album, because some have already made homes elsewhere: ‘Crack a Bottle’ found its way onto Eminem’s ‘Relapse’ album, and ‘Could’ve Been You’ became a bonus track on 50 Cent’s ‘Before I Self Destruct’ album (although Dre and the Bishop Lamont-ghostwritten verse for him no longer featured on it).

Rather than build on the leaks, Dre instead continued to stay in the background, with the only whispers of a Detox release coming  from 50 Cent’s website, who championed the “Three-Headed Monster” of Eminem, 50 Cent and Dr. Dre’s albums released in a close period, which never materialised (‘Relapse’ and ‘Before I Self Destruct’ were never referred to as a two -headed monster at least). The most recent significant reports to follow of ‘Detox’, by now becoming as infamous as Guns & Roses’ ‘Chinese Democracy’ in its overly drawn-out process of release, arrived during Dr. Dre’s 2010 promotional tour of his ‘Beats’ headphones. Either as an attempt to generate interest in the headphones, or as simply a submission to the countless ‘Detox’ questions that came his way in every press conference, Dre began to discuss a release with typically broad earmarked periods for dates. So as to prove he was talking business, he began to specifically discuss a Jay-Z collaboration called ‘Under Pressure’, although when the unfinished track prematurely leaked in June Dre’s fury was equally met by the disappointment of fans, who on the whole did not think highly of the track.

Now that a confirmed first single and relatively concrete news of a release date have arrived, fans are pretty much exhausted at the prospect of its release, such is the time it has taken to emerge. In addition to the times spent producing albums for others, Dr. Dre’s obsession with perfection has been suggested as one of the main reasons for the countless delays. Thankfully for Dre, Interscope Records, in which his Shady/Aftermath label fall under, have been very patient. If it wasn’t for his close relationship with Interscope chairman Jimmy Iovine (Iovine accompanied Dre on the ‘Beats’ promo tour, and is credited as the man who suggested Eminem to Dr. Dre), it is likely that he would have been forced to release ‘Detox’ far earlier, particularly in a music market that has been dwindling in sales continually over the years ‘Detox’ has been re-worked, scrapped and moved. As well as the potential loss in sales, the money spent on fees for collaboration appearances, co-production and ghost-writing references on tracks over the years will be extremely considerable, especially if DJ Quik’s suggestion in 2008 that there are over 400 tracks made for ‘Detox’ is true.

On the one hand, waiting for the buzz of ‘Detox’ to fizzle out before its release could be seen as a tactic, as seen by the commercial success of fellow rap veteran Raekwon’s 2009 ‘Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2’, the sequel to a 1995 album that was often discussed yet had been long forgotten by the time it was actually released. It could be said that such was the pressure relieved on Raekwon by the buzz dying down that he was able to produce the album to the quality of which was originally anticipated. If this is indeed the case, and that Dr. Dre is trying a similar strategy of seeking commercial success through critical acclaim as opposed to promotional buzz, then he is a brave man indeed.

On the other hand, however, the rare public appearances from Dre over the years have meant he is no longer of great an interest to many young fans of rap, who are just as likely to know him as a mere production associate of Eminem as they are to know him as the great pioneer of ‘gangsta-rap’ in the 1990s. The media preference of coverage for Kanye West and Nicki Minaj’s album releases over the last fortnight seem to suggest that the new school of rappers are far more relevant and commercially viable than Dre can hope to be any more. The debate about old school vs. new school, however, deserves a post of its own.

If the tentative February release date is met, let’s hope that gets the monkey off his back and reminds us all why we held him in such high regard in the first place. If the album is anything like the classic below, we’re in for a treat.

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One Response to “Forgot About Dre?”

  1. Danny January 18, 2011 at 16:34 #

    nice ‘forgot about dre’ pun, so appropriate!

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