Dr. Dre’s Detox: Masterpiece in the Making?

 

Dr-Dre

Since he started production on the album in 2004, hip-hop heads have played a cat-and-mouse game with Dr. Dre awaiting the release of Detox, his third (and supposedly final) studio album. Here’s a brief time-line.

Initial Release Date: Fall 2005

Power 106 Interview on 2/18/07: Dre said he had completed 18 “potential tracks” and announced that the introductory track would be titled “Intervention”

September 2007: Dre shows up on-stage at the VMAs and slips in an announcement that Detox will be released soon. He then went on record in the same month with Billboard magazine saying that it will be his final album and would be released in 2008.

May 2008: Tony Yayo and Lloyd Banks go on record with Defsounds, saying that 50 Cent had recorded about 3 songs, but that they were unsure as to whether either of them would make appearances.

June 2008: Both Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre announce that the album is completed

Most recently, Dre told MTV that Detox will be released before 50 Cent and Eminem’s upcoming projects, which are slated for this year. There has been a lot of speculation about which artists have collaborated with Dre on the Detox project. Among them are Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Eminem, Lloyd Banks, The Game, Mary J. Blige, Marsha Ambrosius, Jay-Z, Warren G, Li’l Wayne, T.I., Devin the Dude, Nas, Ice Cube, and Fergie. He is also said to have collaborated with J.R. Rotem, Hi-Tek, Mike Elizondo, and Scott Storch, among others.

Hopefully, the recently released banger “Topless” is an indication of things to come. Nas and T.I. absolutely murder their respective verses on the track while Dre provides the chorus. From start to finish, this is a seamless work of art. The piano is classic Dre, with traces of his trademark G-Funk style coming through prevalently, despite the two featured guests being from Atlanta and New York, respectively. Dre is one of few producers with the ability to completely own a track, regardless of whether he raps on it or not.

What worries me, however, is that Dr. Dre is not the same artist as he was in 1992 when The Chronic was dropped. Granted, he did release 2001 in 1999 to critical acclaim. But ten years later, at 44 years old, can he really live up to the hype and release a classic in today’s market that will not only match, but surpass the level of excellence achieved with The Chronic and 2001?

The bulk of the criticism from the 2001 album was with regard to the lesser-known contributors Dre chose to work with, many of whom can’t even be referenced on Wikipedia. Though Dre has a great ear and the finished product was a masterpiece, one must admit that there were a lot of nobodies on that album, many of whom are currently nowhere on hip-hop’s radar. Hittman appeared on a total of ten tracks on 2001, but his debut on Dre’s Aftermath label was shelved and he’s pretty much disappeared since. Dr. Dre has made some new friends since ’99.

His increased involvement with 50 Cent and Eminem will undoubtedly influence Detox’s overall sound, but this could be a curse or blessing. The Chronic is an album that is well loved for its distinctive Cali flavor, accurately capturing the tone of LA in the early 1990s. 2001 included Eminem as the first non-West Coast contributor on a Dre album, but Em’s style meshed well with the feel of each record he was featured on. Though 50 has worked with Dr. Dre frequently, I wonder if his contribution, which I am sure will affect multiple songs, will detract from what could be a much-needed victory for the relatively dormant West Coast.

There have been rumors that Aftermath’s prodigal son The Game will contribute to the album, despite the well-publicized distance Dre has put between them due to beef with 50. This would be a good move if it actually happens. A Dr. Dre-Game collaboration at this point would without question be an event. Though Ice Cube, Snoop, and DJ Quik are all but confirmed as guest artists, but Dre is in a position to breathe new life into a lot of West Coast MCs’ careers, like Ras Kass, Xzibit (who appears three times on 2001) and the Dogg Pound. As a West Coast legend, it would be a serious disappointment if Detox didn’t serve to not only re-confirm Dre himself artistically, but to re-establish the West Coast as an entity in the hip-hop community at a time when New York MCs are failing to represent and southern MCs basically have a monopoly on the game.

My other concern is that Dr. Dre’s well-documented perfectionism is stunting his ability to actually complete the album. Hip-hop is easily the most dynamic form of music. With each track that’s released, a new slang term, dance, or hot ticket item is introduced that almost instantly dates the song. If Dre started work on Detox in 2004, it is very possible that there will not be any songs actually produced in 2004 or 2005 on the finished product simply due to relevance. Dre might finish a track, but by the time he finishes five more, the first one may be completely dated. In October 2008, DJ Quik told Loud.com that he had heard 60 out of 400 potential songs Dre had developed at that time for the album. Luckily, Dre is an artist who does not think anything of reaching out to those who can assist him in his craft like Quik, co-producer Scott Storch, and even the legendary Burt Bachrach, who Quik says has been instructing Dre on the piano.

Despite all of the doubt, like most hip-hop and music fans in general, I can’t wait for Detox, no matter what direction Dre chooses to go in. This actually may be the first CD I have physically purchased in the store for quite a while (I feel bad enough about downloading the tracks that have leaked so far…not that bad though). At the end of the day, regardless of the hype and tremendous expectations surrounding the album, Dre needs room (and apparently lots and lots of time) to grow as an artist and we should expect considerable growth and expansion on this project. If you can’t get with it, there is alwaysl the Chronic, 2001, Doggystyle, etc. to revisit if you’re still looking for the traditional bitches-and-blunts Dre of the nineties.

Author: Shaka Shaw

frontfreedotcom@gmail.com

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