Dr. Dre’s Road to “Detox”

Dr. Dre's Road to

Brad Ramsdell

Everyone interested in pop or rap should be at least mildly intrigued by Dr. Dre’s upcoming album, Detox. Dr. Dre is the greatest producer rap has ever known (you’re welcome to get at me if you disagree) and has created some of rap’s greatest and most successful songs, albums and careers.

N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton is remarkable for many reasons, but one of its most impressive features is the enduring production. Whereas many rap albums from the late ‘80s might stand up, lyrically, to today’s offerings, the production is generally severely behind where we are today. Dre released the epic The Chronic in 1992, the record that ushered in modern rap. There isn’t much left to say about this album nearly two de­cades later, as the music and its legacy speak for them­selves. The Chronic created the gangsta/party balance that came to characterize the West Coast. The lyri­cal content, the music and the style of videos such as “Nothin’ But a G Thang,” all added together to make a true work of genius.

1999 marked the rebirth of Dre not just as a king, but as a king-maker. Between 1999 and 2003, Dre’s own 2001, Eminem’s Slim Shady, Marshall Mathers, and The Eminem Show, plus 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Trying were all released. Each of these albums sold more than six million copies, meaning that Dre was directly responsible for about 40 million records sold in those three years. The best part of this period is that Dre was really, really good. His production was as clean as ever, he surrounded himself with highly talented people and still had some tricks up his sleeve.

So where are we now? 1988, 1992, 1999-2003…those all seem like quite a long time ago. There are a few key factors that will make or break Detox. Firstly, and probably most impor­tantly, what will the songs sound like? The best part of all of the aforementioned albums is their own tailor-made sound. Compton was intelligent anger and violence; The Chronic was the melding of fun times in a dangerous world; Eminem and 50 proved that Dre could make other people huge; and 2001 is simply uniquely gripping. So, will I hear house samples, auto-tune or a Rihanna hook? Let’s hope not.

Secondly, who wrote the lyrics? The good Doctor doesn’t write his own lyr­ics for the most part. The N.W.A. years were mostly credited to Ice Cube and after that The D.O.C. wrote what Dre would rap. No one has ever had a problem with this since Dre has a great voice and always gives gracious credit to his writers, but there is a new pen behind the voice. Slim da Mobster, a mostly unknown LA rapper who is allegedly the nephew of Freeway Ricky Ross (not the rapper), reportedly wrote 70 percent of Detox. Dre has one of the best noses for talent rap has ever seen – Snoop, Eminem, 50 – so it is possible that Slim will be the next golden child. I am hesitant about this new kid, but I trust Dre and suggest that we all give the lyrics a chance.

Finally, who will be on the album? Dr. Dre surrounds himself with talent, requiring oth­ers to rise to his level. Where features gen­erally bring down Jay-Z albums, Dre’s albums never forget the party atmosphere that distinctly marks his style. The best parts of The Chronic feature him and Snoop, and the best tracks on 2001 had other rappers on them as well. Add in all of the other production that Dre has done in his career and clearly his talent is one that should be shared. My fear is that the album will be filled with the here-today types who brought down The Blueprint 3. (If Drake is on this album, I’m out. Not that I don’t enjoy Drake, but he should never be on Dre or Jay’s albums; they’re better than that.)

Here’s to what could be the first great album of 2011, Dr. Dre’s Detox. Never before has Dre let us down…let’s hope that this isn’t the first time. Especially after the disap­pointment of The Blueprint 3‘s mediocrity, I am cautious but excited for this album. I hope you are too.