Did you forget about Dre?
Despite only releasing one studio album this decade, Dr. Dre’s name still holds weight in the upper echelons of rap. The Compton producer changed rap forever as a member of N.W.A before doing it all over again with The Chronic a few short years later. A Dre co-sign has taken acts like Eminem, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar and Anderson .Paak to the big leagues. The 2010s have seen the rise of a different Dre: endeavors such as the Beats headphones and the Straight Outta Compton film executively produced with Ice Cube reveal a newly forged entrepreneur more concerned about caretaking his legacy than ever before.
Yet his silence speaks volumes. His social media channels rarely see updates and he rarely grants interviews or makes comments to the press. Dre cites social anxiety. “I don’t like being in the spotlight, so I made a fucking weird career choice,” he told Rolling Stone in 2015. “That’s the reason for my mystique and why I’m so secluded and why everybody knows nothing about me.” His big moves tend to be broadcasted loud, it’s often you’ll hear about him through the accounts of others. So what exactly has Dre been up to?
Look Out For Detox
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2015’s Compton was supposed to serve as a conclusion to Dre’s musical progression. Inspired by the work done on the film Straight Outta Compton, Dre made his third studio album featuring guests such as Anderson .Paak, Snoop Dogg, King Mez, Kendrick Lamar, Ice Cube, Xzibit, Eminem, and more. The release of Compton prompted questions on whether or not Dr. Dre would finish work on that other album, Detox. Languished in development hell for decades, Detox fell victim of Dre’s perfectionism. He once told Rolling Stone he had close to 40 songs culled down from hundreds of beats made over the years, but couldn’t make any sense of it. “I didn't like it. It wasn't good,” Dre reasoned. “The record, it just wasn't good...I worked my ass off on it, and I don't think I did a good enough job.”
Despite a purgatorial fate, Detox returned to life when Dre told an ESPN reporter in 2018 he was working on a couple of songs for the project. Even Scott Storch seemingly confirmed the existence of the elusive album last year. Still, considering Detox is an album that has seen multiple release dates come and go, take any news with an extremely tentative grain of salt.
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Then there’s Anderson .Paak. The soul singer/polymath extraordinaire got a major shine thanks to Dre featuring him on several breakout moments on Compton, including the standout "Animals." Dre wisely signed him to Aftermath right away, providing his ear and sonic know-how to .Paak’s upcoming music. It’s a collaboration that’s proven powerful for .Paak. We've already seen Oxnard arise from their collaborative sessions, and now there's a new album – Ventura – on the horizon.
“The co-sign is one thing, but when you get someone that really wants to work with you and put real sweat and skin in the game and your project, that's different,” Anderson told the Cruz Show last year. “That's better. Before I got to Dre, me and my team had did a lot. So, it was unlike anything I feel that he's ever done. For him to put his stamp on it... He was always like: 'I wanna be a part of what you doin'. Do I have to be a part of this? No. I wanna be. You got it goin'. You inspire me.' It's like, he's inspiring me and we're working together on this project and it's like this is our baby. He ain't even from Oxnard. Compton is very far from Oxnard.”
The rest of Dre’s production discography post-Compton is sparse. Save for a single credit on Eminem's Revival, overseeing Em's followup Kamikaze, and co-producing the T.I. single "Dope", Dre's output feels methodical and sparse. Still, his HBO documentary had one surprise by way of a new song, the incendiary “Gunfire” that shows if anything, Dre hasn’t lost a single step. In the meantime, Dre seems to be devoting energies to helping former Aftermath signee Busta Rhymespolish up his long-awaited studio album. As the album was originally intended to be released on Dre’s Aftermath label, Busta has joked that Dre was to blame for the long wait, so it’s only right that he arrives at the project’s end to help it once more.
Waiting For That Next Episode
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Dr. Dre previously dipped his toes into film and TV during the 90s and evidently, the success of Straight Outta Compton inspired him to return to the visuals game. There was the HBO documentary series The Defiant Ones which examined the friendship of Dre and fellow Beats-head Jimmy Iovine as they careened through decades of music history. Much like Straight Outta Compton, The Defiant Ones recontextualizes Dre’s musical lineage and seeks to secure his legacy in stone.
Dre was to follow it up with a scripted television show for Apple called “Vital Signs,” a show on which he would have served as executive producer and writer. “Vital Signs” was intended to be a semi-autobiographical retelling of his past before it was canned due to concerns the drama, with its violent and sexual content, would be an ill fit for Apple. He was also in talks with the Marvin Gaye estate about producing a biopic about the Motown musician's life in 2018, with very little news about the project surfacing since. One could only hope that if Detox were to resurface, it would be attached to a visual project similar in scale, reach and ambition.