Dr. Dre’s long, long awaited Detox has received its latest release date, this time via a press release from Interscope’s London office guaranteeing that hip-hop’s most-awaited album will touch down on “February 2011.” The project’s first single, “Kush,” co-starring Dre’s long-time gangsta rap conspirator Snoop Dog and Akon, is now officially available. While the album’s drawn-out gestation period has bred cynicism towards its quality and actuality, the gigantic sound of Detox is still gonna rule rap next year. Here are ten unabashedly positive reasons why.
1. Don’t Doubt Dre “Haters say Dre fell off/How, nigga? My last album was The Chronic.” So rapped L.A.’s least medically-licensed doctor on 1999’s emphatic “Still D.R.E.” It’s a sober claim that still stands — although he’s since added grabbing a Grammy with Eminem, turning 50 Cent into a superstar, and resurrecting Compton pride with The Game to his resume. The precedent is simple: It’s lunacy — or criticism for contrariness’ sake — to doubt anyone with Dre’s track record.
2. Bigger Is Better Independent rap may be in spluttering health, with even its foremost artists ungraciously scrambling around to make up for near non-existent sales figures with year-long touring schedules, but big budget rap is as blockbuster an attraction as ever. Whether Kanye West’s expansive approach to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, or Jay-Z performing one-off concerts at Radio City Music Hall while scooping up Nike’s dollars, fans lap up rap when it gets colossal. Bigger and brasher is better, and from sonics to theatrics, Dre knows how to stage-manage and showboat as well as any of his peers.
3. The Shifting Weight Of Expectation Since its 2003 inception, Detox‘s development period of broken promises, wild rumors, and missed deadlines has meant many have already written it off. It’s not even remotely entertaining to refer to the album’s lack of a release in a rap punchline any more. But conversely, by taking so long, Dre may now be in a position where the weight of expectation has shifted in his favor. Most people simply aren’t anticipating that much, and few have faith that it will live up to its hype and revolutionize rap. So just like Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2, Detox will score a conservative victory by simply avoiding being a total train-wreck. Despite his status, Dre’s almost coming in to this one as an underdog.
4. The Major Label Big Guns Won’t Let It Fail Detox will be released on Interscope, possibly the biggest—and definitely the most infamous—major label when it comes to pushing rap music. Under the helm of Jimmy Iovine, they’ve given the world 2Pac, Eminem, and 50 Cent. Record sales, as we all know, are down, but with its all-star cast and presumably gargantuan budget, if Detox bombs then the entire recording industry might as well tally up their remaining bank balances and call it a day. There’s no way the suits up at Interscope will let Detox flail into anything less than a mega-seller. The commercial stakes are too high. Besides, even when it leaks, Detox‘s already legendary status means it’s one of those albums you’ll own for the sake of collectorship. File it next to that copy of the New York Times the morning after election day.
5. Introducing Snoop Doggy Dogg Beyond formal hip-hop duos, there are plenty of rappers who thrive when working with a particular producer. The Clipse, for instance, should only ever be permitted to philosophize about crack over Neptunes beats. But when it comes to synergy in the studio, nothing sounds as pre-ordained as the weed-sozzled but in-synch combination of Dre and Snoop — just count their stack of hits. The presence of Snoop’s indolent flow on even a quarter of the tracks on Detox will be enough to anoint it to essential status.
6. Nothin’ But A Music Thang Poetically-aspirational rap skills aren’t exactly held in the highest esteem right now — you can score a worldwide hit with ad libs and arrogance easier than by relying on compound rhymes, just so long as your music is catchy enough. It’s a climate that suits Dre just fine. Never the fleetest of tongue, but a maestro running things behind the production boards, the formula of his chunky, astutely ghost-written rhymes over fleshed-out, melodic music is a shoe-in for mass appeal today. Negotiations for a Dre-centric episode of Glee are likely already in effect.
7. The Perfectionist Instead of griping about the number of years it’s taken Dre to get Detox to a near-finished stage, why not applaud the idea of an artist waiting until he’s content with an album’s level of quality before releasing it? Since when were perfectionist tendencies in art suddenly such a bad thing? In an age where rappers feel the pressure to release a disposable-by-nature free mixtape every month, all-caps comments section critics would do well to ask themselves whether they want their iTunes catalog defined by one classic Dre album or a rancid gluttony of Papoose mixtapes.
8. Change The Game Dre is hip-hop’s ultimate game-changer. His albums aren’t just collections of songs, but watershed points in the music’s history. Each time Dre is the driving force behind a project, he changes rap’s topography: think N.W.A. bringing the cannon of gangsta rap to the mainstream masses; The Chronic asserting the west coast as hip-hop’s hottest spot while New York was still basking in the spoils of the golden era; shattering the white rapper stigma with Eminem; pushing 50 to a pop audience. Even in these uncertain, online times, don’t bet against Dre changing rap again — even if it just involves physical copies of the album coming packaged with his own branded cognac and headphones.
9. Fantasy Football Rap Until the artwork leaks onto some rap aggregator blog, we won’t be sure of the final guest list, but Interscope’s latest press release already guarantees that Eminem, Jay-Z, Snoop, and The Game (plus, intriguingly, electro-pop duo La Roux) will feature. That’s not to mention much-rumored input and ghostwriting stints from Lil Wayne, Drake, Nas, T.I., and Ice Cube. So, basically a superstars-only club of rappers. This highest caliber talent should ensure everyone goes all out to avoid coming off like Jigga when he was upstaged by Eminem’s guest raps on “Renegade.” Or, at the very least, Detox will play out like the greatest ever megastar mixtape. (Disclaimer: Discount this point if anyone named Bishop Lamont makes the final cut.)
10. Talking Heads The run-up to Kanye West’s latest album showed that fans still love to talk about prickly musicians, whether slathering them with praise or stubbornly consigning them to the douche-bag box. A new album by Kanye, Jay-Z, Eminem or Dre becomes a musically historical talking point. Whether media-managed or off-the-cuff, their extra-musical shenanigans and quotes define a moment in pop culture; their art becomes a buoy by which to plot the worth of other releases. The value of Nas’s later albums are doubtful, but by turning his career into a lesson in sloganeering — Hip-hop is dead! The n-word! — he’s kept his name in the common conversation. When 2011 ends, guarantee that Dre’s Detox is the one you’ll still be debating.