Dr Dre Should’ve Just Released “Detox”

It’s a bit insulting that, after teasing the world for umpteen years with the hip-hop holy grail that was supposed to be Detox, Dr Dre announced on his Beats1 Radio show that he “didn’t like it” and that “the record, it just wasn’t good.”

To me, this sounds like Dre copping a plea. Having never heard Detox, I’d assume that the album was probably really good by early-2000s standards. He just sat on it for too long, and now he’s surprised that it sounds stale in 2015.

Instead, he’s releasing Compton: A Soundtrack, which is really a soundtrack for the new Straight Outta Compton movie. All the songs have at least two features, suggesting that at age 50 Dr. Dre lacks the fine motor skills to write an entire rap verse. How can it be called a Dr. Dre album if the majority of the album’s verses aren’t from Dre? He didn’t even produce all of the beats: he had to call DJ Premier in for help.

Artistically, it’s a bit dishonest of Dre to scrap Detox in its entirety instead of releasing it in its original form, if only because it’s a rap album and not the Sistine Chapel. Who knows, there’s probably plenty of people who would’ve enjoyed listening to it and considered it a great album in the context of early-2000s nostalgia. (Granted, Dre screwed himself over because anything he releases at this point isn’t going to meet hip-hop heads’ impossibly high expectations.) 

It’s like the most recent Wu-Tang Clan album, A Better Tomorrow, where expectations exceeded reality: RZA spent seven years and $500,000 to produce what is, at best, a terribly decent, non-threatening and otherwise unremarkable album. But at least he had the courage to release it.

And if we’re being honest, Dre hasn’t been a full-time musical artist for a hot minute. Since selling his Beats by Dre headphone company, Dre’s been an Apple employee for all intents and purposes, which presumably allows him to work closely with the team behind the new Apple Music streaming service. So if anyone’s in the best position to know how little money there is in being a musician—especially in the age of streaming music services—it’s Dre.

Thus, there’s an argument to be made that Dre is releasing music for the love of the craft. But one might think someone who actually loves the craft would be self-aware enough to avoid wasting years making an album, then tossing it in the trash because he “didn’t like it.”  At some point in the creative process, an artist can honestly look at the trash in front of them and start over; it usually doesn’t happen more than 10 years in.

When you get down to it, Compton can only serve to reinforce the acceptance of mediocrity in music. The ever-increasing ease of access to music via streaming services like Apple Music has trained listeners and artists alike to settle for mediocre, overly manicured art, because it doesn’t really matter what you put into your ear holes, as long as it’s convenient, artistic integrity be damned. Releasing Detox despite its flaws would’ve been really cool, because at least Dre would’ve seen the project to completion while demonstrating that he truly doesn’t give a damn. That’s pretty gangsta.

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