The early morning call came out of nowhere. And it was shocking to say the least. Indeed, the prospect of being one of the first to hear select tracks from Dr. Dre’s Detox—easily the most long-awaited rap album in history—was the type of invitation you don’t receive every day. But as you step inside a small conference room in the New York offices of Interscope Records, you realize that this is a surreal occasion**.
A smiling woman instructs you to place your phone in a black bag. You are almost expecting to be blindfolded, like a scene straight out of Stanley Kubrick’s freak fest Eyes Wide Shut. “We just want to make sure that there is no texting or recording of any of the music,” she said. “Dre would not like that.” The few in attendance are allowed, however, to write down notes. It’s noted early on that one song—a much-reported track Dr. Dre has recorded with Jay-Z—is not finished.
“No one has heard it yet,” said an executive. “But we were told that Dre and Jay were in the studio all night. Beyonce was also there. That’s all I will say.” So now it’s the moment of truth. Does Detox, a project almost a decade in the making, deliver? The seven tracks that were played for VIBE offers a resounding YES. —Keith Murphy
Straight out the gate this is classic Dre. Crisp production highlighted by ear-pounding drums and futuristic keyboards. The Good Doctor kicks it off: “It’s still Dre Day, Nigga…2010, I can take 20 years off, join a cult, grow a beard, get fat, and still win…” Sounds like Eminem wrote this one. And who is this on the hook? It’s GAME. “Coming from the CPT, where stars are born, niggas is hard and them girls fuck ya friends…” This is a certified banger.
“Don’t Love Me”
The momentum doesn’t let up. It’s Dre and…Eminem! The track is a mid-tempo cut. I recognize one sample from the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album. It’s weird…live violins, buzzing sounds? Dre is really taking it there. “I’m cool, you don’t have to love me, say that Dre is washed up, finished, but you still listening to the album? Yeah? I can feel it…” And Em goes in. He’s rhyming at a ridiculous speed…Something about Sarah Palin, aliens, Tiger Woods, jumper cables, the book Catcher In The Rye and coffins. Now that’s a pretty strange mix.
“Only In L.A”
Okay, now it sounds like I’m being transported back to the first Chronic album. Here comes the classic Moog keyboard and an all-too funky bassline. When Dre calls, you come. This is the new and veteran guard of the West Coast hip-hop nation getting together. I hear Dre, Game, Snoop Dogg, Jay Rock, Nipsey Hustle, and a new Dre protégé named Shorty Loc Strapped, who has a nice balance of lyrics and fuck-you-attitude (“Just bury me in my 6-4 and a sack of weed and I’m straight…”)… Every one comes off (Nipsey kills it!). But the Game’s verse stands out. He gives a shout out to seemingly every West Coast Rapper who ever picked up a mic. “Arabian Prince, Ice T, King T, Eazy E, HWA, Skee-Lo, NWA…Pharcyde, Too Short, Del, E-40, Alkaholiks, Ice Cube, Yo Yo, Cypress Hill, Murs, Will.i.am, and the homey Snoop….Still all in the same gang.”
“Was It Something I Said?”
This has radio hit written all over it. Bouncy, driving track that will also play well at the clubs. Dre is really cocky. This one sounds like it was written by Jay-Z—very witty. Okay, the rumors were true. Drake rocks out on his cut. “Hating ass niggas try to treat me like the fifth Jackson/Tito/But they mad ‘cuz I’m the star of the gang/Preemo..” Gang Starr reference?… I likes.
“Fuck Yo Couch”
I was put off by the title, but it makes sense. Dave Chappelle resurrects his hilarious Rick James impersonation and the fun times begin. This will be an omnipresent catch phrase that you are bound to hear from barbershops to colleges. Dre: “I’m so fly, I feel Teena Marie is whispering “Fire & Desire” in my ear while I bump a line…Fuck yo couch, nigga’” Ha!
"Better Luck Next Time”
Yes, the south represents. This time it’s T.I. (Lil Wayne and Andre 3000 are also rumored to be on a track together…If Dre pulls that off…Wow…). T.I. is rapping like his life depends on it over a bruising, creeping groove. Is this new or part of the tracks T.I. put down before he went to jail? Anyway, it knocks. “The King of The South, who else?” Tip raps. Hey, who are we to argue?
“Don’t Ever Lose It”
Dre shows love for hip hop. He rhymes about still being a fan of the music after all these years and name checks such diverse MC’s from Melle Mel and Spice 1 to Nicki Minaj. The beat sounds like it’s from 1988-1989, very sample based. The sample itself? I’m told by our resident classical music geek that it’s John Cage’s “4’33” chopped up. Sounds like keyboards and a real bassline. It more than works. It’s a triumph.
**By "surreal occasion" we mean "entirely bogus figment of our imagination." Ha! Happy April Fools Day.