This is big big news in rap. It's a new song from Dr. Dre, who is pretty much inarguably the greatest producer in the music's history. It's also, reportedly, an advance single from Dre's third solo album, Detox, a project rap fans have been waiting for, have know the title of, for nearly ten years now.
Delayed and delayed and delayed and delayed, Detox has taken on the almost mythical quality of Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy before that $13 million fiasco finally arrived to free cans of Dr. Pepper for all but otherwise general disappointment. Detox is supposed to be really truly honestly coming out early next year. Dre is on the cover of next month's XXL magazine announcing it and everything. Many people will believe it when they see it.
I don't think it's terrible at all. I don't think Akon should be allowed into a studio with Dre (or, you know, Michael Jackson) but Snoop sounds good ("tighter than the pants on Will.I.Am," in fact), and I like the sneaky strings that come creeping after the central beat. You can definitely imagine club-walls and chest-cavities quivering to this this winter. But after ten years? It seems slight, doesn't it? And unfocused. If I'm trying to get high, I don't want Akon's reedy autotuned voice all talking in my ear. But hey, maybe its not even mastered to Dre's final approval yet. Or maybe its been officially mastered, but it's specially formulated so that you have to hear it through a pair of Beats by Dr. Dre headphones to fully appreciate it. I don't know. I don't have Beats by Dr. Dre headphones. But still and all, I hope and trust Dre has more in store for us.
Something more exciting. Something that sounds more like this, actually.
That track, made for Alabama rapper Yelawolf—who already has one of the most exciting rap songs of the year under his belt, "Pop the Trunk"—is much more like what I would have expected from Dre. It sounds like you're listening to something from the future, which is always how Dre has sounded. Like he hears two years ahead of the rest of us, warp speed, and then brings it back and translates it through our speakers. The way those synths bend and ascend, all sci-fi and space-age—which is where we know Dre's mind has been lately. (Does that sound more like Mars, you think? Or Saturn?) And the bells, anchoring the beat with some horror-movie, Black-Sabbathy ominousness. Signature Dre.
But that is not Dre who made that track. Rather, it's a young producer from Akron, Ohio, Chris "Drama Beats" Pfaff. There's lots that odd about Drama Beats, besides the unoriginality of his professional name (there is already a very well-known hip-hop producer with the too similar name of DJ Drama) and the fact that his photographer parents shot Lebron James' senior high school portrait. Most interestingly, he was on the MTV reality show "Rob & Big." Because he is the younger cousin of one of the show's stars, professional skateboarder Rob Drydek. He came out to L.A. to break into the music biz. And he has!
And I am impressed. But man, it's funny: more than anything else, this track is testimony to how important Dr. Dre is. You can hear a lot of 1995's "Keep Their Heads Ringin'."
But also a key bit of "Boyz N Tha Hood."
And "Natural Born Killaz."
A little of Tupac's "Hail Mary," too. And some of Bone Crusher's "Never Scared." All sliced up and stretched out and updated to sound like something beaming back from 2014. Which is what we would have expected from Dre. Drama Beats is out-Dre-ing Dre!