It was 2002, and Dr. Dre had just conquered the world. What to do for an encore?
The previous two and a half years were the most successful of Dre’s storied career. After struggling to establish his new Aftermath Entertainment label, he struck gold with Eminem’s debut, The Slim Shady LP, and then his own second album, 2001. As the latter moved more than 7 million copies, it dominated urban radio throughout 2000 with singles like “Still D.R.E.,” “Forget About Dre,” “The Next Episode,” “Xxxplosive” and “Fuck You.” Meanwhile, Aftermath issued Eminem’s diamond-certified classic The Marshall Mathers LP and Xzibit’s platinum album Restless, and became one of the hottest rap labels in the industry.
Dre was already considered one of the greatest producers of the past 25 years. At best, a third solo record would have been just another laurel in his heavily feathered cap. Instead, he embarked on creating Detox, which he often called his “final album.”
During the next 10 years or so, Dre reportedly worked on tracks with more than two dozen rappers, producers and vocalists, from Aftermath stars like Em, 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes and Kendrick Lamar, to T.I., Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Skylar Grey and Mary J. Blige – and that’s not counting artists rumored to have hit the studio with him, like Elly Jackson of La Roux and Q-Tip. For nearly a decade, he publicly vacillated on whether or not Detox would ever be released, and then just as he seemed primed to deliver the album the world was waiting for, he apparently decided not to put it out after all, leaving us with only Internet leaks and rumors of what might have been. Some fans still clung to the hope that maybe in a few years time, just like the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson turned into his legendary aborted Smile sessions into the valedictory 2011 box set, perhaps Dre would reward their patience with one hell of a rarities package.
The saga took an expected turn this week when it was revealed that he will drop a third album after all. But it’s not Detox. Instead, it’s a companion record to the N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton (which premieres August 14th) that will include all new music, including potentially the first songs from the seminal gangsta rap group since 2000.
As news continues to break about the surprise release, let’s look back at the once-endless-seeming project that it appears to have finally put to rest.
2002-2003: Dre announced that his highly anticipated follow-up to 2001 would be called Detox. Perhaps inspired by his impressive cameo in the Oscar-winning good-cop-bad-cop drama Training Day (or as Prince Paul’s hip-hopera A Prince Among Thieves), he explained that it would be about the life of a hit man of the same name. “I had to come up with something different but still keep it hardcore, so what I decided to do was make my album one story about one person and just do the record through a character’s eyes,” he told MTV News that April. “It’s probably going to take me a year to get it all together.” 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg and Eminem would add vocals, and Denzel Washington was rumored to narrate the whole thing.