Friday, November 19, 2010

Does Anyone Really Care About Detox Anymore?

It is being reported that Dr. Dre has actually set a release date for Detox, his third studio album as a soloist that has taken him upwards of an entire decade to complete.

This is coming on the heels of Kush, Dre's new street single featuring Snoop Dogg that recently "leaked" online.

Kush is unmistakeably a Dre song, complete with his trademark pianos. The Funky Worm even makes an appearance to nail the point home that this is a Dre track. But sadly, it's nothing we haven't heard before.

To add insult to the injury that is the unremarkable song Kush, Dre, who is seemingly desperate for a hit, employs the questionable talent yet undeniable hit-maker Akon to sing a cheesy, auto-tuned hook about -- you guessed it -- weed. Again, nothing we haven't heard before.

Aside from certain media outlets being obliged to positively publicize the song, the overall response from fans has been lukewarm at best, and its trite subject matter -- regardless of how many people support the legalization of the soul flower -- has been greeted with indifference from listeners eager for new heat from Dre. Oh, by the way, the music and lyrics are nothing special, either.

But all one has to do is go back to this past spring when Dre "leaked" Under Pressure, his collaboration with Jay-Z and supposed lead single from Detox. That song -- complete with a weak beat with a weak, overused sample, and even weaker Dre vocals -- was received even more coolly than Kush.

So Dre, after getting the word that his single tanked on the streets, copped a plea by saying the song was unfinished and leaked without his consent, and ultimately turned it into the soundtrack for an HP commercial, playing off the significance that he couldn't even turn out a hit with one of Hiphop's most revered lyricists.

Add that fact to how Dre signed legends Rakim and Raekwon to separate record deals through his Aftermath imprint with each artist deciding to leave the label after years of musical futility and we have a bonafide pattern of ineffective music released from Dr. Dre even though he was working with the best in the business.

Which brings me to my original question -- after seeing Dre flounder with Rae and Rakim, and after hearing Dre's first two "leaks" from his upcoming album -- does anyone really care about Detox anymore?

I know we're all curious to hear the final product considering Dre's track record for solo albums (not to mention the overhyped anticipation for it), but after leaving fans waiting for ten years, should we be insulted that the first two offerings have amounted to nothing better than mixtape music?

I know Dre is responsible for creating and then fine tuning an the subgenres of gangsta rap and G-Funk, and those facts should not be ignored and are solidified in the annals of Hiphop history.

HOWEVER, in keeping with the tradition of finicky fans of Hiphop music, that was then and this is now. At a certain point, quality takes a back seat to quantity. And although Dre almost single-handedly provided the soundtrack to rap music in the 90s, he has been basically nonexistent in the 00s.

(Editor's note: I know Dre produced the seminal hit In Da Club and helped shape 50's classic debut Get Rich or Die Tryin', but that was in 2003 -- seven long years ago -- and while Dre did some work here and there afterward, nothing he was involved with ever measured up to the success of that song. This is what I'm basing my criticism on.)

So, the question remains -- does anyone really care about Detox anymore? I guess we'll have to wait and see once/if it is released.

Let the Horns Blow

In years past the use of horns on a hiphop track (either sampled or live) was the recipe for instant success, but over the past decade or so the soundscape to our treasured music form has been noticeably absent of those trusty trumpets and saxophones that were omnipresent in the 80s and much of the 90s.

From Public Enemy's signature wailing, looped high-pitched horns found on classics such as Don't Believe the Hype and Rebel Without a Pause to Big Daddy Kane's more subtle brass sounds on Smooth Operator and Young Gifted and Black, you couldn't find an album without at least a few songs that prominently featured horns.

But now, what was once the calling card of Pete Rock, the Beatnuts and Large Professor (and others) has now become a lost art.

Instead, the horns were seemingly replaced by hard drums (not necessarily a bad thing) as well as synths, which admirably simulate horns but unfortunately lack the desired effect created in the past. The result was, ironically, and still is, the music being popularized beyond belief while at the same time losing much of its authenticity and so-called “realness” on which the music was originally based.

But certain producers have seemingly made a recent effort to bring back the horns in a major way, showcasing how the addition of one or more brass instruments can significantly liven up any song while simultaneously paying homage to their predecessors, thus revitalizing the soundtrack to my formative years. It’s refreshing.

We’re not quite back in mid-90s mode, but with the below showings from the past few years, it seems the hiphop horn is making a serious comeback.

Significant recent contributions have come from unexpected sources, Young Buck and Lil' Wayne, as well as from the usual suspects like Freddie Foxxx and 9th Wonder.

None of these songs are popular by any means, but the vast range of styles each rapper has shows no one is immune to the magic horns create on a good, solid hiphop track. Hell, even Sheek Louch got in on the fun on his recent mixtape with his reworking of the Jungle Brothers 20-year-old classic The Promo.

Hopefully this is a sign of things to come and producers are bringing it back to the essence, as music has always been a cyclical art.

Here are but a few examples of what the game’s been missing, in no particular order:

Digable Planets - Rebirth of Slick
Uploaded by oublierleracismeskyblog. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

Honorable mention:

Surprisingly much of the material from many of the game’s more celebrated producers -- Dilla and Dr. Dre immediately come to mind -- is absent of horns.

I know I forgot plenty of examples.

What are your favorite hiphop songs -- new or old -- that feature live or sampled horns?

Back From the Dead

"I took time off, but now I'm back to work." - EPMD, 1989

Hiphop didn't die, I did!

But now I'm back from the dead, and with my resurrection comes a better, more in-depth look at this still-growing phenomenon known as hiphop music and culture, and everything that comes along with it.

Enjoy, and spread the word!

Because I'm back!

- BC-TW The Orgen Nabru Lufwalnu