A Brief History of Dr. Dre Not Releasing His Next Album

Yesterday, in the midst of an interview promoting the forthcoming NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton, Ice Cube casually dropped a bombshell: that Dr. Dre is releasing a new album, perhaps as soon as this Saturday, “inspired by the Compton movie.” This would be kind of a giant deal, since the good doctor hasn’t put out a full album of his own since 1999 — yep, sixteen years, which means that if 2001 were a person, it’d be driving now (and asking Dad awkward questions about its name.) But what might’ve prompted dancing in the streets and rolling in six-fours was instead greeted by a collective shrug, as even the most trusting and faithful of fans have reason to be a tad skeptical about the notion of a new Dre record. And here’s why:

November 1999: Dr. Dre releases his second studio album 2001, an influential, widely acclaimed blockbuster (sextuple platinum) featuring Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, Nate Dogg, Mary J. Blige, and recent Dre discovery Eminem.

April 2002: After taking some time off and producing new tracks for Eminem, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, Eve, Busta Rhymes, Mary J. Blige, Mac 10, and Warren G, Dr. Dre tells MTV about Detox, which he claims will be his final solo album. He describes an ambitious first-person theme album that will eschew “lowriders and blunts and all that… That’s played. As a matter of fact, I’m tired of hearing other people talk about it”. He says Detox is in its early stages, “gathering sounds and what have you.” But MTV estimates the album will hit shelves in summer of 2003. “It’s probably going to take me like a year to get it all the way together,” Dre says.

Cover for Dr. Dre's "Detox"

Summer 2003: Dr. Dre does not release Detox.

January 2004: Co-producer Scott Storch tells MTV Detox is “the most advanced rap album musically and lyrically we’ll probably ever have a chance to listen to,” confirming that they’ve been working on the album for the past year, though the final tracks haven’t been chosen or titled. “Dr. Dre always tries to top his last one,” Storch explains. “That’s why he spends so much time putting them together and they don’t come out every five minutes.” Storch predicts the album won’t street until the end of 2004.

December 2004: Dr. Dre does not release Detox. But!

November 2004: MTV reports Interscope Records has Detox slated for a Fall 2005 release. “Dre got his groove back, and he’s ready to do the Detox,” says The Game, who worked with Dre on his debut album The Documentary. The same month, Eminem releases Encore with several Dre collaborations; on one of them, the title track, Em insists, “And don’t worry ’bout that Detox album/ It’s comin’/ We gonna make Dre do it.”

January 2005: The Game releases The Documentary. On the track “Higher,” Dre not only produces but takes the mic, proclaiming, “Doc got something to say, be quiet/ Look out for Detox.”

Fall 2005: Dr. Dre does not release Detox.

August 2007: 50 Cent, who reportedly guests on Detox, explains of the delays: “He’s working on it. I’ve recorded two songs for him. Dre’s such a perfectionist. But sometimes that can be a bad thing. You create new pressure when you wait that long.” No kidding!

June 2008: In an interview on the “Big Boy’s Neighborhood” radio show, frequent collaborator and Detox guest artist Snoop Dogg admits, “I was starting to doubt it myself and then I went up in there and he played so much music for me it knocked my head off.” Snoop’s view is firm: the record is completed, “and it’s coming… I see what he got them waiting for, it’s on and poppin’.”

November 2008: Axl Rose releases Chinese Democracy, rendering moot Detox‘s longstanding unofficial nickname, “hip-hop’s Chinese Democracy.”

December 2008: Eminem tells Billboard Dre has put Detox aside to work closely with him on the new album Relapse.

May 2009: In a commercial for Dr. Pepper (above), Dre debuts a few seconds of the beat to a reported Detox track titled “Shit Popped Off.” At the end of the ad, Dre assures the viewer, “Slower is better – trust me, I’m a doctor.” In a joint appearance on BET’s 106 & Park, Eminem and 50 Cent assure fans that Detox is on its way. “I heard eight records,” 50 brags. Billboard reports the record is “currently slated for a late 2009 release on Aftermath/Interscope.”

Late 2009: Dr. Dre does not release Detox.

April 2010: Dre and Interscope Records head Jimmy Iovine announce the lead-off single for Detox will be “Under Pressure,” a Dre/Jay-Z duet. Two months later, an unfinished version of the song leaks. It receives a decidedly lukewarm reception.

September 2010: In an interview with Dj iroc, Dre says “Under Pressure” and other leaked tracks will not be included on Detox when (if?) it is released. “I got hard new shit,” he says. “I had a little bit of a leak in my security and what have you, but I got new shit coming and trust me, it will not be [a disappointment], you know what I mean? Y’all niggas gonna love this shit!”

November 2010: Dre releases “Kush,” featuring Snoop and Akon, the first official single from Detox. Its weed-ccentric lyrics seem to dispute the original concept of Detox jettisoning “lowriders and blunts and all that,” but Dre tells Big Boy, “I don’t want people to think that that’s what my album is about. This is actually the only song with that type of content in it. It’s not a representation of what the album is.” And as far as the album? “I see the finish line right now,” he says. “I’m wrapping it up. I need about two or three more songs and hopefully I’ll start the mixing process at the end of next month. And from that point I’m about 30 days out.”

January 2011: Dr. Dre does not release Detox. But MTV Rapfix reports an April 20 release date.

February 2011: Dre releases the second single from Detox, “I Need a Doctor,” featuring Eminem and Skylar Grey.

April 2011: Dr. Dre does not release Detox.

November 2011: In an interview with The Fader, Dre says that after he completes production work for Slim Da Mobster and Kendrick Lamar, “I’m gonna just wrap it up for a minute because I’ve been working on music for 27 years now and the longest I’ve ever been out of the studio in 27 years has been two weeks… I’m never gonna stop music, it’s like air to me. So I’mma take a little bit of a break. Enjoy some time with the family til I get that itch to get back in.” HipHop DX sadly notes, “There were no mentions of a Detox release during Dr. Dre’s interview with The Fader.”

February 2012: In a radio interview, occasional collaborator Obie Trice says Detox is finished and ready for release.

March 2012: Fellow Compton-born rapper/producer DJ Quik calls Dre “almost a perfectionist to a fault” and says of Detox, “I don’t believe Dr. Dre will release that album.”

October 2012: 50 Cent suggests Dre will still release Detox, but perhaps only as an EP. “I don’t know if he’s even excited to do it now,” Fiddy shrugs. “Last time I was in Los Angeles, he was actually in the studio, working on something else. So I’m not sure if he’s going to actually release a full CD or if he wants to just release the music that he’s comfortable with. He might do an EP or something like that – five or six songs.”

January 2013: Nine years after insisting Dre was “ready to do the Detox,” Game changes his tune. “Dre’s a hard guy to please,” he tells Vibe. “If he doesn’t become 100 percent happy, then we’ll probably never end up hearing Detox. I’ll say never.”

2012-2014: Dr. Dre does not release Detox (as an LP or an EP).

September 2014: On the Shots Fired podcast, Aftermath songwriter and producer Dawaun Parker says that while Dre’s third album is still in the works, it’s no longer called Detox. “He scrapped Detox a couple years ago, and came up with another title,” Parker explains. “I won’t say what the title is because I haven’t seen it online or anything yet. But he was like, ‘We’re going to call it this, and we’re going to put it out this way and this way and this way.’ He told a couple of people and we kinda knew that’s just what the thing we were working on, and if we get the joint that he feels like he can lead off with, then that’s what the project will be.” Of the album’s release, Parker shrugs, “I feel like one day, he’s gonna wake up and say, ‘Today’s the day, I’ll put it out,’ because the music has been there.”

March 2015: In another Big Boy interview, Dre talks about the Straight Outta Compton movie and hints that he’s making new music for it—though he may not bother to release it. “I’m working on something right now,” he says. “I don’t want to put it out there just yet and say that I’m definitely gonna put it out. But I’m really feeling what I’m working on right now. This would be a record that’s inspired by the movie.”

July 2015: Ice Cube says that an album “inspired by the Compton movie” will drop on August 1. “It’s mega. It’s Dr. Dre, it’s what everybody’s been waiting for,” Cube says. “It’s definitely a dope record, and he’s dropping it all on the same day.” A source tells Rolling Stone the album in question is the Straight Outta Compton soundtrack, “which will consist of new music entirely produced by The Chronic mastermind,” and that Saturday will mark not its release, but its official announcement by Dre on his Beats 1 radio show “The Pharmacy.”

Yeah, gotta tell ya, after 12 years of missed release dates, we’ll believe it when we see it.