The grainy 31-second video clip surfaced on YouTube this week and immediately sent shudders of excitement through the hip-hop universe: A release date for "Detox," Dr. Dre's eagerly anticipated, long-gestating follow-up to his classic 1999 album "The Chronic: 2001," has finally been announced for 2007.
"You see this man here?" asks Dre's rap protege, Bishop Lamont, a mix-tape veteran. In the clip, he's standing beside the uber-producer in front of a vast recording studio mixing board. "We gonna do shameless promotion. 'Detox.' September ... This is not make-believe," Lamont says. The two crack off-color jokes and the camera pans across a room full of Dre's recording equipment. Fade out.
Initially announced in 2002 then tentatively scheduled for release two years later, "Detox" has become something of an urban music legend. In rap circles, its mystique parallels that of Brian Wilson's 37-years-in-the-making album "Smile": an impossibly ambitious, sonically groundbreaking labor of perfectionism so painstakingly crafted as to become almost impossible to finish.
Although the producer has offered no clue about what's taking him so long, rumors abound that many tracks originally intended for "Detox" have gone to top-tier rappers.
In a clear indication of Dre's process -- as well as his legendary musical "vault" of unreleased music -- he bought a beat for "Detox" from hit-making producer Jonathan "J.R." Rotem in 2003 and went so far as to record a vocal, titling the track, "It Ain't a Thing." The song, which was previewed for The Times, has yet to be heard outside the producer's studio.
"I think Dre, when you reach a level like him, he's the king," Rotem said. "He can't go any higher. So all he can do is fall off. His attitude is: 'I don't need to put out an album for more respect. I don't need to put out an album for more money. I just want to do what I want to do and I want it to be the most innovative thing.' The standard he set for himself is so high. So he's like, 'Hey, I'll put it out when I put it out.' "
The notoriously press-averse Dre could not be reached for comment, although a spokeswoman confirmed the authenticity of the video clip.