In the past five years I have found myself growing more and more frustrated with the state of rap and hip hop music. What was before a conduit for inner city frustration has now become a way to put porn and self-praise on the airwaves. I hear more about jewelry and “bitches and ho’s” now than I ever did in the late ‘90s or early 2000s. This change marks a shift in target audience from one’s peers in the game to those wealthy enough for clubbing and representing in the night culture.

Recently Dr. Dre came out with his first album since 1999 which he says will also be his last album. Unlike P. Diddy (Puff Daddy) who likes to rap on the albums of his protégés, Dre approaches the role of producer from the background, allowing the talent to speak for itself.

On his new album Dre sticks to the old school formula of respect, representing his crew, and demanding respect from his peers. He sounds almost exactly the same as he did in the 90s when he was collaborating with Tupac and Snoop. His style of rap (known as “West Coast G-Funk”) is more about slow and heavy synthesized beats. The rap world, including his protégé Eminem, have moved on to match the demands of the market or, alternatively, the whims of their fellow artists. His own style seems to be stuck in a world where East and West Coast were at odds and we are expected to give him respect simply because he is Dr. Dre. Nevermind the powerhouses coming out of the ATL (Atlanta) or separate from P.Diddy in New York (Rockefeller Records). Nevermind that rap music now serves as dance music in the clubs and has to be less about the lyrics and more about the 808 track (the repetitiveness of which often makes me turn away from the station in the car).

I found myself listening to the new Dre song and thinking, wow, I did forget about Dre. It transported me back to middle school when California Love was cool and we all wondered who did Biggie in. Despite the nostalgia I am not convinced that Dre can reach the rap audience of today without Eminem or Snoop on the track. I view him as a relic from the past while Eminem and Snoop have kept up with the changes. It makes me wonder how many more years will pass until people ask “Who is that rapping on the track with ______? Dr. Dre? Who is that?”

You have to come out with music more than every 10 years or collaborate with others in that time period to remain relevant. Dr. Dre needs to either remain behind the scenes or go the way of P. Diddy, which is to throw down some “yeahs” and “f&*ks” every couple of songs. Either way we may be losing a link to the history of an art form that was once so influential in American culture and now seems to be becoming a fancy form of elevator music. Come on Dre, make us remember rap’s history and look forward to its future. I wish he had made his last record sound like something revolutionary rather than just Gin and Juice recycled. In my view it is probably better for him to produce than to rap at this point in time because the last thing I want to see is one of the greatest rap producers of the last 20 years fade into lameness.