For the most part, Dr. Dre prefers to keep out of the spotlight. And the rapper-turned-producer swapped life in front of the mic for a career behind the mixing desk a long time ago. But in January 2021 he took to Instagram to share a worrying health update with fans.
It’s safe to say that Dre is a hip-hop legend. He became a pioneer of gangsta rap in the late 1980s with his band N.W.A. before moving on to his own solo work and finally into producing. Some of you may not know that his label Aftermath Entertainment also helped to establish the careers of artists like 50 Cent, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar. More recently, meanwhile, Dre has become a media mogul with his Beats Electronics brand.
The talented producer launched the incredibly popular Beats by Dr. Dre headphones in 2008, and his business also expanded into music streaming. Then six years later he sold the Beats brand to Apple for an impressive $3 billion. The sale bumped Dre’s net worth to $800 million and made him the world’s richest rap artist, according to Forbes.
With all these riches and critical acclaim, then, what did Dre end up doing? Well, he didn’t just sit back and simply enjoy his fortune! The producer instead released his highly anticipated third album in 2015. Entitled Compton: A Soundtrack, the record’s release coincided with the premiere of the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton. And Dre would later confirm that he had been inspired by his experiences on set.
It would seem that the mid-2010s were an extremely successful time for Dre. During that period he also purchased a $40-million mansion in L.A.’s exclusive Brentwood neighborhood from Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen, Variety reports. With all this considered, it seemed that things were very much still on the up for Dre. But in January 2021 his world would be rocked by a considerable health scare.
Dre’s life story is the classic tale of rags to riches. The high-school dropout was born Andre Romelle Young in Los Angeles in February 1965. And he came from a musical family; his mother Verna had been a singer with a band called the Four Aces. Meanwhile, the rapper’s dad Theodore was a member of the Romells – from which Dre takes his middle name.
Growing up in Compton, California, Dre was brought up by his mom following his parents’ split. Though according to Biography.com, she remarried a number of times and the family moved a lot. As a youngster, Dre was disinterested in school – his passion instead lay in music. And after he received a music mixer as a Christmas present in 1984, the young talent transformed his family home into a makeshift studio.
Subsequently, Dre spent hours tinkering with his mixer and creating his own, distinctive sound. Eventually, the talent started frequenting the Eve After Dark nightclub in Los Angeles, and it’s here where he got some of his first DJing experience. Dre later became a member of the World Class Wreckin’ Cru – an electro group that toured nightspots to perform.
It was also around this time the producer acquired his famous moniker. Under this new rap persona, he became known as Dr. Dre, the Master of Mixology. But where did the name come from? Well, according to Biography.com, it was at least partly inspired by the basketball ace Julius “Dr. J.” Erving, who the aspiring hip-hop artist was said to admire.
Dre’s big break then came when he joined N.W.A. in 1987. The group included the fellow artists Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Yella, the Arabian Prince, MC Ren and the D.O.C. And together, the band would become early pioneers of gangsta rap music. Their lyrics were often expletive-laden and jarring – reflecting the harsh reality of the streets.
N.W.A. launched their acclaimed second album Straight Outta Compton in 1988. Biography.com notes that the record sold over two million copies. Not only that: it also ushered in an entirely new style of hip-hop. The release was not without controversy, though. One song was even accused of inciting violence, as it documented the tensions between African-American youngsters and law enforcement.
Nevertheless, the success of N.W.A. cemented Dre’s status as a major figure in the rap world. He would then build on that reputation further in 1992 with the release of his solo album The Chronic, which was released on Death Row Records. It would go on to become three times Platinum-certified and sell three million copies, according to Biography.com.
But The Chronic didn’t just establish Dre’s solo career. It also launched that of Snoop Dogg’s, who appeared on the track “Nuthin but a ‘G’ Thang.” What’s more, the album popularised a hip-hop style known as G-funk, which combined funk samples with gangsta rap. The mashup style was seemingly born from Dre’s longstanding admiration of bands like Parliament-Funkadelic.
Dre would follow his first solo effort with the release of his 2001 album in 1999. The release proved a hit in the pop and rap charts and for several years Dre promised fans a third record. That was to be entitled Detox, and while some tracks from the album were subsequently leaked, the project never actually came to fruition.
So, as we’ve seen, Dre enjoyed stunning success with his own music projects. But what’s perhaps less known is the huge role he played in launching the careers of other hip-hop artists. In 1991 he co-founded Death Row Records with Marion “Suge” Knight. And this label was responsible for Snoop Dogg’s debut album Doggystyle, as well as Tupac Shakur’s 1996 record All Eyez on Me.
Dre ultimately left Death Row Records, which would later become embroiled in the West/East Coast rap feud. Instead, he set up his own label called Aftermath Entertainment. One of his biggest signings was a then-little-known talent called Eminem. At that time, the producer experienced some criticism for representing a white rap artist. Though the collaboration would prove to be a successful one.
The star subsequently helped produce and release a series of Eminem’s top records. Among them were 1999’s The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP, which came out one year later. Another major signing to Aftermath Entertainment was 50 Cent, who released his triumphant first record Get Rich or Die Tryin’ in 2003 with the assistance of Dre.
Though Dre wasn’t just producing and releasing hits during this time. In 2006 he established Beats Electronics with fellow music mogul Jimmy Iovine. Through the brand, they launched their Beats by Dr. Dre Studio headphones. Despite the hefty price tag, they proved immensely popular and the company launched more products that received celebrity endorsements.
In January 2014 Dre launched his Beats Music streaming service. Though later that year, Apple purchased the company for $3 billion – while taking the producer and Iovine on as executives. The deal, in turn, boosted Dre’s estimated wealth to $800 million. And as we mentioned earlier, Forbes reports that it made him world’s richest rap star.
What followed was a fruitful time for Dre. The artist finally released his third album: Compton: A Soundtrack. Its debut accompanied the premiere of the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton and was apparently inspired by his time on set. Though Dre went on to shock fans worldwide when he confirmed that the long-awaited record would be his last.
Deciding to go out with a bang, Dre reunited with many of his previous collaborators on the album. These included Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, The Game and Kendrick Lamar. Speaking of the record on his radio show The Pharmacy in 2015, the producer explained, “This [is] my time to get it right. All my friends came in. We all came together to build this thang. It’s gonna be my grand finale. The record is crazy.”
But fans of Dre may not be entirely surprised by the star’s decision to bow out of his recording career. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 2015 the mogul revealed that he shunned the limelight on account of his “social anxiety.” He explained, “I don’t like being in the spotlight, so I made a… weird career choice.
Dre added that Straight Outta Compton gave fans a rare insight into his life. He said, “That’s the reason for my mystique and why I’m so secluded and why everybody knows nothing about me. I think it added to the character in the movie because people get a chance to see behind the curtain.”
In the subsequent years, then, Dre remained mostly out of the headlines. Though in June 2020 it was reported the producer’s wife Nicole Young had filed for divorce after 24 years of marriage. The latter – who shares two children with the hip-hop legend – cited irreconcilable differences in official documents filed at Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Though in January 2021 Young made a shocking allegation against Dre. She filed another divorce document accusing him of physical abuse. Young claimed she’d been assaulted by the rapper and that he had held a gun to her head, according to papers seen by the Daily Mail. The newspaper added that Dre denied the claims, stating, “At no time did I abuse [Young] or threaten her physical safety.”
But the divorce and allegations against Dre weren’t his only worries. That’s because, on January 4, 2021, the hip-hop artist was rushed by ambulance to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. And after being admitted to the hospital, he was apparently treated in the intensive care unit.
It soon emerged that Dre had suffered a brain aneurysm. These occur when a weak area of an artery in the skull becomes filled with blood – making a bulge. In turn, the swelling can put pressure on the surrounding tissue or nerves. Often, though, such growths go unnoticed until they burst.
A ruptured aneurysm can lead to bleeding in the brain – a potentially fatal development known as a subarachnoid hemorrhage. The condition can lead to major brain damage and symptoms that include a sudden and excruciating headache. According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, ruptured aneurysms are deadly in 50 percent of cases. And among survivors, around two-thirds will experience permanent neurological deficits.
Naturally, fellow hip-hop artists offered words of support on social media as news of Dre’s illness emerged. Ice Cube – who appeared alongside the producer in the N.W.A. line-up – tweeted a photograph of the pair. In his post, Ice Cube urged his fans, “Send your love and prayers to the homie Dr. Dre.”
Meanwhile, Snoop Dogg – whose career Dre helped launch in the 1990s – posted a video of the two men performing together on his Instagram page. In the accompanying caption, the “Drop It Like It’s Hot” rapper added, “Get well Dr. Dre, we need you cuz.” And the tributes didn’t end there.
Missy Elliott – who appeared alongside Dre on the 2007 Timbaland song “Bounce” – also shared her well-wishes. Writing on Twitter, the multiple-Grammy winner told her followers, “[I’m sending] prayers up for Dr. Dre and his family for healing and strength over his mind and body.”
TMZ subsequently reported that Dre was in a “stable and lucid condition” in the days after his hospitalization. The gossip site also stated that doctors were looking into the cause of the bleed through a series of tests. Though despite his ordeal, it seemed that Dre was managing to stay positive.
Taking to Instagram in the wake of his hospitalization, Dre wrote, “Thanks to my family, friends and fans for their interest and well wishes. I’m doing great and getting excellent care from my medical team. I will be out of the hospital and back home soon. Shout out to all the great medical professionals at Cedars. One Love!”
Fans were given a further update on Dre’s condition courtesy of the rapper Ice-T. He wrote on Twitter in January 2021, “Update: [I] just FaceTimed with [Dre]. He just made it home.” Following the video call, Ice T confirmed that the esteemed hip-hop producer was “safe and looking good.”
Following Ice T’s update, Dre’s lawyer confirmed that he was back at home after being discharged from the hospital. And it appeared that the hip-hop star wasted no time in getting back in the studio. Yep, producer Dem Jointz posted a picture of Dre behind a mixing desk just over a week after the latter’s release from hospital!
What’s more, it seemed that Dre wasn’t back in the studio in his role as a producer. If you’ll remember, the star claimed that Compton would be his third and final album. Has he had a change of heart? Posting a picture of Dre surrounded by rappers on Instagram in January 2021, Dem teased, “And we back!” Meanwhile, the message came accompanied by the hashtag “#Detox21,” which has since been deleted.
“Detox” was actually the intended title of Dre’s third studio album, which was first announced in the wake of his second release 2001. The producer had reportedly toiled on the record for more than ten years before confirming he’d scrapped the project in 2015. Ever the perfectionist, the rapper claimed that the body of work had not been up to scratch.
Dre told Rolling Stone in 2015, “I had between 20 and 40 songs for Detox, and I just couldn’t feel it. Usually, I can hear the sequence of an album as I’m going, but I wasn’t able to do that. I wasn’t feeling it in my gut. So I really thought I was done being an artist.”
Evidently, it seemed like Dre had put his Detox album to bed once and for all. Yet rumors that he would one day release the work persisted. And the producer himself added fuel to the fire in 2017 when he reportedly told a reporter, “I’m working on a couple [of] songs right now. We’ll see.”
Despite Dre’s worrying health news, it seems that there’s no keeping the artist down. Even if his Detox album does not materialize, it’s safe to say that the self-confessed recluse will remain in the headlines for some time. And this is especially so given that his divorce from Young continues to roll on.