The Dr Is In: Dr. Dre Offers Up Kush—Set to Detox in 2011

After years of reneged release dates and rap-world rumors of its completion, it seems Dr. Dre is finally ready to release his ten-year-in-the-making album, Detox¦maybe.

The first official single, Kush, released on Nov 18th,  features Snoop Dogg and Akon, and debuted at Number 48 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart after a partial sales week, making it Dre’s first appearance there since “The Next Episode” in 2000.

As the title suggests, the track is an ode to a particularly popular strain of marijuana, and features the classic, west coast sound he helped cultivate over twenty years ago.

The prolific west coast rapper, turned producer, turned executive, turned actor who burst onto the scene in 1988 with N.W.A. and birthed the gangsta rap era with Straight Outta Compton hasn’t stopped since.  His debut solo album, The Chronic was released on Death Row Records in 1992 and introduced the world to G-Funk style rap. He produced Snoop Dogg‘s debut album, Doggystyle, in 1993; the first-ever rap album to debut at Number 1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.

The Aftermath president, (who also launched the careers of Eminem and 50 Cent) began work on Detox in 2004, but stopped to focus on production for other artists, and was re-scheduled for release in 2005.  When that date was canceled, three years passed before Snoop told Rolling Stone magazine the album was done in 2008, sparking industry-wide confusion of the seemingly phantom record. Another year passed before Interscope Records announced they would release the album in 2010,  with an unauthorized version of Under Pressure, the rumored first single hitting the internet in June.  Now, that the real single has officially dropped,  Detox is slated for an early 2011 release date.  It’s likely that this release will actually materialize an album, but Dre says it will definitely be his last. If Kush is any indication of what fans can expect, it may well have been worth the wait.

By Cortney Wills

Cortney Wills is a pop culture journalist born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has lived in LA, Chicago and NYC and enjoys all things entertainment.

South Africa Rocks: The Parlotones

Starting a band is fairly simple, but building one into a success in Johannesburg, as The Parlotones have, took more legwork due in large part to the lack of a strong music scene. A household name in their homeland of South Africa”outselling bands like Oasis and The Killers in the country”The Parlotones still catch a who? outside of their homeland. But the Johannesburg-bred quartet are quickly permeating the global market with their rock, including the recent US debut of their release  Stardust Galaxies.

It’s [Johannesburg] an eclectic mix of cultures, languages, makeshift venues, musical genres and DIY events that can be likened to running on a treadmill, says vocalist Kahn Morbee, who like the rest of the band, covers up in black with some sprinkles of red, wrapping his eyes in spindly threads of noir liner like a new Tim Burton character. A lot of effort goes into it, but it seems to go nowhere. It’s kind of like a genius kid”it shows a lot of promise but never quite taps into it effectively. Still, a deficient music scene had little affect on the band’s love for their homeland. They’ve since relocated to London for easier access to Europe and the US but always consider Johannesburg home. In fact, Galaxies is a melodious homage to their hometown with its Nelson Mandela-inspired, synth-fused anthem, Should We Fight Back, stirred by the former president’s autobiography and Long Walk to Freedom, a more nostalgic ballad. Remember When wishes a real Batman would have come along during tough times.

All is not solemn but more reflective on Galaxies. It’s an echo of better times and worse days via South African upheavals and insidious epidemics”the relief of which is something the band thoroughly supports in their work as AIDS and malaria activists. Still, Galaxies is more than an indoctrinated call to the country’s socioeconomic issues. Pop-infused Push Me to the Floor leaves Morbee in a subtle Bryan Ferry moment of swoon while Fly to the Moon””perhaps The Parlotones’ own indie rendering of the Sinatra standard (Fly Me to the Moon)”about soaring into space with his Cinderella”is more love-bitten sentimentality. The title track is the perfect end to Galaxies, sweetly driven by Kate Bush-like vocals from South African colleague and Freshlyground’s vocalist Zohlani Mahola.

With a record officially out in the US and worldwide, 2010 has been quite an eventful year for The Parlotones.  They even launched their own wine (three debut bottles named after Parlotones’ songs) earlier this year. In 2011 they’ll return to the US, marking the second leg of their tour in support of Galaxies and including several SXSW dates. The band is also finishing work on a 3D film set for next spring; the idea for which was sparked by the band’s first 3D project with Sony 3D World in Nelson Mandela Square during the FIFA Kick off concert. Coming from a territory that does not have a track record for producing global names in music, we have found we always need to be innovative and forward thinking, says Morbee. With the world being at the dawn of the 3D era it seemed like the perfect vehicle to present the band to a global audience. We cannot give away too much at this stage but we are going to bring our fans worldwide a new and unique experience.

Even if The Parlotones are not a household name on every continent, they’re diligently working on getting there.

By Tina Benitez

Tina Benitez is a contributing writer, who covers music, wine and pop culture from her New York home office for publications like NY Press, Royal Flush, amNY, Men’s Fitness, Venus Zine and Wine Spectator.

The Life and Trying Times of Kanye West

There’s famous, there’s infamous and there’s Kanye West. The hip hop star embodies both while somehow transcending them, too. What other rapper in the history of the world can claim to have brought about the worst moment of a US President’s term as, according to George W. Bush, West did when he accused him of not caring about black people following the national government’s delayed response after Hurricane Katrina pummeled the US Gulf Coast in 2005.

Like Eminem and Jay-Z, West is a rap rarity, successfully negotiating the tightrope that connects commercial and critical success with street cred. Pop Star Kanye has sold millions of albums and in seven years, made a dozen trips to the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart, produced music for Brandy and Mariah Carey, and collaborated with Madonna and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine. Meanwhile, Critical Darling Kanye has won fourteen GRAMMYs and seen three of his first four albums nominated for Album of the Year. His fifth effort, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, released on November 22, has received unanimous praise, and Rolling Stone gave it a rare five-star review. And Street Kanye, as producer and/or performer, gets to keep company with the likes of Lil Wayne, Eminem and Jay-Z”with whom he’ll release Watch the Throne in 2011”on record.

Then there’s a fourth side to West, the one that too often overshadows all the others: Troublemaker Kanye. He’s the poor sport who doesn’t know how to lose gracefully, or silently, and stormed the stage at the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards when Justice and Simian’s “We Are Your Friends” won Best Video over his “Touch the Sky.” The conspiracy theorist who screamed racism and threatened to never again attend the MTV Video Music Awards in 2007 when Britney Spears was chosen to open the show over him and he lost in all five categories for which he was nominated.

He’s the controversy-baiting narcissist who posed as Jesus Christ on the cover of Rolling Stone in January of 2006 (complete with a crown of thorns) and whose latest album cover features an animated nude West being straddled by a winged female, also naked. The outspoken challenger of authority who slammed President Bush on national television during the live broadcast of the Concert for Hurricane Relief benefit for victims of Katrina. The reportedly drunken fool who most famously (and infamously) interrupted Taylor Swift’s Best Female Video acceptance speech (for “You Belong With Me”) at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards to anoint competitor Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” clip “one of the best videos of all time.”

West wouldn’t be arguably the most complicated guy in hip hop if he could take it and dish it out in equal measures. He took his lumps after the 2009 VMAs when he was criticized by the likes of Adam Lambert, Kelly Clarkson, Pink and Katy Perry and called an “asshole” off the record by President Barack Obama. And even as the three singles released prior to Fantasy failed to make much of a chart impact, he kept his cool.

But on November 12, West finally lost it. The man who raised his blood pressure past boiling point?: Today show host Matt Lauer, who, during a sit down with West, dared to show clips of the Taylor Swift incident and the interview in which Bush declared being called a racist by West to be the “all-time low” point of his presidency. Complaining (via Twitter, of course) about the “very brutal” interview during which he admonished Lauer for running the clips, West pulled out of a Today performance scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving and tweeted, “I feel very alone very used very tortured very forced very misunderstood very hollow very very misused.”

It’s hard to pinpoint the source of West’s misconduct. Perhaps he’s one of those temperamental talents, capricious and unpredictable, a volcano always on the verge of erupting. Or maybe he’s just a bully with extremely thin skin, who screams and runs for cover when the tables are turned against him. There have been rumors of a drinking problem (which some say led to his antics at last year’s VMAs). He’s had to cope with the sudden death of his mother, Donda, in 2007 due to complications following cosmetic surgery. And after the Today show blow-up, he found himself without an official mouthpiece when his publicist resigned after just three days on the job.

Of course, there’s a new record to promote, so the Kanye West Show must go on, temper tantrums, contradictory behavior, brilliant music and all. “I don’t hate Matt Lauer. We don’t promote hate. That’s the whole point!!! I promote love and truth! … All positive energy … all smiles. Much love to Matt and the whole Today Show,” he tweeted after his showdown with Lauer. He might never practice what he preaches or do unto others as he would have them do unto him, but then if he did, his beautiful dark twisted fantasy wouldn’t be so compelling.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is in stores now.

By Jeremy Helligar

Jeremy Helligar is a former staff writer for People, Teen People, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly, who now writes about celebrities and pop culture from his couch in Buenos Aires.

Drive-By Truckers Gear Up to Deliver 'Go-Go Boots'

The Drive-By Truckers are ready to deliver the band’s next album, Go-Go Boots, less than a year after releasing The Big To-Do.

So what’s the rush?

“It is going to be our Valentine’s Day record,” Chief Trucker Patterson Hood says. “We are really excited about it because we think this is the one that’s hopefully going to take it to the next level.”

Not that Drive-By Truckers have been any slouches. The Big To-Do debuted at No. 22 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart and No. 1 on the Indie Chart. Credit Hood, co-founder Mike Cooley and their band mates for not wavering from the band’s distinctive three-guitar line up since the band’s 1998 formation. The result has been an ultra-loyal fan base that has propelled the alt-country, southern-rock band up the charts and onto a growing number of critics “best of” lists.

“You know, I wouldn’t trade [the song] ‘Birthday Boy’ for a dozen of ‘Faithfully,'” says Hood mentioning a top-charting ballad by the rock band Journey. “The thing about the ballads is that you play them at those moments when you have an arena full of screaming girls. We don’t have either the ballads or the screaming girls.

Perhaps not now but we’ll see what happens when the fan base grows even stronger especially now that the Truckers’ spent part of the summer touring with their personal musical hero Tom Petty.

“That was a great experience and I think everyone really enjoyed it,” says Hood noting that at one time the Truckers’ had vowed not to take more opening gigs but quickly relented when Petty came calling. “I think it made us a better band, too.”

Fans will see that during the tour for Go-Go Boots when the band’s set list will draw heavily from the rock sounds presented on The Big To-Do and what Hood calls “the country, soul, murder ballad record” Go-Go Boots.

“We’ve worked real hard and I feel like it’s been rewarding and rewarded, too,” says Hood. “You know the economy is stuck right now and¦.we have built up a good enough set that people feel a little better spending their hard earned [money] to hear us. You know, we’re pretty consistent. Our show changes every night..and there are a lot of things about it that are in constant flux. We take it pretty seriously to make sure it’s 100% every night.

Most of the songs for both records were recorded at the same time, says Hood. The band decided to make two albums out of the works rather than leave some songs out or release a “ridiculously long, sprawling record.”

The songs on Go-Go Boots were influenced heavily by the band’s love for the music of Bobbie Womack, Eddie Hinton and soulful music often classified as the “Muscle Shoals (Alabama) sound.”

“Those influences loom very large on this record,” says Hood. “We have all been obsessed Eddie Hinton fans for years.”

In fact, the band covers the Hinton songs “Everybody Needs Love” and “Where’s Eddie?” which Hinton wrote and the British singer Lulu recorded in 1969.

“‘Everybody Needs Love’ doesn’t sound like something I’ve ever written, but it sure sounds like something I wish I could have written,” says Hood. “I feel as strongly performing that song as anything I’ve written. It’s kind of fun shining a light on [those songs] and hopefully encouraging more people to check Eddie’s music out¦.It was a labor of love recording those songs.”

[Editor’s Note: The Drive-By Truckers will release a 10-inch record with the songs “Thanksgiving Filter” and “Used to Be a Cop,” on November 26 in celebration of Record Store Day. Both songs will be included on Go-Go Boots.  The band will also release a film, The Secret to a Happy Ending, about how the American South shaped rock ‘n’ roll. For more details, check out the band’s Web site.

By Nancy Dunham

Nancy Dunham writes about music for Country Weekly, AOL Music’s site The Boot, The Washington Post, Relix and other publications.

Pop Is a Battlefield

Musicians are an unruly bunch. They’re in constant competition on and off the charts, going for each others’ jugulars”talking first and thinking later. Rappers have been throwing stones back and forth since the ’80s days of LL Cool J vs. Kool Moe Dee and Roxanne Shanté vs. The Real Roxanne. From the Supremes and the Rolling Stones to the Verve, Oasis and Sugababes, infighting among groups is nothing new. Solo pop stars, in comparison, were relatively cordial for years, and then the steel claws came out.

In a 1998 Movieline interview, Jennifer Lopez asked that Madonna not “spit” on her acting craft, while also aiming her slingshot at then-non-singer Gwyneth Paltrow as well as Winona Ryder.  Elton John, perhaps the most outspoken guy in pop, not only criticized the quality of his former BFF George Michael’s 2004 Patience album, but he also went on the record to caution Michael on the evils of his substance-abusing lifestyle. John, who famously pitched a hissy fit directed at Tina Turner while the two were rehearsing for VHI Divas Live in 1999, also once called “Die Another Day” by Madonna “the worst [James] Bond tune of all time.”

The bigger you are, the harder they go after you, and these days, Taylor Swift aside (and more on her later), nobody’s bigger than Lady Gaga.

Former Spice Girl turned designer Victoria Beckham went to town on Gaga in an interview this month with Women’s Wear Daily. If I’m being completely honest, is it fair to say she may have become a little bit of a parody of herself?” she asked. Maybe, maybe not, but it’s quite the turnaround from Beckham’s Gaga POV in a Daily Mirror interview this past July: Bit by bit she is finding her image, and it’s nice to see it, as she is undoubtedly a talented girl. I suppose it’s a pop star’s prerogative to change her mind”and it definitely makes for more interesting reading.

So does M.I.A.’s take on Gaga. She griped in NME last spring that Gaga was ripping off Madonna and Grace Jones and dismissed her as a “good mimic.” Then in June, Katy Perry took a thinly veiled swipe at Gaga’s controversial “Alejandro” video, tweeting that “Using blasphemy as entertainment is as cheap as a comedian telling a fart joke.”

Gaga isn’t the only one bringing out the beast in her fellow performers. Elaine Paige referred to her No. 1 fan Susan Boyle as a “virus” during an interview after the South Banks Show Awards in January. And depending on whom you believe, Lou Reed may have blocked Susan Boyle’s attempt to sing his “Perfect Day” on America’s Got Talent in September (his people say US licensing issues, not Reed, were to blame), but he made it up to her by directing the video for Boyle’s “Perfect Day” video.

All is forgiven. If only things had gone so smoothly for Kanye West.  After he dissed Taylor Swift last year at the MTV Video Music Awards, legions of stars, including Kelly Clarkson, Pink and Adam Lambert jumped to Swift’s defense. Of course, Katy Perry joined the anti-West brigade tweeting the following message to the rapper: “FUCK U KANYE. IT’S LIKE U STEPPED ON A KITTEN.” Meow!

When words fail them, some stars let their videos do the dissing. Pink lampooned Jessica Simpson, among other starlets, in her 2006 “Stupid Girls” video. Eminem has skewered Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, ‘N Sync, Moby and Michael Jackson in his videos, and he’s gone several rounds with his alleged (by him) ex-lover Mariah Carey, who retaliated by dressing in drag as Eminem and playing him as a stalker in her “Obsessed” video.

Over in the U.K., Lily Allen has stood in for Gaga as a favorite pop-star punching bag since she broke on to the global pop scene in 2006. Katy Perry, naturally, started a war of words with her a few years back when she described herself as being a “slimmer version of Lily Allen.” In retaliation, Allen called Perry “crass” and in a truly post-millenial move, threatened to post her telephone number on the internet. What happened to simply challenging her to a fist fight, as an irate Mary J. Blige did in the ’90s during an Interview magazine chat with model Veronica Webb?

Joss Stone also took aim at Allen last year, calling her “more of a personality than she is a singer,” and responded to her anti-filesharing stance by saying, “[Lily] needs to sell records because she’s not a singer, and that’s not an offence to her because I think that she knows that too.”

And on October 31, UK X Factor judges Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minogue gave Jamiroquai’s Jay Kay a rather frosty reception after his band performed on the show because of some expletive-laden comments Kay made about the show and the credibility of its judges shortly before his appearance. (The printable portion: “You’re useless. The pair of you.”) Cole won the war a week later when her second solo effort, Messy Little Raindrops, entered the UK album chart at No. 1, six notches above Jamiroquai’s new Rock Dust Light Star. Check. Mate.

By Jeremy Helligar

Jeremy Helligar is a former staff writer for People, Teen People, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly, who now writes about celebrities and pop culture from his couch in Buenos Aires.

The Wait Is Over: Nicki Minaj Drops Pink Friday on Music Monday

Pink Friday officially arrived after an unauthorized leak last Wednesday, unleashing the storm that is Nicki Minaj‘s first-full length album.  Today, on its release date, (Pink Monday?) Nicki’s debut”the 13-track LP which features cameos from an eclectic bunch including Drake, Eminem, will.i.am, and Natasha Bedingfield among others” is one of the most highly-anticipated records of the year.

With all the pre-album buzz swirling around her seemingly overnight super-stardom earlier this year, this album accomplishes the unattainable task of living up to the hype.

Nicki’s multiple personas are on full display, showcasing her versatility and depth as a writer and performer.  At times, she comes off as a soft, vulnerable woman caught in the trenches of love in songs like Right Thru Me and Save Me. The next moment, she’s a fierce firestorm of confidence, virtually unshakable with her no-holds-barred, aggressive rhymes that go toe to toe with some of the rawest men in the game on tracks like Did It On ’em and Here I Am.

All these bitches is my sons¦If I had a dick, I’d pull it out and piss on ˜em

More inspirational tracks like Fly, featuring Rihanna, hone in on the quest to overcome life’s obstacles and succeed despite adversity. The uplifting track inspires hope and strength and was produced by Britney [Spears] collaborator, J.R. Rotem.  Minaj offers a glimpse into her core with Dear Old Nicki, a track she literally penned to her former self, reconciling her current success with the work it took to get it.  In a way, she’s congratulating herself on a job well done, while convincing herself and others it hasn’t changed her.

The beats on her album are as diverse as the content, jumping from hard, bass-driven sounds to pop-techno stylings on songs like Check It Out featuring will.i.am.  She samples Simple Minds’  1985 hit,  Don’t You (Forget About Me) on Blazin, featuring Kanye West and finishes the album with an unexpected  rock-tinged twist on Last Chance featuring Natasha Bedingfield.

Pink Friday promises a closer look into Ms. Minaj’s never-ending bag of tricks. If that’s not enough, Nicki has one final treat for fans when her MTV documentary My Time Now premieres November 28th.

1. I’m The Best

2. Roman’s Revenge (feat. Eminem)

3. Did It On ’em

4. Right Thru Me

5. Fly (feat. Rihanna)

6. Save Me

7. Moment 4 Life (feat. Drake)

8. Check It Out (feat. will.i.am)

9. Blazin (feat. Kanye West)

10. Here I Am

11. Dear Old Nicki

12. Your Love

13. Last Chance (feat. Natasha Bedingfield)

14. Super Bass

15. Blow Ya Mind

16. Muny

17. Girls Fall Like Dominoes (Bonus Track)

By Cortney Wills

Cortney Wills is a pop culture journalist born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has lived in LA, Chicago and NYC and enjoys all things entertainment.