Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang Baby

To run with the idea that author Chuck Klosterman dove into in his 2005 novel "Killing Yourself To Live", sometimes the best career move an artist can make, is by having their life ended prematurely. One obvious example to this point would have to be the death of one of the founders of grunge, Kurt Cobain. Cobain, and his band "Nirvana", grew to rapid fame in the early 1990's. Faster then they, or anyone else could have ever expected, and quite frankly, more then Kurt wanted or was capable of handling. Nirvana's second album Nevermind sold more then 10 million copies in the United States alone, and over 26 million copies world wide. To put Nirvana's level of fame into perspective, Lady Gaga's "The Fame", which was a top 5 album of 2009, has sold just over 12 million copies world wide to date. Regardless, Kurt's demons eventually and tragically got the best of him, and in April of 1994 he committed suicide in his Seattle home.

With the death of Cobain, also meant the death of Nirvana. Such an adored figure could never be replaced within the band that he created, and with his death forever cemented the bands legacy- 4 years, 3 albums, over 50 million records sold worldwide, and zero chance at ever tainting their legacy by selling out or creating crap music. That's why Nirvana is always in the conversation of best bands of all time, because they never had the chance to fall from grace.

Other examples where in death an artists or human beings work has been elevated to an almost holy standard of recognition has been Heath Ledger's Joker performance, the murders of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., Micheal Jackson and Elvis' posthumous record sales, JFK's presidential legacy, even Marilyn Monroe will forever be remembered as a stunningly beautiful 30 something year old because that's the last image everyone has of her. This isn't to say that all of these people weren't exceptionally skilled and well liked before, because clearly they were, but the point is with these certain individuals (sans MJ) we will always remember them at their peaks because that is where they left us. They didn't sell out and do commercials, or put out half-assed material for a paycheck, and they certainly didn't stick around well past their prime living off the name they earned for themselves decades earlier (ex. The Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, Eddie Murphy, hell even Leno/Letterman are shells of what they used to be).

For example, if Billie Joe Armstrong had stage-dived into the crowd at Woodstock '94, missed the pile of teens he was aiming for, landed on his head, suffered a brutal concussion and ended up dying of brain damage shortly after, Green Day would have gone down in history as one of, if not the greatest punk band of all time. Instead, they're still around today putting out shitty album after shitty album, and basically going against everything they used to sing about that raised them to that level of fame in the first place. They went from being a Grammy winning punk rock band on an indie label, to a pop rock band in the purest sense of the word. Now lets not forget that this is a business, and being "pop" (popular) is where the money is at, so as much as it disgusts me, I can't completely hate on them for the archetype that their career took. But all I'm saying is they are a classic example of selling out, and that's what happens when your in a business, or doing anything for too long.

And that is the exact reason that although hip hop fans have been anxiously waiting for Dr. Dre to release his "Detox" album for the past eight years (I gave up hope in 2007), that maybe there is a reason why Dre has waited this long without putting it out. Maybe, just maybe, Dre is the only person in music with a sense of self awareness, who cares about his legacy enough to know when an album just flat out isn't good enough for his standards. Since Dr. Dre's last studio album, 2000's "2001: The Chronic", the rap world has been swamped with mediocrity (In some cases, at best). The likes of Chingy, The Young Gunnaz, Charmillionaire, Wakka Flakka, Solja Boy, Benzino, David Banner, Ying Yang Twins, Hurricane Chris and Dem Franchise Boys have all seen their 15 minutes (5 in some cases) come and go, yet someone like Dr. Dre will always be mentioned in the Pantheon of Rap, despite only releasing two solo albums to date (where as Jay-Z has released 14). The reason for that- he's never put out a record that fans didn't love and respect.

There's a lesson to be learned here people. That although dying at a young age in some cases can cement legacies, and glorify great work for eternity, the real way to remain respected and considered one of the best is to always do the best, and never settle for anything less then the best. So when a studio like Castle Rock comes to you with the script for "Pluto Nash", please have enough of a backbone to say "I was in Coming to America bitch" and hang up the phone.

Perhaps the real reason Dr. Dre hasn't released Detox yet is because he's trying out to be on American Gladiators?

-fresh (@danye33)

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