“One hip hop culture is one hiphop city,” he replied.
The question, though, was simple. As he was explaining, the people of Detroit might not necessarily be the people of Detroit. They could also be the people of any of the other 10,000 urban-suburb cities worldwide with a majority white population, including the United States’ inner cities.
This was a more interesting and useful discussion than the ones I’ve encountered before about hip hop and white hip hop singers, so I decided to continue with it after talking to Dre when he was playing the opening of the Grammys on Feb. 13.
As it turned out, Dr. Dre isn’t only hip hop’s cultural innovator — he’s also president and CEO of the Def Jam record label. And he is clearly proud to own a Detroit-based company. That means when he’s at the Def Jam offices in Manhattan, he’s not actually listening to hip hop.
“I listen to hip hop whenever I come back to Detroit,” he said, “but not the hip hop I grew up listening to in the city.”
“I love hip hop because it’s the sound you hear in my house, so when I get back home in Detroit, I might turn on Eminem,” he continued. “And I’ve got some people that I want to play for me, like Big Sean — and he’s really, really good. My son will be doing [solo] piano records of him — he knows a little bit, right?”
It goes without saying that Dr. Dre is, at heart, an entertainer. His musical career was born on the back of a drum set he bought in a garage sale in the Bronx, when he was 15. Although he got that drum kit because of the sound of it, it’s important to remember that the music is Dr. Dre’s.
This was especially obvious when Dre spoke about being a musician. “I’m no hip-hop artist,” he said; you won’t hear that phrase often when he’s on the mic. “There isn’t the energy to be found in the flow of hip-hop.”
That’s not to say he’s unaware of that energy. During his show on his TV show on CNN’s New Day, he talked about how he’s not just an entertainer, but a music star and he’s not taking himself too seriously.
A lot of his fans may be surprised to find out that