Now, after a string of successes in the role of producer, businessman and "big homie" to much of the West Coast, the question of Dre's ability to deliver has become an issue of time (his last album dropped in 1999), age (not a lot of 50-year-olds make crucial hip-hop) and relevance (nor do a lot of tech billionaires who sell their companies to Apple, as he did with Beats By Dre).
"They want to know if he's still got it..."
The question, posed in Dr. Dre's 1999 single "Still D.R.E." — whether the man born Andre Young was still able to deliver the caliber of music that made him a household name — has recurred often over the course of the hip-hop producer's career. It's followed the public, often ugly dissolutions of relationships with Eazy-E and Ruthless Records, then Suge Knight and his Death Row Records, and the answer is always the same. The former split helped give rise to Death Row, Snoop Dogg and the Dogg Pound, and also cemented Tupac's legacy, while creating one of the defining sounds of the '90s; the latter built the Aftermath empire, with Eminem, 50 Cent and Kendrick Lamar ranking among the world's great rap voices. In both cases, it wasn't just Dre's skills as a producer that kept him in the spotlight; it was also his ear as a talent-spotting A&R man.