Dr. Dre to Retire After Detox

"We go until it happens," rap producer Dr. Dre says about all the time he spends in the recording studio searching for hits, once as long as 79 hours in a single stretch. "When the ideas are coming," says the man who is one of the half-dozen most influential producers of the modern pop era, "I don't stop until the ideas stop because that train doesn't come along all the time."

Dr. Dre says when Detox is finally released, it will be his last solo album, because hip hop music is a young man's game.

Some hip-hop fans, however, must be wondering if this particular train isn't off the track. Dre (real name: Andre Young) has been working on his third solo album, "Detox," for nearly eight years.

Dre will now devote two months to working on Eminem's new album. "We'll be trying to get his thing done and work on a few things on my own project," Dre says.

Dre's favorite moment during the making of "The Chronic" may have been the time Snoop Dogg phoned the studio from jail while Dre happened to be working on "Nuthin' but." "I can't even remember why he was in jail, but I thought his voice would be perfect for the song," Dre says, smiling. "So, I told him to stay on the line while I duct-taped the receiver of the phone to the microphone. That's how he did vocal for our demo for ' "G" Thang.' I wish I could find that demo now. You could hear all the jail sounds in the background. It was crazy."

Fifteen years after that recording session, Dre still seems to savor the moment -- as much as the success of the record itself, which was named single of the decade by Spin magazine.

For Dre, a hit record starts with a hit sound, which sounds simple. But the search is what requires those long hours in the studio. The producer normally heads into the studio around 3 p.m. weekdays, the weekends being reserved for the family and for his hobbies, which include sports and photography. Because the studio in Sherman Oaks is like a second home, Dre likes the atmosphere to be as comfortable and relaxed as possible.

"I don't necessarily even call it work. I call it fun. I even like the pressure, it makes me work all the harder if I know people out there are waiting for the record."

The quality Dre looks for in a recording artist is uniqueness -- a distinct voice that will stand out from the crowd. Sometimes the writing will catch Dre's ear, other times the rap delivery.

Dre's biggest star, Eminem, came from as far out in left field as Snoop Dogg. An intern at Interscope Records had heard Eminem on an L.A. radio show and passed a tape along to Interscope's Iovine, who in turn played it for Dre.

Dre was so excited that he got together with Eminem the next day. He was surprised to see that the young artist was white, which might have led some industry figures to think twice, given the bad name Vanilla Ice gave white rappers. But Dre swears -- holding his hand up playfully as if testifying -- he knew that Eminem had the goods.

"His writing is like no other," Dre says, "the way he puts together certain words and the way he makes certain words rhyme that to me most of the time don't even seem like they are supposed to rhyme. I also loved the fact that Eminem, I think, was setting out to be shocking. I love it as dark as it can get, and I thought the public would feel the same way."

In turn, Eminem has been lavish in his praise for the producer. "Dre showed me how to do things with my voice that I didn't know I could do," Eminem told me early in his career, such as "the way to deliver rhymes. . . . I'd do something I thought was pretty good, and he'd say, 'I think you can do it better.' "

It was Eminem who introduced Dre to 50 Cent, whose first three Aftermath albums have sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. "I loved his delivery more than anything," says Dre, who produced two tracks on 50 Cent's latest CD. "He had so much authority and strength in his voice."

DRE made a rare public appearance this month when he announced the video of the year winner on the MTV Video Music Awards telecast in Las Vegas.

For fans, the appearance was notable for two things: Dre didn't give a release date for "Detox," renewing fears that the album may be lost in some twi- light zone, and his arms and chest were notably buff.

"That's another of my obsessions," he says a few days later of the new look. "I go in the gym two to 2 1/2 hours Monday through Friday. It makes me feel better and look better."

Before Dre started on the weights about four years ago, he often went out drinking and eating after leaving the studio at night, and his weight swelled to 270 pounds. It's back to 220, and he has cut his body fat from 29% to around 6%. Playfully pumping his arms, he says, "I feel like I can kick a brick wall down now."