Another footnote to the Ruthless Records era has just been written. Dr. Dre debuted his new video for “I Need a Doctor,” the second single off his third—and, supposedly, final—album, Detox. And it does feel like a career-capper. Check it out:
Full of images from Dre’s early days with N.W.A., it metaphorically imagines the life, death and rebirth of the elder statesman of West Coast hip-hop. “I Need a Doctor” begins with Dre standing atop a cliff, staring out at an ocean Inception-style, before cutting to fleeting, impressionistic snapshots of his earlier videos, spanning from N.W.A. to his Death Row days up to the Aftermath era with his protégé Eminem. After Dre endures a horrific car crash and finds himself on life support, Eminem raps about how he’d never have made it without the Good Doctor’s help and guidance. At one point, Dre even seems to appear in a bacta tank, the recuperative fluid-chamber Luke Skywalker takes a dive in in The Empire Strikes Back. (See Lady Gaga’s not the only artist who includes Star Wars references in her videos!)
Thematically, “I Need a Doctor” is something like Dre’s “Paparazzi,” full of rage against those who sell out the ones they supposedly love. As with most rap mythology, he’s clearly overstating his case—working hard producing and signing new talent doesn’t mean you’re down and out. And the video clearly devolves into shameless flaunting of his hard body near the end. But this definitely makes us hungry for an N.W.A. movie. Especially with that final close-up shot of the grave of Eric Wright (a.k.a Eazy-E), his Ruthless colleague and N.W.A. partner whose falling out with Dre involved allegations of kidnapping and even the intervention of the Jewish Defense League until they reconciled shortly before his death from AIDS in 1995.
For those hoping to catch a glimpse of Skylar Grey, who memorably performed the Grand Guignol chorus of “I Need a Doctor” at the Grammys Feb. 13—and who spoke to EW earlier this week—the vid must surely be a disappointment. Instead of this being Grey’s video coming-out party, a spectral Estella Warren parrots her chorus while floating in space like some hip-hop version of the Ghost of Christmas Past.
What do you think?