When it comes to winning this kind of free, pre-release exposure, Dre has one last trick up his sleeve: He keeps himself scarce. Contrast the Dre approach with that of more prolific beatsmiths. The Neptunes, for example, rent themselves out as hired guns so often that a new Neptunes-produced track is certainly no cause for an XXL cover story. Dre, on the other hand, rarely takes on freelance work for non-Aftermath artists, preferring to keep his creative focus on projects he controls completely. Since 1998, only five albums can truly be considered pure Dre projects—the first two releases from Eminem, the debuts of 50 Cent and The Game, and his own 2001. The scarcity of Dre's work ensures that each release is an event, one that garners lavish media and consumer attention. And as music snobs are forever complaining—and the inexplicable success of Ashlee Simpson's Autobiography proves—exposure is what really propels an album to No. 1.
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