The Untold Truth Of Dr. Dre

Andre Young, better known as Dr. Dre, is one of the most successful and influential musicians, producers, songwriters, and music executives of the last three decades. After unleashing gangsta rap on a mainstream audience with his work as a member of N.W.A., his solo album "The Chronic" defined the West Coast rap sound. And then, he started producing and writing for other acts, notably Snoop Dogg and Eminem. Along the way he also found time to start his own headphone company, Beats by Dre, which he sold to Apple. 

But still there remain a lot of facts that you maybe never knew, or simply forgot ... about Dre. Here is the untold truth of Dr. Dre. 

Dr. Dre was in a very '80s-tastic band

Before his solo career, Dr. Dre was in a group. No, not N.W.A. Before that. And way less hardcore. Dre was already making music as a teenager, and in 1983 he joined up with a mobile DJ crew put together by a Compton, California, nightclub owner named Alonzo Williams. In 1984, Williams turned the crew into an "electro-rap" group with the magnificent name the World Class Wreckin' Cru. Even more magnificent? Their shiny outfits. 

Among the members were a few other familiar names, like future N.W.A. stalwarts DJ Yella and, of course, Dr. Dre and his future love interest, Michel'le. (Also in the picture was N.W.A.'s Ice Cube, who wrote some songs for the group.) The Cru disbanded in 1987, shortly after the sexy and seductive bedroom jam "Turn Off the Lights" became a minor national hit and peaked at No. 84 on the pop charts, as per Billboard.

He's got six kids by five different women

By the time he finished high school in the early '80s, Andre Young was already a father of two. With his girlfriend Cassandra Greene, Dre fathered a child, Curtis Young, as per NextShark. Father and son had no contact until the younger man was 20 years old, and after he was confirmed as Dre's son by a positive DNA match test.

Around the same time, Dre had a child with another teenager named Lisa Johnson, this one a daughter named La Tonya (via Biography). A second son, named Andre Young, was the the subject of a paternity suit while he was a toddler. (He tragically died suddenly in his sleep in 2008 at age 20.) From 1990 to 1996, Dre dated and was engaged to R&B singer (and one-time World Class Wreckin' Cru band mate) Michel'le, according to Billboard. They had a son, born in 1991, named Marcel Young (via The Washington Post). Still keeping up? Great. In 1996, Dre settled down and married Nicole Threatt and are the parents of a boy named Truice and a girl named Truly. After more than 20 years of marriage, the two divorced in 2021, reports NBC.

Behind the feud with Eazy-E

Anybody who watched MTV in the early '90s is familiar with the nasty feud between Dr. Dre and his former N.W.A. compatriot Eazy-E (Eric Wright). In the video for the second single off "The Chronic," "F*** Wit Dre Day (And Everybody's Celebratin')," (which was shortened to "Dre Day" for broadcast), a character who looks exactly like Eazy-E named Sleazy E has a series of demeaning misadventures, including sucking up to a record industry executive and holding a "Will rap for food" sign on the side of a road. 

The song itself is a diss track against Eazy-E, including quite threatening lyrics like "used to be my homie, used to be my ace / now I wanna slap the taste out ya mouth" and "oh don't think I forgot, let you slide / let me ride, just another homicide." Later in 1993, Eazy-E responded with his own diss track called "Real Muthaph****in G's." Representative lyrics, which are clearly about Dre, include lines like, "Hey yo, Doctor, here's another proper track / and it's phat, watch the sniper, time to pay the piper." So ... they basically threatened to murder each other in song.

But why such acrimony in the first place? Money. The gangsta rap collective N.W.A. came apart in 1990 after only a few years of togetherness, when Ice Cube left because he felt he wasn't being properly paid (via The Hip Hop Foundation). Dr. Dre also had concerns that Ruthless Records boss Jerry Heller was cheating the band, and told Eazy-E to either get rid of Heller or lose a band mate and a friend. Eazy-E chose Heller. (Around the same time, a record company bodyguard named Suge Knight was considering starting his own record label — that became Death Row Records, the new home for Dr. Dre.) The feud was only resolved with the death of Eazy-E from complications of AIDS in 1995, and the acrimonious N.W.A. split was permanent. The only member of N.W.A. to attend Eazy-E's funeral was DJ Yella, reports LA Weekly. In 2015, Dre's stance had softened considerably, saying that if Eazy-E were alive today, "we would probably be working together right now, and arguing about the work," reports The Hollywood Reporter.

Did Dr. Dre popularize Burning Man?

A bizarre urban legend has been floating around for years. It claims that Dr. Dre popularized Burning Man, the annual end-of-summer neo-hippie/anarchist/bacchanal/art festival/extravaganza that takes place in the Nevada desert and ends with the ritualistic burning of a giant human figure. 

In 2011, a Tumblr blog called "Dr. Dre Started Burning Man" gained popularity. It posted a letter reportedly written by Dre to his then-girlfriend Nicole Threatt about how he stumbled upon Burning Man in 1995, while it was still a tiny festival of just a few thousand people. Supposedly, it happened while he was out in the desert scouting locations for the "Mad Max"-esque "California Love" video with director Hype Williams, reports The Daily Beast

The letter reads, in part, "We met a bunch of crazy, naked motherf***ers in the desert today, they were putting up some type of giant wood man. I guess they have a big party and were for a bunch of days. I asked them how much they pay, they said, 'nothing.' I was like, no money? Someone should get behind this s*** and make some loot." Indeed, Burning Man has gained steadily in popularity since 1996 — it now routinely attracts more than 60,000 people. For a long time, Burning Man representatives would neither confirm nor deny the claim that Dr. Dre helped popularize and advertise the festival. The Daily Beast approached Dr. Dre's management team, who said that Dre had "no idea what burning man was."

Not all of his proteges have been as successful as Snoop Dogg and Eminem

Dre has only released three solo albums since going solo in the early '90s ("The Chronic," "2001," and "Compton"), but he's always been extremely active behind the scenes, serving as a songwriter, producer, and executive. He's got an extremely good ear for talent and discovered and served as a mentor to many of the biggest stars in hip-hop history, including Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and Xhibit. He's guided the careers of plenty of other musicians, however, whose careers never quite took off. 

Musicians like Knoc-Turn'Al. As Fact Mag details, this Long Beach rapper made appearances on a couple of "2001" tracks but ultimately signed a deal with Elektra instead of Dre's Aftermath Records. Heavy bootlegging of his debut "Knoc's Landin" affected sales and interest and stalled his career. Dre also gave a rapper named Hittman featured spots all over "2001," but his proposed debut album was scrapped after he and Dre had creative differences. In 2005, Dre signed rapper Bishop Lamont to Aftermath Records and had plans to feature him multiple times on "Detox," as well as with a solo album called "The Reformation." Neither album ever happened, of course, and Bishop parted ways with Dre and Aftermath in 2010 after he got tired of waiting for his career to take off.

He worked on an album for a decade, and then he scrapped it

For more than a decade, the next great rap album was supposed to be Dr. Dre's "Detox" ... except, it kept getting delayed. He first announced the project in 2002, and said it would be a concept album about the life of a hit man (via Rolling Stone). But things kept coming up. He had an Ice Cube album he was supposed to produce (which never happened), and then he had to put together 50 Cent's "Get Rich or Die Tryin'," for which Dre says he gave "the cream of the crop" of the beats he'd assembled for "Detox." 

After working on dozens of tracks over the years, according to Rolling Stone, Dre finally admitted to himself in 2015 that the album just wasn't very good (via Pitchfork). (Never mind that he even released singles from "Detox," such as "Kush" and "I Need a Doctor," as supposed teasers.) But at the same time he announced that "Detox" was over, Dre did reveal that he'd completed a brand new album: "Compton: A Soundtrack," inspired by the N.W.A. biopic "Straight Outta Compton."

He's got the Beats

Dre's one-time label Death Row had a partnership with Interscope Records, where Dre partnered up with chairman and record industry veteran Jimmy Iovine. As Venture Beat details, in 2008, Dre and Iovine founded Beats Electronics, a premium line of music accessories. In other words: really expensive headphones. It's a bit of marketing genius, really. Consumers could presume the headphones were good if a musical authority and successful producer like Dr. Dre told them they were good, which might help to take the sting out of the $350 price tag (a little). 

Third-party groups were soon starting to manufacture Beats-branded headphones and in 2013, Beats added a streaming music service to its portfolio, still reeling from their unveiling of a portable speaker which didn't sell well at all. In 2014, Apple bought Beats Music — including its streaming service and the right to make Beats-branded headphones — for a whopping $3.2 billion.

Dr. Dre is crazy rich

There are only a relative handful of billionaires worldwide, and few are in the entertainment industry. Dre is close to joining that rarefied group. In 2014, his fortune was estimated at $550 million (via Forbes), thanks in large part to Beats and a series of good investments. After the sale of Beats to Apple, Dre was worth more than $700 million. Not too bad, given that means he managed to triple his net worth between 2011 and 2015. Those are numbers that are pretty hard to imagine, but E! Online broke it down for the curious. At one point, he was reportedly earning somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 per second.

However, with is divorce from Nicole Threatt in 2021, court papers showed his net worth to be around $458 million, reports Consequence of Sound.

There's a program at USC named after him

Perhaps because of its relative newness, or perhaps because of its less-than-pretentious origins, hip-hop doesn't get a lot of love from mainstream academia. But Dr. Dre has been such a major force on American music — for his work in N.W.A., releasing "The Chronic," and unleashing those ubiquitous headphones — that his contributions to the culture are undeniable. They're so undeniable that the University of Southern California had no problem naming a school after him.

In 2013, Dre and his Beats business partner (and one-time Interscope Records head) Jimmy Iovine donated $70 million to the prestigious university for the establishment of the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation (via USC News). It's a special program for undergrads interested in the business side of music, as well as audio and visual design, and enrolled the first students in 2014.

He's apologized for his treatment of women

Dre has a troubling history of abuse against women, both with domestic violence and assaults. In a radio interview in March 2015 (via LAist), longtime partner Michel'le detailed the many harrowing injuries she reportedly received from Dre, including a broken nose, five black eyes, and a cracked rib. And in 1991 at a music industry party, Dre attacked Dee Barnes, the host of a hip-hop TV show called "Pump It Up." As the Huffington Post details, apparently mad at the way Barnes treated N.W.A. member Ice Cube in a previous interview, Dre allegedly picked up Barnes by her hair and slammed her into a wall. After she tried to hide in the women's bathroom, he followed her in and punched her in the head, as per Variety. The assault on Barnes was a well known skeleton in Dre's closet after a very public lawsuit, but the details of his relationship with Michel'le were not as publicized. 

In 2015, around the time of the release of "Straight Outta Compton," Dre issued a public apology via The New York Times, saying he's a changed man who very much regrets his past actions. "Twenty-five years ago I was a young man drinking too much and in over my head with no real structure in my life. However, none of this is an excuse for what I did. I've been married for 19 years and every day I'm working to be a better man for my family, seeking guidance along the way. I'm doing everything I can so I never resemble that man again. I apologize to the women I've hurt. I deeply regret what I did and know that it has forever impacted all of our lives."

Michel'le, however, was underwhelmed, and believes the apology was insincere, the BBC reports. She suggested that it was nothing more than PR, and that any real apologies should be done on a one-on-one basis.

According to NBC News, when wife Nicole Threatt filed for divorce in 2020, she cited "post-traumatic stress" due to abuse. As per court documents, she said Dr. Dre "held a gun to my head" twice and "punched me in the head/face."