In hip-hop, few names hold as much weight as Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. These two legendary artists have been at the forefront of the genre for decades, both as solo artists and as members of the iconic group N.W.A. While they have collaborated on several projects, one album that remains shrouded in mystery and intrigue is their unreleased joint album titled Helter Skelter.
Rumors of a collaborative album between Dr. Dre and Ice Cube began circulating when Cube made a surprise cameo in Dre’s iconic video for “Let Me Ride” off The Chronic album. Further fueling speculation of a reunion between the former labelmates, the back cover of Snoop Doggy Dogg’s 1993 debut album Doggystyle featured an ad promoting upcoming releases on the Death Row label promised new music from The Lady of Rage, The Dogg Pound, and Dr Dre & Ice Cube’s Helter Skelter.
Then in 1994 Death Row Records released a soundtrack album and short film called Murder Was The Case, which featured the song “Natural Born Killaz”. This song was the first collaboration between Dr. Dre and Ice Cube upon both leaving N.W.A, with the two reconciling as their mutual disdain for Ruthless Records bonded them again.
While no official release date was ever announced, “Natural Born Killaz” fueled excitement among fans. The track showcased the chemistry between Dre’s masterful production and Cube’s powerful and thought-provoking lyricism. The combination of their talents created a sound that was hard-hitting, lyrically dense, and undeniably West Coast.
“It’s true that it’s a b-boy gangster record on the macabre tip, but what would be the point of Ice Cube and Dr. Dre doing a project like this if we didn’t freak people out? The point of the song is to poke fun at serial killers like Oliver Stone’s movie did. It’s supposed to be humorous,” Dre said of “Natural Born Killaz” in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 1994. During this same interview, Dr. Dre laid out the working plan for the album saying that he and Cube were each going to do two solo cuts on the album apiece, and then the rest of the ten or eleven songs they were going to do together.
Dre came up with the title ‘Helter Skelter’, and the album was meant to reflect the tumultuous state of society and the music industry at the time, with Dre and Cube using their platform to voice their frustrations and shed light on social issues. Helter Skelter would have featured the two artists rapping over Dr. Dre’s beats, with Ice Cube and The D.O.C. handling the bulk of the writing duties.
Around this time, at least two tracks were rumored to have been initially recorded for the album: “California Love” (originally a Dre solo track, possibly for The Chronic II: A New World Odor or the Helter Skelter album) and “You Don’t Wanna See Me”, which turned in to “Can’t C Me” for Tha Dogg Pound as the lead single for their 1995 debut Dogg Food. However, both of these tracks were ultimately given to 2Pac when he signed to Death Row Records and began working on All Eyez On Me. Other rumored tracks for the project were “Gimme 50 Feet”, “Grand Finale 2”, and “Game Over” (which was ultimately used for Scarface on his Untouchable album and featured Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Too Short.
Despite the anticipation and early buzz surrounding Helter Skelter, especially after Death Row Records ads had been promoting its impending release, the album never saw the light of day. Various factors likely contributed to its shelving, including creative differences, conflicting schedules, and label disputes. However, the exact reasons for the album’s cancellation remain largely unknown, leaving fans to speculate on what could have been.
The unreleased status of Helter Skelter has only added to its allure and mystique, making it a coveted piece of hip-hop history. Fans continue to discuss the project nearly 30 years later and imagine what the completed album could and would have sounded like. It is a testament to the impact and influence of both Dre and Cube that even an unfinished project can generate and sustain such fascination and excitement.
While Helter Skelter may forever remain an enigma, the legacy of Dr. Dre and Ice Cube continues to thrive. Both artists have left an indelible mark on the hip-hop landscape, with Dre becoming an iconic producer and entrepreneur, and Cube continuing to release solo albums and firmly establishing himself as a mega-successful actor, filmmaker, and businessman.
The unreleased album serves as a reminder of the unpredictable nature of the music industry and the complexities involved in collaborative projects. While fans may never get to experience Helter Skelter in its entirety, “Natural Born Killaz” offers a glimpse into the creative synergy between two rap legends at the height of their careers.
Despite the disappointment of Helter Skelter remaining unfinished, fans can take solace in the fact that Dr. Dre and Ice Cube have continued to push boundaries and contribute to the evolution of hip-hop in their pursuits. Their impact on the genre is undeniable, and their legacies will continue to inspire future generations of artists.
In the ever-changing landscape of hip-hop, the unreleased Dr. Dre and Ice Cube album Helter Skelter stands as a testament to the artistic visions and potential collaborations that never materialize. While the album may forever remain a tantalizing what-if, the impact and influence of these two rap icons continue to reverberate through the industry, ensuring their place in the annals of hip-hop history.