BOSTON (Reuters) - For almost three decades Dr. Dre has been a trendsetter in the U.S. music industry, through his recordings with gangsta rappers N.W.A. and later as a producer and record executive who helped launch the careers of Eminem, Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent.
Dre's potentially defining, and probably final, musical work is the album Detox, which has achieved near-mythical status after being in production since 2003.
The much anticipated album is inching toward a spring 2010 release. The first single, "Under Pressure" and featuring Jay-Z, will be released this month.
Lately, Dre, 45, whose name is short for Andre Young, has concentrated on sound from the ears outward. He has leant his name to a line of upscale headphones, "Beats by Dr Dre" by Monster Cable of Brisbane, California.
The pricey devices landed on many "top gadget" lists in 2009 and sold strongly despite the economic downturn.
Reuters spoke to Dr Dre and producer Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope-Geffen-A&M records, during a recent trip to Boston.
Q. What's the next big thing in music?
Dre: "My record. And after that I'm not sure. I'm just keeping my ear to the concrete."
Iovine: "We all know that Lady Gaga took the world by storm. She's fused rock and dance and hip-hop. She's an incredible songwriter -- one of the great songwriters to come around, at the level of a Freddie Mercury or an Elton John. She has a long way to go to prove herself, but I believe she's going to get there."
Q. What do you listen for in a new artist?
Dre: "Originality. Good vocal performance. And if I can get along with them in the studio, you know?"
Q. Who is your favorite artist at the moment? What is playing on your iPod?
Dre: "I don't actually have a favorite right now. I've been listening to a lot of old 60s and 70s music. Things like Kraftwerk, and Parliament Funkadelic. I've really been listening to a lot of Kraftwerk."
Q. 1970s German electronica? That might surprise people.
Dre: "Kraftwerk had a really big inspiration on the beginning of hip-hop. My tastes change with the season. Right now it's Kraftwerk. I'll see what happens this summer."
Q. What got you into the headphone business?
Dre: "For me it just felt organic. I'm about music. I don't know anything about fashion so I can't make clothes, sneakers, or anything like that. I know sound. That's it. Most people that are making headphones probably aren't involved in the actual creation of music. So we have an upper hand."
Q. Music players have gotten smaller and smaller. The latest iPods are practically microscopic.
Dre: "The size of the iPod has no effect on what it sounds like. Our headphones make the music sound big again."
Q. A lot of people say they prefer the sounds produced by an old-style record over anything since.
Iovine: "The digital revolution ... that's where it went terribly, terribly wrong. In every other field of entertainment it's improved the quality. In music it's degraded the quality. The files are bad, the computers sound bad. And the headphones sound bad. So we started with headphones.
"You wouldn't go and buy a DVD of Avatar and play it on a portable television. People are listening to music through the equivalent of portable televisions."
Q. What do you think of "American Idol"?
Iovine: "It's a great show. It gives a lot of unknown people exposure. What they do with the artists after that is up to the label. I think the concept is a great concept. I don't love the records they make."