Hip Hop Holst?

By Phil Plait | August 11, 2010 7:13 am

Rapper Dr. Dre is planning on an instrumental album based on the planets! From Vibe magazine:


You mentioned a hip-hop album without rapping. Will we ever hear a Dr. Dre instrumental album?

Oh yeah, that’s in the works. An instrumental album is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I have the ideas for it. I want to call it The Planets. I don’t even know if I should be saying this, but [bleep] it. [Laughs.] It’s just my interpretation of what each planet sounds like. I’m gonna go off on that. Just all instrumental. I’ve been studying the planets and learning the personalities of each planet. I’ve been doing this for about two years now just in my spare time so to speak. I wanna do it in surround sound. It’ll have to be in surround sound for Saturn to work.

Hmmm, interesting. This sounds pretty cool, though I’m a little concerned with what he means by "the personalities of each planet". In today’s culture that could mean anything… but then, Gustav Holst wrote a classical suite using the same idea, and it is to this day one of the most deservedly popular pieces of music ever written. I’m usually willing to cut musicians a little slack, since it’s art and open to interpretation. And if it brings more people into the astronomical fold, then more power to him. I’ll be curious to hear it when it comes out!

Tip o’ the conductor’s baton to Ryan Gagne.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff

Comments (39)

  1. I can definitely see a possibility for some major woo here, but there’s also a possibility of major win.

    It all depends on what he means by, “I’ve been studying the planets.” We’ll just have to wait and see.

  2. DrFlimmer

    It’ll have to be in surround sound for Saturn to work.

    Definitely! 😀

  3. Since it’s merely instrumental, there shouldn’t be any woo.

    I’m curious, myself. I like a lot of electronic music myself with good beats and melodies.

    I think the master of “space” sounding music would have to be Vangelis. It’s no mistake that Carl Sagan used Vangelis several times in Cosmos. :)

  4. Cheyenne

    Dre doing an “instrumental album” based on the planets?! LMAO. For the win. This could be the funniest post I’ve read all year. “Dr.” Dre needs some collaboration though – Vanilla Ice should do Pluto, Kid ‘n Play on Uranus – this is going to go platinum!

    Dre might eke out Beck’s Debra on the hilarity factor. Without even understanding why…

  5. ASFalcon13

    I’m interested to see what Dr. Dre’s stance on the classification of Pluto will be. The man’s clearly a doctor, so his opinion will obviously carry a lot of weight with others in the field. Will it be featured on the main playlist? Will it be relegated to a collection of Kuiper Belt B-sides? I’m sure the whole astronomical community is waiting on edge to find out the results of this influential landmark decision.

  6. On Mad About You Paul Reiser’s character had a commission from Yoko Ono to “film the wind.” He was driving himself crazy trying to figure out how to do that in a literal manner, and wasn’t looking at a poetic way to do it. Making music about the planets is not automatic woo, nor even should we suspect that it will be just because he is a hip-hop artist. Dre is not at all like Insane Clown Posse.

  7. drow

    dudes, don’t be dissin’ dr. dre. he’s not just some punk.

  8. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Aside from the purloined “Dr”, I like that artist’s products.

    But if he does Pluto as planet, he can Kuip ‘er.

  9. Cheyenne

    No you’re right drow. That toolbag isn’t even man enough to be a punk.

    “Bit@%^@ ain’t @#$*% but hoes and tricks..”. This guy is like Shakespeare. If Shakespeare was an idiot and a complete sexist wank. I could post about 5 pages of “Dr” (that really is priceless by the way) Dre’s lyrics bashing women and other races but it gets boring and nasty.

    “….more power to him.”. Yeah I’ll pass on that sentiment. I know I’m old fashioned but calling women ho’s and rapping about rape and the “pause 4 porno”? Doesn’t really do it for me is all. Probably not a great messenger for astronomy. Can’t wait for the album though. In surround sound! Woop!

  10. Ryan

    Holst’s music was based on the astrological meanings of the planets.

  11. Cindy

    Maybe he should team up with Brian May, who does finally have a Ph.D. in Astronomy.

    Or how about George Hrab? Now I could see him doing some really cool music about the planets.

  12. Tribeca Mike

    Holst’s “The Planets” was about the astrological signs and not the celestial sounds of the planets, so from the standpoint of a skeptic that wasn’t the best of precedents.

  13. Brian Schlosser

    Hip-Hop Academic Credential Shocker! “Dr” Dre does not really possess a PhD or an MD! In further shocking news, neither did Dr J, nor does Dr Pepper!


    @Cheyenne: your personal opinion of Dre’s music is your own to keep, but to say “Probably not a great messenger for astronomy” seems a bit over the top.

    @several people: So what if Holst’s suite was based on the astrological connotations of the planets? A skeptic can’t appreciate art on purely aesthetic terms, if the art is based on “woo”? That would leave a pretty damn bleak world. Goodbye Chartres and Notre Dame and Angkor Wat. No more Goya or Raphael or Bosch. Bach, Handel, Vivaldi are gone…

    If you really are bothered so much by the non-Skeptical background to a work of art that you wouldn’t listen to it, I’d have to say lighten up.

    Even Richard Dawkins enjoys singing Christmas carols.

  14. Calli Arcale

    So what if Holst used astrology as inspiration? With art, it’s easy to get hung up on the process (and there are artists who do), but really, it’s the *result* that’s important. Holst’s “The Planets” manages to inspire a great many budding young scientists, regardless of its origins, and that’s valuable.

    Heck, so do “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (which is about the supreme deity of Zoroastrianism) and “The Blue Danube” (which is about a river and originally intended for the pleasure of rich aristocrats holding dance parties). They were used in the movie “2001” and consequently now more people think of the Moon when they hear “The Blue Danube” than anything else.

    It does not always matter. Great music is great music, and when it has no words, 90% of the meaning of it comes from the listener, not the composer. Heck, I’ve seen three different animated renditions of the Firebird Symphony. All were deeply compelling, but only one had any relation at all to the Russian folk story that it was written about.

    Lewis — if you liked Vangelis’ music in “Cosmos” (which was not written for the series but selected later), you should check out his album “Mythodea”. It was written partly to commemorate the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission, though it draws its inspiration from not merely spaceflight but also the planet Mars and the ancient Greek myths pertaining to Ares. It premiered at the Acropolis, and the live show was recorded. I saw it on PBS, and it was excellent.

  15. Tribeca Mike

    Calli Arcale, I was only making with zee leetle joke.

  16. greg

    I would love for this to be paired with some NASA IMAX film. Work your way through the solar system of NASA images paired with Dre’s music? Hell yes. And it couldn’t get more surround sound than an IMAX theater.

  17. mike

    Sorry, guys, but this album is never going to happen. Never. It was almost ten years between the Chronic and 2001, and he’s been talking about his next album for almost ten years more. Aftermath cancels projects more often than NASA. Don’t hold your breath for this one.

  18. this charming man

    Dr. Dre, from what I understand, is an astronomy buff. He is also a good producer, so I would imagine this would not be some lame album attempt. (full disclosure, I am ryan gagne)

  19. jcm

    Speaking of which, live recording by the Peabody Concert Orchestra of Holst’s musical composition can be found here. (Look under the 2002-2003 season.)

  20. Cory

    @9. Shakespeare was anything but classy in his time period. His plays were raunchy and violent, often to crazy extremes. I wouldn’t call Dr. Dre a Shakespeare, but subject matter is not what separates the two.

  21. Thomas Siefert

    It all comes down to whether he used a telescope like astronomers or if he went down the path of astrologers and used a kaleidoscope.

  22. Steve Morrison

    <pedantry>Zarathustra wasn’t a Zoroastrian deity, he was the man who founded the religion. And the Strauss piece isn’t about him in any case; it’s inspired by the Nietzsche book of the same name, which merely uses Zarathustra as a mouthpiece for Nietzsche’s ideas. </pedantry>

  23. Keith Landa

    Comments on the Vibe article led to a Planets album by One Ring Zero, available now….:


  24. viggen

    though I’m a little concerned with what he means by “the personalities of each planet”

    Considering circle where Dre generally rolls, Jupiter will be a banger with the top down in the midst of a drive-by. Saturn will just be chillin. I’ll be all for hearing it just to see what he comes up with, particularly if it’s instrumental. He may really surprise us all by being dead on somehow.

  25. Cairnos

    @20 Cory – Totally agree, Shakespear was the one who brought us such subtle and decorous phrases as “The black ram is tupping your white ewe” to give one example that springs immediately to mind

  26. Autumn

    Oh, I’m sorry, I was looking for a different post with the tags, “Gustav Holst” and “Dr. Dre”.

  27. Nubbenstein

    I’m a bit of a nerd (science teacher) and rap aficionado. There’s an artist named El-P who is a very talented producer and musician. He’s known for doing weird, sci-fi stuff (one of his songs is titled, ‘How to Serve Man Thing’s I’d Never Say.’) He just released an instrumental album that I thought of instantly when I read about this.

    Also, here’s a link to Aesop Rock’s amazing song, ‘Bring Back Pluto’ produced by El-P.


    Warning to little readers, the language is a little harsh.

  28. Just a reminder, by definition, all works of fiction, and all science fiction, are “woo.” Here’s my off-of the-top-of-my-head top ten pop songs using astronomical (rather than astrological) themes.

    1. Telstar, the Ventures.
    2. It Came Out of The Sky, CCR.
    3. Hey Mr. Spaceman, The Byrds.
    4. Third Stone from the Sun, Jimi Hendrix Experience.
    5. Satellite of Love, Lou Reed.
    6. Space Guitar, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson
    7. Colliding Galaxies, Sonny Probe.
    8. The Radio is Broken, Frank Zappa (esp. for ref. to COBE microwave data)
    9. Voodoo Chile, Jimi Hendrix (Jupiter’s sulphur mines, way down by the methane seas).
    10. That’s Amore, Dean Martin.

  29. RobertBeq

    I’d just like to know how he is going to show an instrumental hip-hop Saturn with its rings sagging down exposing its underwear, with or without surround sound.

  30. I have to say, I approve of this new direction and I’ll be interested to hear the results. I’m not a fan of rap, but I can’t disapprove of something like this.

    Of course, I think he’s all talk, so we’ll see.

  31. Oscar

    John Coltrane did his take on the planets, though he labeled the album “Interstellar Space” – not sure why? It has “Mars”, “Venus”, “Jupiter” and “Saturn” (in addition to “Leo” and
    “Jupiter Variation “). Pretty good if you like jazz. Bet it had an influence on Dr. Dre.

  32. Steve

    As others poster’s have pointed out, the Holst suite is based on astrology rather than astronomy. Holst was a total astrology nut. Fortunately, the great thing about great music is that it is open to a variety of interpretations and can inspire on a variety of levels. This is certainly true of “The Planets”.

  33. QuietDesperation

    If you like progressive metal, here’s a whole album of astronomy.


    There’s some woo themes, too, but it really is quite smashing.

    And another about advanced aliens seeding life on other worlds


  34. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Dre’s lyrics bashing women

    Sorry, I’ve stopped listening to lyrics. That may be one reason…

    @ Brian Schlosser:

    Hip-Hop Academic Credential Shocker! “Dr” Dre does not really possess a PhD or an MD!

    And board presidents aren’t presidents, you know. But they _do_ earn a title without inflating it, to anchor my point.

    Why the defensiveness/obsessiveness? The purloining was a correct observation.

  35. JoDaWi

    instrumental rap is easy when you shut off the idiot microphone. Then you have something worth listening to at least one time; probably even worth dancing to.

    the boytoy car rockers will jam it down the street playin to the ladies…

  36. Sauss

    There’s a much woo potential in this as in Van Gogh painting ‘Starry Night’. Artistic expression is a different department.

  37. Messier Tidy Upper

    I think we have to allow a certain amount of artistic &/or poetic license when it comes to these sort of things.

    Enjoy them for what they are, they’re not intended to be scientifically valid.

    I love Holsts’s Planets Suite – there’s a lot of musical range & varied images evoked from “Mars the bringer of War” which is thunderously good through to the subtle quiet opening of “Neptune the mystic” – all fitting in an emotional arty sense. Astrology is bunk but I wouldn’t call Holst’s work ‘astrology’ as such. You can read a lot more (or less) into the music as you choose.

    Classical music~wise the musical of War ofthe Worlds had me hooked and blown away as a kid.

    I’m also surprised no one has yet mentioned (unless I missed it) some of Pink Floyd’s songs ‘Astronomy Domine’, ‘Set the controls for the Heart of the Sun’ &, of course, ,‘Dark Side of the Moon’ where a voice at the end accurately observes : “{There isn’t a dark side of the moon} – Matter of fact it’s all dark.” :-)

  38. Turtleland

    dre’s already touched on this over 25 years ago he has a song called The Planet http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oTE0rkt7N4

  39. Turtleland

    he should get The Game to rap on a remix to the Mars song cause it is known as the red planet


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