The 2011 collaboration, “I Need a Doctor,” between Dr. Dre, Eminem, and Skylar Grey marks an important milestone in hip hop and the relationship among all three artists involved. In this article, we dive into the history and story behind this iconic track.
“I Need a Doctor” was released as a single by Dr. Dre on February 1, 2011. The song is part of Dr. Dre’s mythological (i.e. infinitely delayed) album ‘Detox.’ The single, however, was a massive success for Dre, marking his second-highest Billboard Hot 100 charting song at #4. The song also sold over 3 million copies worldwide and was nominated for two awards at the 2012 Grammy Awards.
In “I Need a Doctor,” Eminem prominently takes on two verses praising Dr. Dre for giving him the opportunity in the hip hop game when nobody else believed in him. Dre performs one verse and Skylar Grey performs the hook of the song. Skylar Grey revealed that she took the hook of the song to Dre and Eminem and they loved it. Eminem has taken around two hours to come up with his verses and Skylar said she shed a tear the first time listening to the verses.
Story behind “I Need a Doctor”
Dr. Dre saw Eminem for the true talent that he was and looked past his skin color. Dre literally opened the door for Eminem into the rap and hip hop game. By the time of this song, Dr. Dre has been on a long hiatus from music due to grief and depression that ensued from the passing of his son Andre Young Jr., in 2008.
Thematically, Eminem spits about how he needs his mentor back–the towering figure that Dre has been on Eminem and his career. Eminem wishes he could help him recover from his grief in some way. Eminem says that he understands Dre’s situation since he lost his best friend Proof in 2006.
Watch “I Need a Doctor” Music Video by Dr. Dre Ft. Eminem & Skylar Grey
“I Need a Doctor” Lyrics Meaning and Song Review
The hook performed by Skylar Grey still takes on Eminem’s POV in this current situation. Dre has been Eminem’s mentor since the beginning that Eminem cannot keep focus when Dre has been gone missing for so long. He cries that he needs a doctor to bring him back to life. But the irony of the fact is that actually, Dre needs a doctor to heal him back. However, this is a play on word that Dre is also ‘doctor’ Dre. Hence, the respect is mutual–Eminem needs his mentor back and Dre needs his prodigy and friend to heal him.
An iconic verse by Eminem starts.
I told the world, one day I would pay it back
Eminem clearly feels indebted to Dr. Dre for the opportunity that he gave Eminem to blow up in the hip hop game. Eminem has never been shy to admit this and paid homage to Dre whenever he got a chance. After the loss of his son, Dre was at his weakest and Eminem wanted to repay what he owed Dre. But, in this specific situation, Eminem has no clue how to do so.
All I know is, you came to me when I was at my lowest
You picked me up, breathed new life in me, I owe my life to you
Eminem was the outlier in the rap and hip hop game when he was trying to make it in the game. The industry was dominated by Black artists. Dre is the only one who overlooked Em’s color and gave him a shot purely on the merit of his talent. For this, Eminem says he owes his life to Dre.
But it just dawned on me you lost a son
Demons fightin’ you, it’s dark
Losing a child is probably one of the biggest pains a parent can go through. Dre lost his son Andre Young Jr. when he was merely 20 years old due to a drug overdose. Eminem cannot imagine what Dre goes through. He can only understand to some extent because he lost his best friend Proof unexpectedly as well.
Eminem sees Dre struggle to get his creative process flowing. The loss of his son has obviously had a devastating effect on Dre that he doesn’t believe he can move forward with music anymore. He has been showing Eminem bits and pieces of his new work and being unsure of it. Eminem thinks it’s all fire stuff and baffles him why Dre doesn’t see them in the same light that he does.
Second guessin’ and it’s almost like you’re beggin’ for my help
Like I’m your leader, you’re supposed to f*ckin’ be my mentor
I can endure no more, I demand you remember who you are
It absolutely shatters Eminem to see Dr. Dre in this state. Dr. Dre, the legend, and icon of hip hop and the rap game. It breaks Eminem to see Dre out of his usual monstrous persona. All his life, Eminem looked up to Dre, not the other way around. So, Eminem demands Dre to remember who he was and demands him to restore himself to his former glory.
Don’t sign me, everyone at the f*ckin’ label, let’s tell the truth
You risked your career for me, I know it as well as you
Nobody wanted to f*ck with the white boy
Eminem keeps reeling back to that moment that changed his life forever. Eminem always says that music saved his life and Dr. Dre saved Eminem’s music. So, in a sense, literally, Dre might have saved Eminem’s life. Dre took a massive risk by signing Eminem to his record label Aftermath Entertainment. This move was only possible because Dre was such a massive player in the game at the time that he could go against the entire crowd screaming not to sign Eminem.
Eminem confesses that he can never repay Dre for what he did to him and his career. But he can try and try he will. Just as Dre did not give up on Eminem, Eminem is not going to give up on Dre.
But I ain’t givin’ up faith, and you ain’t givin’ up on me
Get up, Dre, I’m dyin’, I need you
An absolutely heartfelt message by Eminem to one who he considers being his parents in the hip hop game. Realest respect!
Watch “I Need a Doctor/Love the Way You Lie” Medley Live Performance at the 2012 Grammy Awards with Rihanna
Empowered and revitalized by Eminem’s verses, Dr. Dre gets back to the mic after a long hiatus.
Dr. Dre spits about the day he first went in the booth with Eminem. He recalls Eminem’s goofy bright yellow jumpsuit and how Em spazzed on the mic. Dre. knew that Eminem was a different cut of emcees.
Dre looks around him and sees Eminem crying by his side, begging him to wake up. He sees no one else. The reality that he feared for long has come true. Those who rapped “ride or die” are nowhere to be seen.
I don’t see none of them, all I see is Slim
On second thought, Dre spazzes that he does not need any of them. All he needs is Eminem–his prodigal son. Dre reignites himself to his former stature and absolutely destroys the so-called ‘friends’ he had who are nowhere to be seen when he needed them the most. He screams that Aftermath is back–just Dre and Slim and that’s all it takes, really.
Real friendship and loyalty are hard to come by and Dre and Eminem’s is one of those rare examples. To this day, “I Need a Doctor” remains one of the most vulnerable, honest, and truly inspiring tracks by Dre and Eminem.
Let us hear what you think about this song in the comments below. Check out the complete lyrics on Genius.