Famously delayed albums, ranked

Dr. Dre

Dr. Dre

This month’s release of Compton: A Soundtrack By Dr. Dre carries with it the unfortunate coda that his long-delayed album, Detox (originally announced in 2002), will never see the light of day. While some may have predicted as much, there’s something sad about knowing it’s never going to happen. Detox, despite several updates and teases over the years, will carry the legacy of being the longest delayed album of the modern era to never materialize.

Detox isn't the only anticipated LP to become ridiculously delayed. In fact, over the past 50 years, we’ve found five other releases that have been on the receiving end of “... is never coming out?” jokes, but were then actually released. In an attempt to figure out where Detox would have fallen on the spectrum, we decided to rank these five albums.

First, some ground rules. 1) We’re counting the “delay” by naming the first announced year that the album was supposed to come out. Some may have began production beforehand, but we're going by promised completion dates. 2) Regardless how much may have been scrapped, in the interim, if it had the same title, it’s the same album. 3) We’re using the year the albums actually hit store shelves for the release — no bootleggers need apply.

Alright, with no further delay, let’s dive in.

5) Saigon — The Greatest Story Never Told

Announced: 2006

Released: 2011

Saigon’s The Greatest Story Never Told seemed like a can’t-miss prospect that rap fans couldn’t believe took forever to come out. Saigon, a promising New York mixtape rapper, had linked up with perhaps the hottest producer in hip-hop — Just Blaze. His album was ready to go in 2006, but his label, Atlantic, refused to release it the way he wanted it. Somehow, Story wound up getting released by Kottonmouth Kings’ label Suburban Noize. The 79-minutes, 19-track effort proved a little too long and cried for an editor, so the album’s title was something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

4) Guns N’ Roses — Chinese Democracy

Announced: 1999

Released: 2008

The most notorious album on this list, Guns ‘N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy defined the delayed album stigma, thanks in part to the on-again, off-again reclusiveness of singer Axl Rose. With the mystery surrounding the hype, there was almost no way for the album to live up to the lofty expectation it had set, especially when we finally had our first listen through the tin-can MySpace music player. Now that we’re roughly seven years removed from its release, enough time for the human body to completely regenerate its cells, it’s actually a really good album. The sequence from “Better” to “Catcher in the Rye” is sublime, giving listeners everything they could want from G N' R circa ‘08.

3) Raekwon — Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II

Announced: 2005

Released: 2009

Tied to Detox’s delays was that of Wu-Tang’s Chef Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II. Originally announced to be released on Dr. Dre’s Aftermath label, and curiously “executive produced” by Busta Rhymes, the album was delayed heavily from its summer 2005 release, not dropping until autumn 2009. Even the most devoted of Raekwon supporters couldn’t believe what an outstanding effort it was. Capturing the Wu-Tang sound for the first time in years, it was heralded as an instant classic and is the go-to reason why rap listeners give delayed rap albums a shot.

2) Clipse — Hell Hath No Fury

Announced: 2003

Released: 2006

Overshadowed by its massive critical success, it’s easy to forget that there was a time when Clipse’s follow-up to Lord Willin, Hell Hath No Fury, wasn’t ever going to come out. In-fighting with their label Jive lead to delay after delay, which Clipse made the best of, hitting the studio and recording the We Got It 4 Cheap mixtapes, making their fanbase more devoted than ever. 2006 saw several “Definitive” release dates pushed back until it finally hit shelves around the holiday season that year. The rest, is history.

1) Beach Boys — Smile

Announced: 1966

Released: 2004/2011

The grandaddy of them all, and the subject of numerous documentaries and films, the Beach Boys’ follow-up to 1966's Pet Sounds, Smile, was to further cement their legacy as summertime innovators and challenge the spectrum of what rock music could do. While mastermind Brian Wilson’s personal issues kept it lost for decades as fans traded speculative bootlegs, his re-recorded finished version was finally released to tremendous success in 2004. Completing the cypher, the Smile Sessions, with several different '60s arrangements of the Smile album, were made commercially available to fans. If we ever do see Detox, it’s probably going to be in some way closer to this.