Dr. Dre, ‘Compton’ [ALBUM REVIEW]
The fact that Compton, Dr. Dre's third and most likely final album, was even released seems like an accomplishment. It's been nearly 16 full years since Dre released 2001. A few years back, it seemed like he was going to finally release the long-awaited Detox when he dropped singles "Kush" and "I Need a Doctor," but nothing ever surfaced after a lukewarm reception from fans. At this point, many supporters had given up on the idea that Dr. Dre would ever release a full album again, only showing up in the public to co-sign the artists he's signed to Aftermath and promote his products like Beats by Dre.
That all changed when Ice Cube dropped the news that Dre was working on a soundtrack to the N.W.A biopic, Straight Outta Compton. Dre was apparently so inspired by the film that he got back in the studio and started working on something new. He created the album in secret until it was finally time to unleash his long-awaited third project. While rap fans raised their emoji hands in the air across social media after hearing the news, it would take a lot to fulfill their lofty expectations. The wait has been over a decade-and-a-half for new material, and Dre's first two albums are certified classic. Does 50-year-old Andre Young have enough left in the tank to make another great album?
Compton answers that question with a resounding "yes." Dr. Dre and his team of rappers and co-producers have carefully crafted an LP that looks at hip-hop's past, present and future. Dre's famous for being a perfectionist, and it seeps through on this album. Nothing here feels out of place and the effort sounds like vintage Dre, but isn't so retro that it would be out of place on mainstream radio.
The production on Compton is immaculate. Dre and his team (including Bink, DJ Dahi, DJ Premier, Best Kept Secret and more) put so much detail into the beats to make every track fully-fleshed out. There are so many nice touches and great instrumental moments: The keys on "Genocide," the Bone Thugs-N-Harmony sample on "For the Love of Money," the guitar on "One Shot One Kill," the album's trumpet outro on "Talking to My Diary," the bass everywhere. This is a master at work. When riding in the car or kicking back and relaxing, this is the soundtrack for the moment. The beats are so lush that they can make a listener completely ignore a track's verses and get lost inside like a sonic maze.
Listen to Dr. Dre's "Deep Water" Feat. Kendrick Lamar & Justus
Getting too lost in the beats isn't the best idea, though, as the lyrics here are just as essential as the beats. Dr. Dre sounds rejuvenated on Compton from the first moment he's heard. His verse on "Talk About It" is the best he's spit since 2001 came out. He boasts about buying entire states and brags that he's "still got Eminem checks I ain't opened yet." He looks back at his career on "Talking to My Diary" and his final verse is a heartfelt shout out to his N.W.A group mates, particularly the deceased Eazy-E. Dre even switches up his voice on tracks Like "Genocide" (his tone is higher than usual), which takes a minute before you realize that it's even him rhyming.
The rappers that Dre's surrounds himself with on Compton are great too. Many of the guest features are veterans of the game who've known Dre for years. Guys like Ice Cube, Xzibit and Snoop Dogg put on their best performance in years. The Game on "Just Another Day" hearkens back to his The Documentary days. Eminem's recent output has been divisive among hip-hop fans, but he sounds more natural on "Medicine Man" than he did on many of his Marshall Mathers LP 2 tracks. There's just something about getting on a Dre song that makes rappers and singers step up their game -- likely because he's known to make artists record their verses countless times in the studio until it's just right.
Rap veterans are all over Compton, but fresh blood also abounds. Kendrick Lamar continues his winning streak, contributing to three tracks. He glides over "Genocide" and absolutely demolishes everything in his tracks on "Deep Water" and "Darkside/Gone." On both tracks, he seemingly sends subliminal shots aimed at Drake. "But still I got enemies giving me energy I wanna fight now / Subliminally sent to me all of this hate / I thought I was holding the mic down," he delivers on "Darkside/Gone," referencing Drizzy's "Enemy" track and on "Deep Water" he throws out lines like "Motherf---er know I started from the bottom," and "They liable to bury him, they nominated six to carry him / They worrying him to death, but he's no vegetarian / The beef is on his breath, inheriting the drama better than / A great white, n----, this is life in my aquarium."
Michigan rapper Jon Connor steps up to the plate as well and even gets main billing on "One Shot One Kill." Singer-rapper Anderson Paak absolutely shines on "Animals," a track about the police shootings of unarmed black people. Even the most relatively unknown artists here like King Mez and Justus feel at home. There's nobody that overstays their welcome on Compton like Hittman did on 2001.
Dr. Dre has been in the rap industry for over 30 years, was part of one of the most influential hip-hop groups of all time, has multiple classics under his belt and helped ignite the careers of some of the biggest rappers of all time. It shouldn't be a surprise that he released yet another solid album with rewind-worthy tracks. Yet it's just damn impressive that he can keep going this strong so late in his career. Dr. Dre is a perfectionist and he tastes perfection once again on Compton.
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