Written by Angelo Gingerelli
In the 16 years since The Good Doctor released his genre defining 2001 he’s become hip-hop’s first billionaire, guided Eminem, 50 Cent, The Game and Kendrick Lamar to icon status, single handedly created the game changing high-end headphone market and delayed/cancelled a follow-up album (the mythic “Detox”) at least a dozen times. The Apple Music exclusive Compton arrived on August 7th as a companion piece to the NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton with only a few days notice, no lead single and zero promotion and still dominated the entire music industry the week it was released. To say people were hungry for a new Dr. Dre project would be a huge understatement and even with a decade and a half of anticipation the album basically delivers on all fronts.
The two most surprising things about Compton are the cohesive perspective presented by Dre and all of his collaborators (more on them later) and the incredibly proficient rhyming of Dr. Dre himself. The album cover (a panoramic view of Compton from behind a fictional “Compton” sign in the Hollywood Hills) illustrates the perspective of the entire project as Dr. Dre raps from the point of view of a grown man that made it out of the hood and is now looking down on his former environment from the proverbial “house on the hill” and lamenting how little has changed since his youth. This theme occurs throughout the project as a who’s who of West Coast legends and new comers share their take on the plight of one of the most notorious neighborhoods in the United States.
From NWA’s stance on police brutality to Eminem addressing race relations Dre’s music has always addressed social issues to some extent, but these ideas are presented extremely well on this album especially considering the current climate where unfortunately not a lot has changed since Straight Outta Compton was released in 1988. Secondly, while Dre has always been a competent rapper, on past projects he seemed content to let his protege’s shine while he provided solid, but unspectacular verses. On this album Dr. Dre arguably raps better than he ever has before, experimenting with flows and wordplay that easily eclipses the straight forward bars of his previous work. It’s widely known that he doesn’t write his own rhymes (take it easy Meek Mill…haha), but working with newcomers like Kendrick Lamar and King Mez has really allowed Dre to step his game up.
Dr. Dre “solo albums” have always been about two things: beats and guest appearances and Compton doesn’t disappoint on either. The production values on this project are extraordinarily high with beats perfectly crafted to evoke the desired feeling of each song and all of them working together to present one cohesive package. The virtuosic production is only matched by artists like Kanye West and Jay-Z, aka artists with enough money and resources to afford the best the industry has to offer and still have the artistic drive to strive for perfection. The beats are truly cinematic and probably the closest hip-hop has gotten to the intricate craftsmanship of classical music or the perfectionism of a band like Rush in a long time. This is music meant to be listened to on $300 headphones…and Dre will sell you those too! Like all Dr. Dre projects the guest appearances are typically stellar with Kendrick Lamar proving on multiple occasions why he deserves his place at the top of the game, rookies like King Mez, Anderson .Paak and Justus demonstrating why they deserve to be “next to blow” and veterans like Ice Cube, Eminem, Xzibit and Snoop Dogg delivering verses that remind listeners how they became legends in the first place.
The beats are truly cinematic and probably the closest hip-hop has gotten to the intricate craftsmanship of classical music or the perfectionism of a band like Rush in a long time.
While easily the best album of 2015, Compton is not perfect. The album lacks any clear single for radio/clubs, there is not an NWA reunion track (which seems like a missed opportunity) and it would have been cool if the album included more Compton/West Coast artists like DJ Quik, MC Eiht, Kurupt, YG or Nipsey Hustle. But overall, these shortcomings are really splitting hairs on one of the best albums to be released in a long time.
Overall, “Compton” is one of the best hip-hop albums of the last few years and by holding himself to an incredibly high standard Dr. Dre has released yet another classic and possibly game changing piece of art.
Best Songs: It’s All On Me, Satisfiction, Animals…honestly, they are all pretty good.
Perfect For: Pushing the limits of your Beats by Dre audio equipment
Score: 9 out of 10