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“Compton” Album Review: Dr. Dre On Point

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Fans of hip hop have waited since 1999 for this.   It was in 1999 that Dr. Dre released “Chronic 2001” his smash follow up album to his 1992 classic, “The Chronic.”  Dr. Dre is an icon not only for hip hop, but music as a whole.

He helped pioneer the gangsta rap era with N.W.A; helped build a classic (now defunct since his departure) label in Death Row Records; and has been the key force to three of hip hop’s icons for their respective eras: Snoop Dogg, Eminem and 50 Cent.  Hip hop fans have been waiting for his third album – an album that was to be called “Detox,” but it never came to be.

Dr. Dre apparently wasn’t happy with what was becoming of it.  Some assume he just felt he wouldn’t live up to the album’s hype. Whatever the reasons – it’s brought us to where we are today: “Compton.” Dr. Dre was inspired by the release of the NWA biopic film and decided to come out of his 16-year hiatus.

As expected with any Dr. Dre album, “Compton” is a compilation album, driven by the production and direction of Dr. Dre.  A lot has changed since 1999, and Dr. Dre jumps right on top of it with the track “Talk About It” which has a trap-music sound attached to it.  King Mez is featured on the track and even tweeted that it was “an honor” to be the first voice on the “Compton” album.

Dr. Dre sets the tone with his legendary status on the track: “I remember selling instrumentals off a beeper/Millionaire before the headphones or the speakers/I was getting money before the internet / Still got Eminem checks I ain’t opened yet.”

When looking at a Dr. Dre album, there is something every fan looks for right away: a collaboration with Snoop Dogg.  The listener is blessed with two tracks featuring Snoop.  On “Satisfiction” Dre supplies his long-time partner a track perfectly suited for the funk-driven Snoop, who is defiant on the track with lines like : “All these random n*gg@s fake as f*ck and I’m still gettin’ noticed.”

The feature from King Mez sounds like a poor man’s version of Big Sean more than anything else though. . . On “One Shot, One Kill” the dynamic duo ride a track supplied with a southern rock guitar sound and we hear a more aggressive Snoop Dogg than we’re used to and it all comes together to make one of the better tracks on “Compton.”

Dr. Dre takes notice of his NWA roots paying homage to his deceased comrade Eazy E, by shouting him out on a beat break on “Darkside Gone” and by sampling “For the Love of Money” (a song done by Bone Thugs N Harmony, which featured Eazy E).  Former NWA member Ice Cube joins the party on “Issues” and Dr. Dre is able to knock out another nice duet with a familiar face.  Dre’s honesty in the flow shines: “You know how many nights I heard them sparks echo in the park?/Around this time I was spinnin’ records at Eve After Dark/My city crazy, school girls used to play with that chalk/ Same chalk police used to outline n*gg@s we lost.”

As a rapper, Dr. Dre is on point throughout the album, which is good for him – but even better for his ghostwriters.  It’s not a secret or huge revelation that Dre has people write for him – that’s always been the story and we’ve all accepted it.  It’s never mattered.  This time around though, it appears somewhat obvious that the ghostwriter he goes to most, is one who is featured quite a bit on the album: Compton’s own, Kendrick Lamar.

Nobody can fault Dre for going this route, it makes all the sense in the world.  Kendrick is one of the best lyricists today and does hail from the city that the entire album is named after – but Dre sounds more like a carbon copy of Kendrick than “Dr. Dre.”  It’s a noticeable change in Dre, when it comes to his delivery and even his tone.

Speaking of Kendrick, he fully handles his duties on the album, most notably on the track “Deep Water” where Dre and Kendrick talk about the people you deal with and problems that one endures being a gangster: “I’m a C-O-M-P-T-O innovator, energizer / Inner city bullet fly til that b*tch on auto pilot/I don’t give a f*ck about your whereabouts / All I care about is wearing out – your area and airing out your upper body/ When I catch ya, walkin’ out ya parent’s house.” 

There is nothing wrong with The Game’s “Just Another Day” other than we’ve all kind of heard this record from him a million times over, but his aggressiveness is welcomed – although it’s surprising this is his only appearance on “Compton.”  Little is known about Flint, Michigan representative Jon Connor to those  outside of the mixtape and underground scene, but he has the spotlight on him and handles it on “For the Love of Money.”   “Loose Cannons” is kind of goes no where until Dr. Dre pulls a beat-switch and Xzibit (out of all people!) saves the song.

Dr. Dre does all his collaborators a favor by saving Eminem for last as Dr. Dre’s prized pupil goes ape on “Medicine.”  Eminem’s delivery is one of the best ever and he rides the horror-movie-like piano keys like a serial killer stalking his prey in the movie’s final scene: “No one really gave a f*ck about my descent, till I took off/mistook me because I look soft/ But I stood tall, I just followed the doctor’s orders/ So i rose and grew balls, told these hoes to screw off. .. had you on pins and needles when I spoke to you all/ You felt my pain, its almost like I poked voodoo dolls.”

“Compton” serves it’s purpose but fails to deliver that one beat that knocks.  Dr. Dre always has one beat that sets him apart from the rest of hip hop on his albums, but this time around he doesn’t deliver that beat that every rapper will freestyle over.   The production is good – but not great and there is not a song on here that ascends above the rest.

The album is definitely not a failure, but it’s not what one was hoping for after waiting nearly two decades to arrive.  Never-the-less “Compton” hopefully has reintroduced Dr. Dre to fans who only know him as Eminem’s producer.  The legendary D-R-E is back and that’s what matters.

Rating 4 out of 5

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

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