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Review: Compton: The Soundtrack

via Rap God
via Rap God

Compton: The Soundtrack (2015)

Dr. Dre

Rap / Hip-Hop

Aftermath / Interscope


When’s the last time Dr. Dre released an album?  You’re telling me it’s been sixteen years?  It seems kind of crazy when you say it, but in fact it has been over sixteen years since the rapper/producer and former member of N.W.A. has released an official studio album.  His name has not been forgotten in that time, but musically he has been silent for a long time.  Now that his final album, Compton: The Soundtrack, has been released, the musical silence has officially come to an end.  You would think that Dre would be a little rusty on the hinges after all those years, but he delivers in every aspect, giving us what some have already been saying an “instant classic.”

What does a Dr. Dre album look like in the year 2015?  He’s come a long way since his rabble-rousing days roaming the streets of Compton with N.W.A.  He’s brought up some of the best names in hip-hop, most notably Eminem.  He has also produced a pretty honorable library of albums that hold a lot of regard critically.  Compton, the rapper’s grand finale showing, gives us a taste of old and new and aims to please everybody’s tastes.

via Hip-Hop n More
via Hip-Hop n More

Compton is like a personal ride through the city streets of Compton, with Dr. Dre rolling in the driver’s seat.  As you make your way through the city, which has gone through its fair share of triumphs and hardships, Dre earnestly tells a story full of recollections of past memories, reflective analyzations of the present, and glimpses of the opportunistic future.  Dre realizes the position that he stands in and the kind of influence that he has on the masses and he runs forward with eagerness and passion, without ever forgetting his humble and pain ridden beginnings.

The album, from beginning to end, contains almost no slip ups.  Dr. Dre is still sharp as ever and his classic flow comes back like a nostalgic knockout punch.  To my surprise, Dre leaves a lot of room for others on the album, both old and new, giving them room to breathe.  Former member of N.W.A. Ice Cube makes a loud appearance on “Issues,” a track that looks at the current state of rap and pretty much disses the entirety of it.  Dr. Dre puts it simply: “Man this industry to me, it feels like plastic.  I ain’t heard nothin’ that I’d consider a classic.”  Although it’s only a snippet, we also hear the voice of Eazy-E, one of the most iconic voices from N.W.A.   Snoop Dogg makes two appearances as well, providing lyrical back-up on songs like “One Shot, One Kill” and “Satisfiction,” a fitting look at the fake satisfaction that comes with the rap lifestyle.  Finally, “Loose Cannons” features the like of Cold 187um and Xzibit, who both give pompous performances on a track with an extremely dark ending. It was these features that really brought back the sound that we all came to know and love from back in the days.

via Softpedia News
via Softpedia News

There were also features from current hip-hop powerhouses like Eminem and Kendrick Lamar.  Lamar shares a lot in common with Dre, being that there both from the same hood, with his lyrics reflecting that.  “Darkside / Gone” and “Deep Water” are two tracks that the West Coast rapper appears on, but the most notable song is “Genocide.”  Dr. Dre, Lamar, Candice Pillay, and Marsha Ambrosius give a chilling, but real account of one of the biggest problems that the city of Compton faces; the murder rate.  Towards the end of the album, Dre and Eminem team up for probably one of the best tracks on the album; “Medicine Man.”  Dr. Dre gives us a great verse, but it’s Eminem that really takes the song by the reigns, delivering a fantastic verse that, in classic Shady fashion, covers a lot of ground in little time.  At this point, it’s almost like Eminem can do no wrong.  However, the song contains some alarming lyrics that made me frown.  Lines like “I even make the bitches I rape come” are not the kinds of lyrics that will go unnoticed.  There might be backlash, there might not be, but either way it still doesn’t bode well with most.

I have to give major props to some of the new talent that gets a lot of time on the album to shine.  Justus, Anderson .Paak, Marsha Ambrosius, and King Mez are all up-and-coming artists with a whole lot to prove.  Dre takes them under his wing and gives them a chance to take the spotlight on a number of songs on the album.  Songs like “Talk About It” and “It’s All on Me” are two of the tracks that really stick out.  Anderson .Paak truly makes a name for himself on “Animals,” a song that dives into the problems that black people face on a daily basis.  It’s well-trodden ground at this point, especially given the events that have transpired this year, but .Paak manages to demand your attention.

via Okay Player
via Okay Player

The journey through the city concludes with the finale, “Talking to My Diary.”  It’s a fitting end to our ride with Dre through his city of Compton.  As he flips through the pages of his work, he takes one final gaze at the road that he has travelled behind him and looks into the future with eagerness.  Compton shows that the rapper, although dormant for more than a decade, still has what it takes to grab listeners by neck and show them what real rap sounds like. I may not agree with his line about there being no classics out there today, especially given the amazing year of rap that we have had so far.  With that being said, I can agree that Dr. Dre has given us an epic final swan song, a masterpiece that has indeed earned classic status.

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Review: V by Maroon 5

v album coverMaroon 5 | V (2014)

Pop Rock

Released: August 29th, 2014

Interscope Records


 

It’s hard to believe that after ten years of being together, Maroon 5 have just put out there fifth studio album, properly titled V (pronounced “Five”).  After coming off the major commercial and critical success of Overexposed, the group’s fourth studio effort, it seems like it would be tough to overcome such a popular release.  With their newest album, they decided to replicate the sound and feel of Overexposed.  This approach, in the end, seemed to have produced another memorable experience.

All of the catchy hooks and fresh new sounds that Maroon 5 are known for can be heard all over the album.  It was actually hard to pick out a song that didn’t somehow make it into my head.  “Maps” is the first song on the album and it really gets the party rolling.  The song has a lot of energy and it hearkens back to the days of Songs about Jane, the group’s first commercial album.

v 1

You can also catch a sense of confidence coming from Adam Levine on some of the trucks, most notably “Animals.”  It’s a sex-fueled song that somehow contains a bunch of metaphors relating the hunt for love to the wild.  There are also some edgy songs like “New Love” and “Feelings” that gave me the sense that the band, although ten years old, are starting to mature and find their place in the business.

Adam Levine seems to have the spotlight on him during the entire duration of the album.  It almost made me stop and think about the name “Maroon 5” for a little bit.  It’s hard not to think about the band changing their name to “Maroon 1”, because let’s all be honest, whenever someone mentions Maroon 5, all you can think of is Adam Levine.  I am not that much of a pop-rock fan myself, but I always come back to Maroon 5 because Adam Levine’s voice is probably the most unique sounding voice in music.v adam levine

Most of the songs on the album are pretty good, however, there were some that fell a little short.  “My Heart Is Open”, a duet with Gwen Stefani, and “Sugar” are the two that stuck out to me the most as being underwhelming.  Two songs out of eleven isn’t bad though.  You could honestly play the entire album at your next party.  All of the songs would fit right in to the party atmosphere and they would keep you on the dance floor the whole entire night.

Maroon 5 have slowly begun to display themselves as masters of keeping it fresh.  I have noticed that over the years, they have kept up with the times and they have noticed the trends of the industry.  Overexposed was the best example of their adaptation to the current climate of the industry, and V seems to be another viable example.