Compton: The Soundtrack (2015)
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.
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.
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.
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.