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DAR Album Reviews: Dr. Dre- Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre

By @JustKels88


Tracklist
1. Intro
2. Talk About It
3. Genocide
4. It's All On Me
5. All In A Day's Work
6. Darkside Gone
7. Loose Cannons
8. Issues
9. Deep Water
10. One Shot One Kill
11. Just Another Day
12. For The Love Of Money
13. Satisfiction
14. Animals
15. Medicine Man
16. Talking To My Diary

At 50 years old, Dr. Dre has always been an enigma. While his talents have been an essential part of the hip-hop industry for decades, he has always been reluctant to hang around in the spotlight for too long. Dre has made a habit of not saying too much unless it is necessary. The last time he found necessity in boisterously offering a lyrical reminder was 16 years ago, mainly with “Forgot About Dre”; even then, he let Eminem two-step all up and down the iconic track. As a veteran held in high esteem, Dre has always been a "pass the torch" kind of artist. 16 years later, with the release of the N.W.A. inspired major motion picture "Straight Outta Compton" right around the corner, Dre utilizes his platform to remind the world that he is still Dr. Dre, as well as offer invaluable spotlight for artists of all kinds via his latest release, Compton, which is, in title, a Soundtrack by Dr. Dre. A soundtrack of Compton.



Compton is needed, in its entirety. This album is necessary for every artist featured on it, the well-known and lesser known alike. The cohesive nature of the project lends to the recent shift in landscape of the genre that is going back to incorporating the idea of community. One where featuring multiple artists on tracks doesn’t muddy the quality or meaning, but showcases the beauty of teamwork and creation. Of course, names such as Kendrick Lamar, Marsha Ambrosius, Jill Scott, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, The Game and Xzibit brought their best for the project, but they share the shine with artists who are still on the come up. Newer artists BJ the Chicago Kid (“It’s All On Me”) and Jon Connor (“One Shot One Kill” and “For The Love of Money”) have both been buzzing lately and neither disappointed with their appearance. The first full track from a Dr. Dre album in over a decade is “Talk About It” featuring Raleigh, NC artist King Mez and Dallas native Justus. While Mez has garnered somewhat of an underground type following, Justus is (or was) virtually unknown. Each of these artists are featured on multiple tracks on Compton. Not only are they featured, they stand out. More than any other artist, up and coming California artist Anderson Paak makes a stand on Compton. "Animals" is a standout track and he is featured on "All in a Day’s Work", "Issues", "Deep Water", "For the Love of Money" and "Medicine Man" as well. South African singer Candice Pillay, Florida artist Sly Pyper, Asia Bryant from Atlanta, and even Chiodos front man Craig Owens get their moment to shine on Compton. That’s a lot of names to digest, and all that being said, there is no disconnect in the sound or meaning of Compton, it never feels or sounds messy or disorganized.

Since we are talking about Dr. Dre, a thorough discussion of the production on Compton is nothing but necessary. From the moment the album starts, it is full and dramatic. Dr. Dre’s renowned production skills behind chilling and hard hitting lyrical content lend to a sound that is as important as it is unique. “Talk About It” is a drum heavy, rock and roll style Dre and DJ Dahi production collaboration, while “Genocide” has an electro-funk sound that flows perfectly into the sheer West Coast, windows down, two stepping feel of “It’s All On Me.” No track feels out of place, production wise. A soundtrack is the only way to accurately explain Compton: even without lyrics, the way the production flows tells the story of what Compton is. “Darkside/Gone” is haunting and beautiful, “Loose Cannons” is exactly what you would expect from a track with that title as horns play in a way that almost makes you want to wince before drums, then eventually strings takeover and it’s a huge, amazing, perfect mess. “Issues”, “Deep Water”, “One Shot One Kill” and “Just Another Day” create a string of tracks that could easily fire up the revolution with the help of Focus.., Cardiak, Dem Joints, DJ Dahi and Neff U. The final five tracks offer more groovy, west coast sounds that incorporate Dre’s newfound, matured sound.

Compton is also the first time the world heard Dr. Dre rap something new (that wasn’t a feature for another artist) in over a decade. His voice and cadence are almost unrecognizable for that first second, and then there it is: Dr. Dre at 50 years old. This is what he sounds like, this is what he has to say, and it may just be the most authentic progression the industry has ever seen. Is he still fed up? Sure. Yes. Most definitely. He has no qualms airing his disapprovals with the way things are going, even if he has to do so disrespectfully. The calm demeanor in which he addresses his frustrations allows for the younger artists to set the world on fire for him. Of course Dre is still talking shit, if nobody has the right to, he does. He wasted no time reminding us that he still has Eminem checks he hasn’t cashed yet. There is never a moment in Compton where Dre overshadows the feature artists, lyrically. Not to take anything away from his content or flow, but Dre had a couple points he wanted to make and his lyrics were not at the center of any of them. Dre stands out when it comes to production,  and this is no different on Compton. "Talking to My Diary" is the only track on which Dre really takes control lyrically and it is very, very powerful, featuring what is possibly the most important and telling line regarding his career and influence “I used to be a starving artist/ So I would never starve an artist/This is my passion, it’s where my heart is/”.

While Compton is reminiscent of classic west coast hip hop, it is not relegated to it. With the inclusion of artists from all parts of the spectrum, the effect the city of Compton and its artists played in the music industry is solidified in sound with Compton. Instead of releasing Detox after all these years, Dre used this opportunity of mass anticipation to create something totally new. Compton doesn't sound like a project that sat unheard on hard drives while the artists tried to find completion. It is now, it is the lyrical depiction of the present culture. Not to mention, it is an all too appropriately timed ode to NWA and the reach they have always had in hip-hop. Finally and most importantly, all the proceeds from Compton are being donated to fund a performing arts and entertainment center for kids in Compton. Regardless of your feelings about Compton (and there’s no way to deny its musical greatness at every level), it is a project created solely for the love and progress of the art.

-Kels

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