Compton: A Soundtrack Album Review
Released August 7, 2015
Genre: Hip Hop, Gangsta Rap, West Coast Hip Hop, Pop Rap, Gangsta Rap
Buy and Listen: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/compton/id1025137696
On August 1, 2015 Dr. Dre said the words every fan was dreading: Detox was scrapped. “I didn’t like it. It wasn’t good. The record, it just wasn’t good. … I worked my ass off on it, and I don’t think I did a good enough job” said Dre. But alas a new stone had turned; inspired by the upcoming biopic Straight Outta Compton, Dr. Dre had returned to the studio to record an album, and that album is now done. How is it?
Dre’s music has and could always be known for shamelessly embracing gangsta rap tropes, and for him it works. Not in a braggy sense that is shameful yet prideful but in a sense that wholeheartedly praises it for how it has affected his upbringing. Sixteen years have passed since the raucous 2001, and that along with his landmark debut The Chronic only cemented Dre’s star status but also foreshadowed his incoming impact on the hip hop genre. So when Dre announced that he had scrapped his LONG awaited Detox, Dre set his fans looking at his past, delivering an album inspired by and about the city that he calls home and frequently praises and heralds: Compton. Years of Dre’s careful and calculated singles and collaboration have taken sixteen years to curate this highly anticipated album.
Compton is undoubtedly a companion piece to the upcoming N.W.A biopic, as the album takes us through Dre’s history along with the prolific events of Compton- a history lesson of dreams and overcoming adversity. However it not, by any means, a soundtrack for the film nor should it be interpreted as such. Rather, the film serves as an inspiration for this record. Dre’s talent for instrumentation and production is on display here, no dust attached. He effortlessly blends sounds new and old, formulating a sound that can be compared to the nostalgic depiction of the film itself. It’s bombastic but restrained, excessive but layered – a brilliant balance that not many hip hop albums can accomplish these days. The album opens with a documentary intro that describes how Compton went from black-middle-class idyll to a crime-ravaged “extension of the inner city.” While this in hindsight can seem like a cliche opening, Dre doesn’t hold back once the songs hit. These tracks feature some Dre’s best work, brilliant, ambitious and unadulterated. Like one of the year’s best albums, this album is politically charged.
Kendrick himself makes multiple appearances here, most notably on ‘Darkside/Gone”, which shouts out fallen colleague Eazy-E. In a “homecoming” turn of events, N.W.A colleague Ice Cube appears on “Issues”, a hyper active statement on today’s society. Kendrick goes IN on “Deep Water;” while I won’t spoil anything, he does take a few jabs on Drake. Just listen for yourself, there may be a beef coming. Snoop Dogg delivers on “One Shot One Kill” which has some of the most quotable lines on this project; almost every line perfectly balances catchiness and relevance managing to say something important while remaining memorable, a hybrid last achieved to great lengths on Kendrick Lamar’s Compton concept masterpiece good kid, m.A.A.d city and his equally as important follow up To Pimp A Butterfly.
Things get jazzy on the smooth and superbly produced “For The Love Of Money” while vulgarity meets shrill horns and bragadocious attitude on”Just Another Day”, which should have the city of Compton proud. “Animals” features LA based produced Anderson Paak who truly shines on this track as he and Dre deliver stanza after stanza of bars of racial rage along with attacking the vulture-like media; despite its aggressive nature, the song is incredibly moving. But the real magic comes on the grandiose, deeply personal, and epic closer “Talking To My Diary,” the only track that just has Dre.For an impressively billed record, the final track finds Dre at his most powerful, eloquent, and relevant as he fills the empty void with his quips and observations on life. He abandons his solipsistic tendencies as he comes to terms with himself, both creatively and literally. “I used to be a starving artist, so that I wouldn’t starve an artist. This is my passion, it’s where my heart is” he says as he looks carefully into the past, knowing damn well that his future is bright.
In the Straight Outta Compton trailer, Corey Hawkins – who plays Dr. Dre – defends his record making and his humble earning of $50. “It’s a start” he snaps back, sure that his passion, heart, and soul can produce something that not only reels in money, but can also impact a culture and a generation of people who are simply looking for a voice. Dre is, without a doubt, one of the most important figures in hip hop; he was there when gangster rap started and has inspired or is responsible for the success and fame of Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Eazy E, Kendrick Lamar, and Eminem.
Although we weren’t given Detox, one of the most anticipated albums of ALL TIME, there isn’t really much to complain about; Compton is an album that showcases Dre’s talents, impressively bills an all-star guest list, and celebrates a city that formed a movement, a wave of artists, and a voice. Compton is a dangerous place, but it has also produced some of the best messages that have, and will, endure the tests of time. Hip-hop fan or not, this is an album that has something we can all learn from, and taking that into consideration is the first step to what Dre has been striving for. Compton is gritty, theatrical, fresh, NEW, relevant, unique, and above all, powerful. I’ll shut up now…just listen.
PRETTY NEAT MUSIC
FAV TRACKS: Genocide (feat. Kendrick Lamar, Marsha Ambrosius & Candice Pillay), It’s All On Me (feat. Justus & BJ the Chicago Kid), All In a Day’s Work (feat. Anderson Paak & Marsha Ambrosius), Deep Water (feat. Kendrick Lamar & Justus), One Shot One Kill (feat. Snoop Dogg), For The Love Of Money (feat. Jill Scott & Jon Connor), Just Another Day (feat. Asia Bryant), Animals (feat. Anderson Paak), Talking To My Diary
LEAST FAV TRACK: Medicine Man (feat. Eminem, Candice Pillay, & Anderson Paak)