Dr Dre is without doubt one of the all time biggest players in the hip-hop game, both as an artist and a producer. As a solo artist he has had slayed us with huge anthems such as ‘Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang,’ and ‘Still Dre.’ As a producer and label boss he has launched the careers of huge stars such as Emimen, Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent. And that’s not even mentioning his pioneering work with hip-hop royalty NWA. Hell, I even wear headphones made by him to listen to my music. It’s fair to say that Dre is at the top of his game, and has been that way ever since he broke through in the eighties. So when I heard that he was to release his first album in nearly sixteen years, I was left feeling…well, annoyed, frankly. The album has been released exclusively through iTunes and Apple’s new music streaming service. As a none iPhone user, and a subscriber to a competition streaming service, I felt like I’d been left out on this one. Why would he want to limit his album only to users of a certain brand? But I really wanted to hear the album, so I did what I rarely do. I bought it. This had better be good.
Dre steps back as a rapper and instead wears his producer’s hat for the majority of the album. He shows on this album that he is still the indisputable master of hip-hop beats. On top of that he features a whole host of amazing guest vocalists, from legends such as Snoop and Xibit, to lesser known names such as Justus (Dre’s latest signing) and King Mez. Lyrically the album is a refreshing change to many of today’s big hip-hop releases. Whilst many of today’s class rap about their wealth and their bling, Dre has always been about the streets and the gangs. Whilst the multi-millionaire record label boss couldn’t be further removed from that kind of life, it’s good to see that he is staying true to his routes. But I guess that is only right. The album is called ‘Compton’ after all, and has been released as a companion to the film biopic of his life ‘Straight Outta Compton’. The film and album go hand in hand, as references to Dre’s solo and NWA material are referenced throughout.
A short dramatic ‘Intro’ sets the tone and the theme for the album. ‘Talk About It’ is an amazing leading track, and has that classic Dre sound. It is the harder beats on the album that remind us why he love Dre Dre so much in the first place. Never more so than on ‘Genocide’, which could easily go unnoticed on any NWA album. ‘Loose Cannons’ is a fantastic standout track as it changes it’s vibe several times throughout the course o its four minutes. The first part of the track is cinematic and orchestral, and sounds like it could be the first urban Bond theme. But by the time it gets to the end, becomes a guide to how-to-murder-your-girlfriend, complete with dialog, sound effects and screams. Has he maybe gone too far on this one? Maybe. It isn’t easy listening, but it fits in with the gangster sound that Dre has spent his career creating.
On ‘Issues’ it is great to hear Dre united with former bandmate Ice Cube. It is very much one of the standout vocals on the album. He is as well known now for his acting and his clothing line, so it’s a great reminder that he is still one of today’s greatest living rappers. The track also features Anderson Paak; one of the names on the album we may be less familiar with. His vocals feature on several tracks on this collection, and after this I am in no doubt that we are going to be seeing much more from him in the future.
It is only on the final track ‘Talking To My Diary’ that Dre steps forward as the lead vocalist. It is a great way to end the album, as Dre reminisces on his past life and career. Despite the array of amazing guest vocalists, it is at this point that I felt a little sad that there were so many of them and the man himself is often drowned out. But that doesn’t change the fact, that ‘Compton’ is a fantastic mix of ideas and sounds from a man who has helped shape a whole genre. As a Dre album, maybe it would have been good to hear a bit more Dre. But as a hip-hop albm, you are unlikely to hear a better one this year.
Check out this short film of Dre talking about his film biopic ‘Straight Outta Compton’.