Ever since the rumour mill was set in motion that the Dr would be walking the music wards again, I have been patiently waiting for this album. The musical landscape has changed since Dr. Dre‘s last release, 16 years ago, though he has always been on the scene. Just read a biography on the man to understand his contribution to music and the empire that he has built since his early career with the likes of NWA.
This album could so easily read as a who’s who with an unsurprising supporting cast featuring the likes of Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube, but Dre ensures that it is the music on the album that stands out and not the individual artists. The album opens with ‘Intro’ and it draws you in. A news narrator tells us that the American Dream has turned sour for middle class black people after all of the promises that Compton held. As the intro dies out the wonderful ‘Talk About It’ blends in with Justus singing:
“Don’t know everything but one thing, one thing I do know is one day I’ma have everything”
They could be the words of a Compton young hopeful or a self-prophesising Dre with the power of hindsight before Dre declares:
“The world ain’t enough, I want it all God dammit, I’m too old, I forgot I got it all”
Dre has not called this album a “soundtrack” on a whim; It was inspired by the forthcoming ‘Straight Outta Compton’ film. The album plays almost like a movie about Compton and the life that Dre has lived there, as well as those that are still being lived there.
What I have always loved about Dre is that he uses his craft to talk about his craft. ‘Satisfiction’ is a play on words and is a critique on other rappers/rap records. The song questions their subject material and their lifestyle choices. It is clever and it is what Dre is all about. He has this self-awareness about the music game that he is in and is always looking for a point of reference.
‘It’s All On Me’ is a perfect example of the autobiographical elements in the album. It showcases Dre’s beginnings and the progress and sacrifices that are made to taste success. ‘Loose Cannons’ descends into a disturbing incident where a woman begs for her life as her partner’s panicky, desperate breathing fills the track. There is an eerie silence and then a gunshot. The dialogue that follows confirms that she has been killed. Dre is one of the few artists who can make you go through so many emotions on one track.
‘Animals’ is a song about people only seeing the negative side of Compton with the residents being labelled as animals: “Not all of us are criminals”. It is desperate and it is helpless. The track seeps with frustration and is another fine example of how political this album is. The weakest track on here is probably ‘Medicine Man’, that Eminem guests on. He comes across as just loud with no direction, however the vocals by Candice Pillay save the song. Her understated, sweet voice sprouting profanities is addictive.
It ends with the almost soulful ‘Talking With My Diary’, if you were in any doubt that this album has been a personal journey for Dre. It’s a privilege to be able to listen to Dre and his thoughts – he is the master of his genre – a genre that twists and turns like his life. This album is as near to perfection as possible; It makes me wonder if it is his last outing, but then you never know with Dre.
Forever relevant, forever talented, forever Dre. All of the royalties are going back into the Compton community showing that while Dr Dre may have got everything, he will never forget that he is the boy from Compton who had nothing.
Compton is available to stream and buy now on Apple Music, via Aftermath/Interscope Records.