It’s been 16 years since his instant classic sophomore album 2001 debuted and since then, Andre Young has been a busy man; Beats by Dre, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar just to name a few hot commodities have kept him busy. Oh, and we all remember the eventually scrapped Detox, as the album that showed us what broken promises looked like. Fast forward to present day and we get a pleasant surprise in the form of Compton. Of course, being the savvy businessman he is, the album didn’t really come “out of nowhere.”
On August 1, 2015, Dre went on his Beats 1 radio show “The Pharmacy” and announced his final album. A week later, the hip hop community got a breathe of fresh air in the form of Compton, and then wouldn’t you know it, Straight Outta Compton was released another week later (if you haven’t already, go out and see it). Dre has made a living off reinventing himself and staying ahead of the curve time and time again, so releasing a new LP alongside a highly anticipated film is simply (not so simply) genius cross marketing. Bringing the younger generation up to date on his legacy while releasing new material only further proves this man’s prowess.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Dre in this situation. Every time he drops new material it’s as if its in spite of everyone doubting him. He helped make N.W.A. the biggest rap group in the world when they couldn’t get radio airplay, and even after leaving them he managed to build a great solo career and a successful label for himself with Aftermath down the line. Now Dre is set to defy the odds again, by being the first 50-year-old rapper to release an album that people actually care about. He has proven time and again that if there were such a thing as a Mt. Rushmore for hip hop, his head would be prominently placed there. At 50 years young, the near billionaire mogul who was suspected of just not having “It” anymore, sounds just as inspired and hungry as he did when he burst onto the scene 30 years ago.
Compton opens with a dramatic intro that provides an overview of the city itself and its Infamous reputation. The first raps we hear on the album are those of King Mez from North Carolina screaming out “I don’t give one fuck!” daring other rappers to test him. Justus, a newcomer from Texas, flows melodically on the hook. Discovered by Dre’s good friend and frequent collaborator D.O.C., Mez and Justus are all over the writer credits for the album. “Genocide”, is the album’s clear stand out. It finds Kendrick Lamar delivering yet another seemingly unstoppable yet unintentionally so, scene-stealing verse. Dre comes onto the track not sounding like himself. At first listen it caught me off guard, but it’s still an impressive switch-up that proves that after all these years, he can still step out of his comfort zone. On “It’s All On Me”, BJ the Chicago Kid lends his smooth vocals to the hook and Dre takes us through a brief recollection of his rise to the top. On “One Shot One Kill” we get that classic Snoop Dogg that we thought had died along with “Snoop Lion.” The Game jumps on “Just Another Day” reminding us why he deserved that Dre co-sign early in his career. He actually raps like himself instead of using that chameleonic, flow-stealing style that many hate from the Compton MC. “Deep Water” is a brooding cut that finds everyone on the track falling into place perfectly. Anderson .Paak’s performance as a drowning man gets a bit awkward and uncomfortable, while Kendrick Lamar appears to be subliminally dissing his rival Drake, making reference to the 6 God’s hit song “Started From The Bottom.” The most politically charged track on the album is “Animals”: the first joint production between Dre and the legendary DJ Premier. And of course it wouldn’t be a Dre album without Eminem delivering a show-stopping verse, while Candice Pillay croons on the hook for “Medicine Man.”
It seems as if the stars aligned perfectly for Dre with this album and the Biopic Straight Outta Compton coming out at the same time. The rap vet’s creative juices started flowing again and he delivered a project that many thought he couldn’t pull off. To be honest, Dre could have phoned this album in, called it Detox, and went platinum off curiosity alone, but he’d never do that to his legacy. Dre approaches his projects like a hungry newcomer with the precise ear of a grizzled vet. He felt the need to remind us of his greatness and maybe that’s the formula to his folklore. While Compton doesn’t have the same breath-taking power as The Chronic or 2001, it is still an album that is in a class of it’s own and keeps his ability to deliver great albums the standard. If Compton is Dre’s finale, it’s definitely the perfect swan song for one of music’s most prolific producers of all time.