After years away from the rap scene and making billions with Beats headphones, Dr Dre is back in a big way with the understated release of Compton: A Soundtrack. It seems to be a growing trend of hip-hop and rap with big names releasing new albums seemingly with no build up or hype at all- see Yeezus and Magna Carta, Holy Grail by Kanye and Jay-Z for example. I’m not complaining, we get the music earlier and make our minds up without the hideously high expectations weighing the album down.
While Compton is distinctly modern- just look at the featuring artists, it harks back to the late 80s and the sound of NWA an awful lot too, sometimes a bit too aggressively in that regard. One of the more memorable moments of the album (for the wrong reasons) is at the end of Loose Cannons where the song finishes with a ‘skit’ of a woman being murdered and buried.
I think it tries too hard here and whilst it’s a grim reminder that indeed, this is the same people who had songs such as To Kill a Hooker and One Less Bitch, you have to wonder if it was necessary to put such a strange and vicious skit in at all, it sounds out of place here in the grand context of the album as a whole.
Apart from that, I really couldn’t find much else wrong with the album. It combines the g-funk sound of The Chronic, with the ever-changing sound of modern hip-hop of the 00s, especially focusing on Compton’s new all-conquering king Kendrick Lamar, who features on 3 songs and they of course sound great and he absolutely sounds at home, none more so than on the second track – Genocide which is a great reminder of Compton’s violent past and present.
The fact that Kendrick features of three songs is great, but Dr Dre’s protégé Eminem only features on one which was slightly disappointing and his guest verse of Medicine Man is very reminiscent of his ‘We Made You’ days, a bizarre and quite gross reminder of the days that no one wants a return to.
It was also a pleasure to hear the likes of Ice Cube and Snoop guest verse on a few songs, but newcomers such as Anderson .Paak and King Mez give them a good run for their money- the former’s hoarse voice and commanding raps really stand out and with the pair of them are all over this album; they absolutely makes an impression, whether it’s through talent or just sheer force.
Talking to My Diary is a nice, albeit a slightly abrupt album closer but after over an hour thumping beats, super-aggressive lyrics and about half a dozen nods to Eazy-E, just having Dre on his own was a good way for him to take the spotlight, just as it begins to fade.
In the end, the album does what it sets out to do, pay homage to Dr Dre in a respectful, but powerful fashion with the old and new of west coast rap coming together in one giant amalgamation of reflection, violence and of course, bragging.