If you were to mention to most Hip Hop listeners that legendary producer, Dr. Dre, had released a new album, the first word that would come to mind would probably be Detox. Those 5 letters have been synonymous with Dre ever since they were uttered what seems an age ago by him and frequent collaborators, but this much-discussed album never actually materialised. Fear not, as Dre – in conjunction with the release of the NWA Biopic, Straight Outta Compton – has produced a full-length album that will act as the soundtrack for the aforementioned film and Dre’s first project for 16 years.
As you would expect from a Dr. Dre project, the production and instrumentation is cinematic in its sound, with the former NWA member’s signature style still recognisable despite his time away and a plethora of co-producers. Names such as DJ Dahi, Bink, DJ Khalil and Cardiak help to bring a more modern feel to the album, while other prodigious producers including DJ Premier offer classic touches.
Dre’s previous efforts have been about the featured guests as much as the pristine production, and this project is no different. He gifts appearances to lesser-known MC’s, King Mez, Justus, Anderson Paak & Jon Connor, while also incorporating regular co-workers like Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, Eminem, The Game & Kendrick Lamar into the project. Additionally – as is customary with Dre’s work – he creates space for vocalists to excel, calling on the voices of BJ The Chicago Kid, Marsha Ambrosius and Jill Scott, to name a few.
After a short intro the album truly begins with the heavy hitting, ‘Talk About It’, that seems to act as a reintroduction to the latest generation of Hip Hop fans for Dre. The “trap” sound of the production – which was not as prominent in Hip Hop when Dre was working on his previous album – proves that The Doctor has kept his finger on the pulse of the ever-evolving landscape of Hip Hop culture, and he shows it on more than one instance throughout the project. The aggression of the verses on ‘Talk About It’, juxtaposed with the softness of the hook acts as the difference between hope and reality when growing up in Compton. Despite showing that he has adapted his production to suit a modern audience, Dre still finds space to have listener’s reminisce over his classic sound. On tracks, ‘It’s All On Me’, ‘Satisfiction’ & ‘Talking To My Diary’, Dre creates pieces that would not have sounded out of place on 2001. On the latter song in particular – which is the final track on the album – Dre probably drops his best of a few impresses verses (though we’ll try and avoid the debate about who wrote them), making ‘Talking To My Diary’ the 2015 version of, ‘The Message’.
As far as other notable verses go, the award for best rap feature has to be handed to Eminem on ‘Medicine’. Em really rolled back the years as he commented on people’s opinion of him early in his career and how it did/didn’t affect him, gradually progressing into more forceful delivery of his rhymes. The Dr. Dre/Eminem partnership is considered legendary and this latest offering has done nothing to affect that status. The other standout piece of the project is ‘Animals’, which is the DJ Premier co-produced song. The two renowned producers manage to equally stamp their unique styles upon the production, making for an instant classic that could easily be recognised as either a Dre record or a Premo record, due to Dre’s foot stepping drums and Premier’s chopped sample and scratches.
Much like upon the release of 2001, Dr. Dre has proved that he’s still got “it”, with this self-proclaimed “grand finale” a fitting curtain call. Compton: A Soundtrack not only takes you on a sonic low ride through the streets of the city, but through the minds of those who have been raised there, so for it to be told by one of the most prominent figures from Compton is appropriate.