After nearly sixteen years, legendary rapper/producer Dr. Dre is finally making his musical return, with his new album “Compton: A Soundtrack By Dr. Dre.”
While quiet on a music front, Dr. Dre has made himself heard once again through the success of his Beats by Dre headphones. His company eventually was bought out by Apple in 2014 for 3.2 billion dollars, making Dre one of the richest men in hip-hop.
To continue this victory lap, Dre was a producer on the recently released “Straight Outta Compton,” a musical biopic based off of N.W.A., the rap group he was in during the 1980s and 1990s that made Dre a world-famous rapper/producer.
While the film was being shot, Dre became inspired to make more music. This inspiration eventually led us to the album we’re reviewing this issue.
Through this album, we’re taken upon a tour of the city of Compton, Calif., and listen to Dr. Dre’s personal history in and outside of the city. To take us upon this tour, Dre brings in a number of special guests, including established names like Kendrick Lamar, Eminem and Snoop Dogg, plus newcomers like King Mez, Anderson Paak and Justus.
Essentially, this album is very cinematic in feel though it’s strongly narrative lyrics, also justifying the album’s subtitle: “A Soundtrack,” by creating a world within the lyrics that is the city of Compton.
Thanks to the cinematic feel, the album is able to simultaneously distances itself from Dre’s previous work, but not completely forget them as he definitely pays tribute to those albums here.
In fact, this album is more comparable to labelmate Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 hit record, “good kid, m.A.A.d city” in that it adopts a more current sound in hip hop as opposed to using Dre’s previously known “g-funk” sound he helped originate.
While this new production is still very good, I found it to be not as original or as fresh as the production Dr. Dre has presented on his first two albums “The Chronic” and “2001.”
As for the rap performances on this record, I found the features on a majority of the record more appealing than Dr. Dre himself. The problem is that nearly all of the standout ones come from the more established names, instead of the newcomers Dre brings on.
The newcomers weren’t bad, I just found that guest artists such as Snoop Dogg set the bar higher on this album, as well as on Dre’s aforementioned records.
This album is good, but not great, which it tries so hard to be. Dr. Dre wants to make a great American rap epic, but in the end comes through with something that would barely get a 60 percent of Rotten Tomatoes if it were a film.
Simply, no matter what Dre put out, he’d never be able to live up to those first two albums, which are undeniable classics that changed and influenced the genre of hip-hop. Dre’s old age and rustiness have taken away the originality he previously had, which is honestly just unfortunate.
Overall, I’d give it a “B-.” I would still recommend this album if you’re a fan of Dre and west coast rap, as it’s still a very good piece of art, but sometimes expectations can reach too high.