Dr. Dre – [Album]

Dr. Dre – [Album]

Tuesday, 25 August 2015
ARTIST: Dr. Dre – [Album]
DATE: 08-25-15
REVIEW BY: Bill Adams
ALBUM: Compton
LABEL: Aftermath/Universal Music

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It’s not easy to know how to feel about Compton, Dr. Dre’s first new album since 2001 came out in 1999. On one hand the excitement that even the mention of a new Dre album generates makes it deserving of attention but, now well over a decade since the emcee really did anything important anywhere other than behind the mixing board, it’s hard to not question if the fanfare is false and the excitement is really little more than misplaced hope that there’s anything worthwhile left which might come out of the NWA camp other than merchandise and headphones. Saying it that way might seem cold, but there is no better way to say it; even the muscle in the crew (Ice Cube) was sounding pretty flabby and indulgent on his last album, and the crew’s disciples (Eminem, 50 Cent) have been sounding pretty indulgent lately too. Because of that, it’s hard to imagine what hope “the producer” might have.

With expectations low, those walking into Compton will be pleasantly surprised by the album because, in spite of the number of guests present (the album’s being touted as a compilation, but it is consistent enough to be regarded as an artist release), the focus and workmanship of the album do ring through. For that reason, this album could deservedly be regarded as a Dr. Dre album.

…Yes, Compton should rightly be viewed entry into Dre’s catalogue, but that doesn’t mean is starts strongly. Playing off the hype of the recently-released NWA bio-pic, Straight Outta Compton, Dre cheekily opens with a flourish and intro which may feels like it could have been pulled from the beginning  of the film (comparisons to the beginning of The Full Monte are valid – but without the benefit of being able to see that it’s meant to be ironic) which is just a little too cutesy for any fan who has patiently waited over a decade for new music’s comfort. Luckily, the going gets better as “Talk About It” attempts to establish a bit of flow after that intro and the album begins to build with some beats which could only be called vintage Dre. Heavy and heavily R&B influenced, longtime fans will sigh when they hear that, while not quite the same as it ever was, familiar tones and inflections for Dre’s sound are here, with a bit of fresh and new polish added.

While the album is far from flawless when it’s taken as a whole, there are several sparks of greatness about it. Tracks including “Genocide,” “Loose Cannons,” “Issues,” “Satisfaction” and “Talking To My Diary” all recapture some of the old school style that won Dre his fans, and the emcee/producer manages to update the sound modestly (this is not a complete overhaul, and that fact makes Compton easy to like) with the help of some new production software and ever-so-slight adjustments to style. Here, there are some samples from epic, old productions, the arrangements aren’t busy and set up in counterpoint to quicker and busier work on the mic. What’s going on here sounds familiar, but not “same as it ever was” which is satisfying – Dre really sounds like he’s working here and not just phoning something in to run a contract out.

As positive as the above may sound though, calling an album which some fans have been waiting fifteen years for is a loaded statement. Those hoping for something as good as The Chronic or2001 will be left wanting by Compton; it’s good, but not that good. In fact, the best way to qualify it is to say that Compton is an able release left to make it easier to let Dre retire; it includes the form and style that Dr. Dre had at the top of his game as well as some new ideas included to prove that the emcee isn’t creatively exhausted, but it’s nowhere near as ambitious as The Chronic and 2001were. Compton is just good enough to have fans feeling okay about letting Dr. Dre go; it’s solid and respectable – and bittersweet because the emcee is telling fans that he’s ready to go.





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