Yo, Dre. I got something to say.
No, not that. Well, yeah, that. But also this…
Thank you for N.W.A. and ‘The Chronic’ and Snoop and Eminem and ‘2001’…
…and Xzibit’s ‘Restless’ and 50’s ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin” and, of course, Kendrick Lamar. Thank you for not releasing ‘Detox’, and finally, thank you for releasing ‘Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre.’
Your third album, while not as good as ‘Chronic’ or ‘2001’, is fucking excellent, and a nice closing chapter to your solo trilogy, and coupled with the (excellent!) ‘Straight Outta Compton’ film, a perfect bookend to your legendary career.
Nobody questions your legacy as a producer. If your albums were films, you’d be Scorsese. 70’s Coppola. Tarantino. Nobody does it like you.
When it comes to your raps though, people view you differently because you don’t write them. I’ve come to realize however – via some articles that grant us a peek behind the scenes + a lifetime of listening to you – you’re more than just a rap-puppet with an army of ghostwriters pulling the strings.
The relationship is more symbiotic.
You’ve always been a prism that perfectly channels whoever you’re working with. Taking their energy in. Filtering it to its essence. Spitting it back out as a laser beam. Early N.W.A. had Cube’s furrowed brow and booming anger. ‘The Chronic’ was hotboxed with Snoop’s influence. ‘2001’ flowed like Eminem in his prime. Compton has Kendrick’s Butterfly-pimpin’ stamp all over it. For someone that sprang up so far back in Hip Hop’s past, the fact that you always manage to catch up and then sprint past its present is motherfuckin’ impressive. Especially now, at the age of 50! Old man strength, dawg!
Now, most people trumpeted the arrival of Compton, but there were those that didn’t like it, and further, didn’t get why I liked it. People always come at me when things I love fail…
Colts get eliminated from the playoffs in embarrassing fashion?
“NICE TEAM NUV! SHOULDA CHOSE A DOUCHIER-CHEATING-MORE ‘MERICA TEAM THAT WINS MORE, OR SWITCH TO THE TEAM THAT WON LAST YEAR LIKE A TRUE FAN!!” Okay, ‘Boys/Pats/Hawks dudes. My bad.
Superhero movie sucks?
“FUCK YOU, AND FANTASTIC FOUR, NUV!” I like Superman and Batman and shit. I don’t even really like Fantastic Four that mu… “IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU LIKE!!” Touché.
Rap album is the weak shit?
“YO, SUP WITH YOUR BOY YELAWOLF?! THAT ALBUM IS DUMB-DUMBZZ!!” I don’t know, I’m disappointed too. “AND FUCK EMINEM! HE HASN’T MADE A GOOD ALBUM IN OVER A DECADE!! YOU FUCKING SON OF A BITCH!!” Locked.
Pacino movie is stupid?
“HE ALWAYS SUCKED! ‘GODFATHER’ IS OVERRATED, AND YOU’RE A PIECE OF SHIT! I PREFER DANISH CINEMA, YOU FUCKING PLEB!” Apologies.
…as if I made them and it’s my fault. They also assume I’m just being forgiving of an artist I’ve loved for my whole life, and can’t look at this album with anything less than rose-coloured Locs.
Wrong-o, Dong-os! I am the hardest on things I love. I expect the fucking world from the man that gave us this…
And this, and uh…
‘Straight Outta Compton’. ‘Boyz-N-The-Hood’. ‘8 Ball’. ‘Dopeman’. ‘100 Miles and Runnin’. ‘Real Niggaz Don’t Die’. ‘Always Into Somethin’. ‘Appetite For Destruction’. ‘Natural Born Killaz’. ‘Hello’. ‘The Watcher’. ‘Still D.R.E.’. I’ll stop there. I could go on forever. Point being: that is the biggest shadow a motherfucker could possibly walk with. That’s why we never got ‘Detox’. Because, in your own words Dre, “it wasn’t good. I didn’t like it.” You didn’t want to put out something that’s not great. At this point, putting out nothing would be the safe play. Your place in history is cemented and secure. Putting out something wack though? Cement boots.
In this short-attention span world, you’re only as good as your last project. So, coming into this, my expectations were sky high. And as the Star Wars prequels taught us, that just means it’s a longer way to fall, with more time for the disappointment to snowball into an Indiana Jones-size boulder.
Alright Dre, I’m just gonna tell these motherfuckers what I love about this album. Maybe they’ll hear it with different ears after. Maybe it won’t change a G(D) thang for ’em. Who gives a motherfuck?! They don’t like it, they can pretend your career ended with 2001. If they do, they have one more (one last?) Dr. Dre album in the collection to ride to! Let’s roll out. Compton or bust…
This old newscast about Compton, set to an appropriately cinematic soundscape, perfectly sets the thematic stage for the world we’re about to (re)enter, and lays the groundwork for the cohesive ‘soundtrack’ feel Dre was going for on this album. It’s just an intro, but like in all of perfectionist Dre’s projects, even the little details matter.
Talk About It
I imagine the first track is what immediately colours people’s perceptions of this album for better or worse. It sounds like nothing Dre has done, at least on the surface, and isn’t as immediately riveting as some of his past album-openers. Thoroughly modern, a little bit ‘trappish’, and Dre isn’t even the first voice you hear. (Not that that should be a surprise, Dre’s albums have always been ensembles, rather than solo vehicles). When Dre finally arrives, even his cadence and flow on this track is very much of the now, and doesn’t resemble any of his previous iterations. Peel back the layers though. The sounds of both the rapping and the beat may feel unfamiliar at first listen, but feel how deep and lush and dense the beat is. That’s Dre as fuck! No one assembles so many moving parts in their beats without a hint of clutter. Everything in it’s place, every piece working in concert with the rest. Dre’s beats are Devastator! And as for the raps, I like Dre’s delivery here. Dre has always evolved, vocally. And he always sounds of the moment, yet timeless somehow. Plus, the sentiment of this song is N.W.A. as fuuuuck! First vocal you hear: “I don’t-give-one fuck!” And yo, “still got Eminem cheques I ain’t opened yet!”?! Come on, that’s a COLD line! Anyway, I will admit, while I found things to like in this track, I don’t LOVE it, and it’s probably, relatively, the “weakest” song on the album. My first listen, I was slightly alarmed. I needn’t have been…
YO. FUCKOUTTAHERE!! This fuckin’ beat?! This grimy, grinding, punishing beat?!?! The deadpan delivery on the first segment of the chorus is perfection. I don’t even mind the reggae half. Dre murders his verse, and, in keeping with the title of this track, Kendrick just absolutely HITLERS his. If you didn’t screw your face up and nod your head till you needed a neck brace, well, there’s nothing we can do for you, my son. You’re already a corpse.
It’s All On Me
This track bleeds heart and spills soul, from the beat to the rhymes. Old dog busts out yet another new trick, as Dre’s sing-songy, melodic rhyming is a revelation. His verse hops around through his history, from ‘Fuck Tha Police’, to Snoop and Death Row. Yo, try and not get chills when he spits “and then the night came in, when that n**** Knight came in.” Brrrrrr!
All In A Day’s Work
This song is a perfectly executed exercise in contradictions and contrasts. Somehow laid back and amped up at the same time. I love the back and forth between Dre’s rapping and this kid Anderson.Paak’s singing, sometimes mid-line. Could’ve been chaos, but every interruption fits like it was supposed to. The sudden ebbs and flows in Dre’s delivery are masterful. The way the beat slowly breaks down at the end till there is nothing left but that hi-hat is amazing. At that point it makes the track feel like a movie score, bringing us back around to the fact that this is “A Soundtrack.” Just another day at the office for Doc…
I straight up didn’t like the beginning of this song. I was okay with the dude rapping (King Mez) at first. But then: auto-tune. Fuck off, already! Beat was good. Not crazy, but like, early Em-style. I was ready to chalk this up as the first full-on failure on the album. And then: “No please don’t give me a reason, reason…” And Dre comes in. OH. SHIT. That’s how the fuck you rap! And then: “Word to my n**** Eazy!” Song cuts off. An old Eazy E excerpt!! “Eazy E, CPT, OG from the other side… other side… other side” Drums underneath. Dre saying “Eazy!” echoing in the background. (Holy fuck, I didn’t realize how much I miss Eazy’s voice in hip hop, especially next to other N.W.A. members.) And then perfectly in time to intercept the song from the Eazy interlude and completely switch tracks for the second half: the instruments arrive, and the chick comes in singing “It’s easy to say you’d leave me…” Fuck. That’s a monstrous transition. Wow. And the ‘Gone’ half is classic Dre. Slinky piano keys. Great Dre verse. Insane Kendrick rhyming circles around the world till time reverses and shit. Okay. Scared me for a second Dre, but still no fail. Slow clap.
Yeah!! Xzibit + Dre beats, forever!!!!
Super-mega-bonus: Cold 187UM (from old school gangster rap crew Above The Law, the first crew to collaborate with N.W.A.) is on this!
Rad Dre beat. Best Cube has sounded on a song in years. I guess I coulda just lead with Dre + Cube, and called it a day on this one…
The beat rings and gurgles along and lurches to startling halts, as the MCs combine with just enough vocal effects to make the whole thing disorienting as they ride just underneath it like gangster submarines, (I don’t even know what the fuck a gangster submarine would entail, but now I want one) and break the surface periodically with the desperation of drowning men. This song more than most feels like a movie scene, and not just because of the breakdown into the horns/gasping interlude at the end. Oh, and, Kendrick, kills it (AGAIN), blah blah etc.
One Shot One Kill
My favourite song on the album. The beat instantly makes my skeleton get goosebumps. This is the best Snoop has sounded in, fucking, I don’t know, a decade maybe? More? And this Jon Connor kid absolutely hangs right beside top-form, final level, end boss Snoop, and belongs. If you don’t like this song, you’re a cunt.
Just Another Day
Game: THAT’S HOW YOU SUPPOSED TO RAP!! FROM NOW ON, THAT’S HOW YOU RAP!!!! This right here is the best The Game has ever sounded. EVER. Every rap he’s ever spit before is dust in the whirlwind of this Game. Just vicious. And what a fuckin’ motherfucker of a beat! Those horns are DEVILMAGIC! This might be my second or third favourite track.
For The Love Of Money
The whole album feels like it has Eazy’s ghost hanging over it. Almost literally on ‘Darkside/Gone’. There are numerous mentions and name drops in Dre’s verses throughout. And here, of course, reminding us of one of Eazy’s biggest post-N.W.A. hits alongside his proteges, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. After the intense peaks the album built to over the previous run of songs, this is the perfect spot to gear down to a more chill valley, and catch our breath.
Which is not to say this song is a snoozer. Dre and Jon Connor’s verses are sick, and the beat and chorus have that soulful-but-still-hard-as-cement feel that I get from tracks like Kendrick’s ‘Money Trees’, or Dre’s own ‘Let Me Ride’. I don’t always like singing on rap records, but when I do, it sounds like this.
Dre + Snoop usually = gold, but this one doesn’t quite satisfyyyyy… satisfy-ction? Satisfyc? WHATEVER. FUCK THE PUNS. What I’m trying to say: this is no G Thang. Or Deep Cover. Or Next Episode. Beat is cool, chorus is above-average, raps are mad decent. Still, I expect collaborations between these two to be earth-altering. This is just ‘solid’.
THIS IS THE FIRST PROFESSIONAL COLLABORATION BY DR. DRE AND DJ MOTHERFUCKING PREMIER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In order, from best to worst elements of this song: Dre rides the beat with panache. Em is in full-on Rap God-mode if measuring against your average MC, but only above-average if compared to himself. Anderson.Paak’s not bad here. Not really a fan of the chorus. I like the lyrics, but her delivery just reminds me of one of the generic late-album Em singles, as does the beat. This track is neither the cause, nor the cure. Almost-yay!
Talking To My Diary
If this is the last song on the last album Dr. Dre ever puts out, he penned a hell of a finale. The main character in our movie is at the end of the line with his life flashing before his eyes, in the form of another super-personal verse. It reminds me a little of the also excellent My 1st Song (from what should’ve been Jay Z’s last album, ‘The Black Album’). A look back to move forward, before riding off into the sunset as the beat rides on and rides out for the remainder of the song. Those cinematic horns that weave in and out of this album popping back up to not only tie everything together, but remind me of the score that plays through Cube’s movie ‘Boyz-N-The-Hood’. This album encompasses not only the entirety of his career, but manages to touch on every corner of both his legacy, and N.W.A.’s. And this song is a perfect microcosm of the whole album.
Fitting that the man that came to us Straight Outta Compton had to go back home before he called it a wrap. End credits. Fade to black.
In conclusion: DAAAAMMMN, THAT SHIT WAS DOPE!!