For me, the question isn’t whether the new Dr Dre record is good – but how good is it? I don’t think I will be able to answer that for months, maybe years to come. At a guess, Compton will probably rank just a whisker behind The Chronic and 2001 – two albums I absolutely revere.
To even have feelings like this about a rap album produced by a 50 year old is remarkable – and that is why I believe Compton will prove to be a seminal album for hip-hop. To date, rap has ruthlessly disregarded music from legendary elder artist. Unlike other genres, like pop or rock, if you are over 40, you might as well hang it up – hip-hop will forget you. It is starting to happen to giants such as Eminem and Jay-Z.
But something is different with Compton. This record does not offend the rest of Dre’s legendary catalogue – it stands tall beside them.
Compton is just as immaculately produced as Chronic 2001 and, to my mind, as political as The Chronic. I can’t stress the latter point enough – I have read reviews and criticisms which have tried to claim that Dr Dre’s music is apolitical. The Chronic has tracks such as ‘The day the Niggaz took over‘ and ‘Lil ghetto boy‘ – songs that don’t shy away from talking about the black experience in violent and graphic detail. I think people disregard Dre’s political contributions because they are devoid of hope or any answers – they just reflect the brutal reality. Compton is covered with politics, how could it not be? From the intro, to references of what life is like for blacks in various cities in America and the incredible overtly political song, Animals – this is a black album that reflects the times we are living in.
But fuck all the politics, is the music good?Is it typical Dre? Firstly, yes, I think the music is great throughout the album. The highlights are Talk about it, Genocide, Deep Water, For the love of Money and Animals – these are the songs which will be fighting it out with other classic material on Dr Dre compilations in future, but these songs are not typical Dre.
If you want the weed smoking, BBQ, cruising all day in your Impala (Corsa), party all day Dre – that lad is not here. Compton is not a party album, it is an ‘I’m a billionaire’ album. I think long time fans might bulk at this, but I for one welcome it. I wanted to hear Dre talk about smoking weed, fucking bitches and not loving hoes – but I understand why he doesn’t. Dr Dre is 50 years old, he is nearly a billionaire and he works for one of the biggest companies in the world. Things have changed for this gangster.
Amazingly, Compton is a much more cohesive album than 2001 and that is incredible considering that the latter album was produced entirely by 2 people while Compton has an host of contributors. I think this speaks to what I have been saying for years about Dr Dre – he is one of the few real producers left in hip-hop. As a culture, hip-hop is obsessed with ‘producers’ – and what they mean by that is the beat-maker.
Dre is a producer in the same lane as Quincy Jones – they are band-leaders. It doesn’t matter that Michael Jackson came up with the melody to Don’t stop till you get enough or Billy Jean, it was Quincy that put it together. The same theory applies to Dre, it doesn’t matter who made the beat on each track – you can hear Dre’s input and direction throughout this whole album and that is a tremendous thing in today’s hip-hop.