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Posted on August 8th, 2015 (10:00 am) by Lucy Xiong

Compton is an impressive cinematic soundtrack. Complete with grandiose sonic strokes that successfully traverse an emotionally complex and dynamic story, Dr. Dre delivers a vividly moving score that leaves me conflicted. Dr. Dre is hip-hop royalty — his influence and eminence are undeniable. Which makes it so hard to say what I’m about to say — this is a phenomenal movie soundtrack but...an underwhelming hip-hop album. This album was inspired by and accompanies the upcoming film "Straight Outta Compton" and is very much a reflective piece. So in that sense it’s fitting. However, it is a brilliant collaborative piece of elevated revisitation rather than a great hip-hop album that makes waves in the genre.

It would be so easy to just blindly love this album because of how anticipated it is but the reality is that it depends heavily on features, recycles elements that have been consistently successful, and relies on the tired subjects of violence towards women and the glorification of violence. There has got to be more hip-hop has to discuss than those topics — especially since Dr. Dre has been making music about those subjects for thirty years. The ending of “Loose Cannons” is really upsetting and seems pretty unnecessary. In fact, it cheapens and problematizes the album. I want to especially stress how this issue should not, in any way, be skirted over in the interest of commending this album.

With that said, Dr. Dre is an incredible producer who is able to simultaneously identify and emphasize the strengths of the artists he works with. His production is confident on this album, seamlessly sampling from a breadth of sources, incorporating grand gestures that evoke a potent nostalgia. Compton provides a rich history and definitely remains true to the legacy of West Coast hip-hop. I just wish Dr. Dre used this moment to remember its legacy in a way that paves a more positive future instead of highlighting motifs of hip-hop exploited for entertainment purposes that contribute to detrimental paradigms. In addition, there is an artificiality to the prolific use of the conventional imagery of West Coast hip-hop in this album that makes it forgettable. It’s almost as though with every track Dr. Dre is tersely nodding to various successful elements of hip-hop, which is impressive on the arrangement level and makes sense in the context of the film, but feels unoriginal.

There are a number of impactful verses on this album carried by heavyweight emcees like Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, and Ice Cube. While Dr. Dre’s verses are well-written and his flow has clearly successfully taken cues from his frequent collaborators Kendrick and Eminem, he definitely masks the weaknesses of his rap-ability with features and elaborate instrumentals. This is not to say that these songs don’t have substantial lyrical content — in many ways the lyrical content of this album is a refreshing reprisal of the spirit of storytelling that is scarce in hip-hop today. Like on The Chronic, Snoop Dogg shines on this album, showcasing the god-like versatility of his flow every time — especially on “Satisfiction.” However, the star of this album is most definitely and appropriately Kendrick Lamar who kills it with every verse. We will be dissecting his words for a while.

Another great move on this album was the incorporation of Baltimore jazz musician, Dontae Winslow, who provides a wealth of striking trumpet solos and the orchestral compositions. In addition, Dr. Dre’s blending of OG artists like The Game, Snoop, Cube, Cold 187um, Jill Scott with up-and-coming artists like Asia Bryant, Jon Connor, Justus, King Mez and Anderson Paak, achieves a nice balance between past and present. This does raise the question of whether this is a genuinely great album or a successful blending of musical elements that are already independently successful.

The conclusion of this album might be that Dr. Dre has found his true musical calling with this swan song in soundtrack production. This album is no Chronic but it is a laudable expansion of Dr. Dre’s producer cred into the realm of major motion pictures. I will admit I am a bit disappointed, though; after sixteen years, I was hoping for something more totalizing. This album treads the familiar paths for Dre — instrumentals that are more or less different (skillful) ornamentations on the same bases as his previous work, hypermasculine storylines, reliance on other artists, and theatrical themes. Of course, this is by no means a bad album— it’s just not as transformative as Dr. Dre’s previous albums while employing many of the same elements.

Track List:

  1. Intro (Compton)
  2. Talk About It (ft. King Mez & Justus)
  3. Genocide (ft. Kendrick Lamar, Marsha Ambrosius & Candice Pillay)
  4. It's All On Me (ft. Justus & BJ The Chicago Kid)
  5. All In A Day's Work (ft. Anderson Paak)
  6. Darkside/Gone (ft. King Mez, Marsha Ambrosius & Kendrick Lamar)
  7. Loose Cannons (ft. Xzibit & COLD 187um)
  8. Issues (ft. Ice Cube & Anderson Paak)
  9. Deep Water (ft. Kendrick Lamar & Justus)
  10. One Shot One Kill (Jon Connor ft. Snoop Dogg)
  11. Just Another Day (The Game ft. Asia Bryant)
  12. For The Love Of Money (ft. Jill Scott & Jon Connor)
  13. Satisfaction (ft. Snoop Dogg, Marsha Ambrosius & King Mez)
  14. Animals (ft. Anderson Paak)
  15. Medicine Man (ft. Eminem, Candice Pillay & Anderson Paak)
  16. Talking to My Diary
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

75 / 100
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