By MELANIE J. SIMS
Dr. Dre’s new album Compton doesn’t just unfold, it charges forward — a barreling mass of relentless beats and lyrical strong-arming that amounts to much more than anyone could have expected from a hip-hop legend whose last solo album hit shelves in 1999.
He might be millions of dollars richer and several decades removed from the life that inspired the upcoming N.W.A. biopic, Straight Outta Compton, but Dre has not lost his edge, nor has he lost his touch.
“Murder this, murder listen, hit a suburban whippin’,” Dre spits on Genocide. “Tinted windows, (gun sound) right at your wifey, and I bet you miss her.”
The man can still rap. Fellow veterans Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg deliver perhaps their hardest verses in recent memory on Issues and One Shot, One Kill, respectively. But Dre’s outstanding production — with help from Dem Jointz, DJ Dahi, Focus and more — is what makes Compton enthralling. Verses from Kendrick Lamar and newcomer King Mez also shake things up.
“Once upon a time, I shot a (person) on accident. I tried to kill him but I guess I needed more practicing. That’s when I realized banging wasn’t for everybody,” Lamar rhymes on Deep Water, which begins with the gut-wrenching sounds of a man splashing, and gasping for air.
Loose Cannons is sonically bananas, with its shifting sound beds, which transition seamlessly between rolling drums, heavy metal-inspired strings and more, while Xzibit, Cold 187um and Sly Pyper take turns on vocals. The song concludes with a chilling skit that ends with a woman being shot then buried.
Perhaps the album’s most shocking line comes by way of Eminem on the otherwise clever Medicine Man. In a rapid fire verse about dismissing consequences and murdering rappers on every Dre-provided beat, Em spouts off about raping b-words who enjoy it — a poor way, perhaps, of describing how even his critics and competition relish his bars.
Anger is ever-present on Compton, but there’s reflection, too. Animals, which counts DJ Premier among its producers, captures that emotion and puts things into perspective. “Still tryna figure out, why the (expletive) I’m full of rage,” Dre raps, later adding, “Just a young black man from Compton wondering who could save us.”
It is a question that needed answering at the start of Dre’s career, and it is a question that could use an answer now.