This ‘Dr. Dre’ article was written by Lucas Jones, a GIGsoup contributor
Dr. Dre’s influence on hip-hop can never be understated. Helping pioneer what would eventually become West Coast rap and shape hip-hop into what it has become today. Dre has gone from strength to strength; from one-fifth of the collective NWA, to celebrated solo artist, to production powerhouse responsible for launching the careers of Snoop Dogg and Eminem, before becoming hip-hop’s first billionaire.
Sixteen years have passed since the release of his last album 2001; in those years Dr. Dre has become somewhat of a musical enigma, instead focusing on production and business ventures. Many assumed the notorious perfectionist Dr. Dre was still working on the now-defunct Detox project, which developed into somewhat of a running joke in hip-hop circles. Instead, seemingly out of nowhere on his radio show, Dr. Dre announced a brand new project galvanised by trips he took to the set of the upcoming NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton.
Compton is a concept album more so than The Chronic and 2001 ever were, it is a journey tinged with nostalgic beats and stories bringing together a cast of friends and collaborators of yesteryear with new protégés, all inspired by the man himself.
The album kicks off with the cinematic ‘Talk About It’ retelling Dr. Dre’s story, placing the city of Compton firmly in the spotlight detailing a city still haunted by its past of gangs, violence and drugs, often relying on graphic imagery to tell its story. Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg deliver their finest verses in years on ‘Issues’ and ‘One Shot One Kill’. Kendrick Lamar, who some consider to be the true heir to Dr. Dre’s West Coast rap throne appears on three tracks, stealing the show in the process. ‘Darkside/Gone’ is the highlight of the Kendrick collaborations; a mixture of beats and flows complete with a cameo appearance from Dre’s late NWA bandmate Eazy E.
When he raps and takes the reins back from his protégés and friends, Dre brings a gravitas, adding an emotional layer that lacks with the guest verses, portraying a man that despite all the riches in the world struggles to forget his roots. ‘Animals’ is as much moving, as it is reflective, a song elevated by the contribution of Anderson .Paak, who will undoubtedly become a future star.
Compton is ultimately a legacy piece, it provides a platform for future talent, whilst also showcasing Dre’s illustrious career. The album is a brilliantly constructed masterpiece that will undoubtedly join the upper echelons of great hip-hop albums. The question is, after this swansong, will West Coast hip-hop survive without Dr. Dre? It’s too early to tell. One thing is for sure, the good doctor knows how to leave in style.
‘Compton’ is out now on Aftermath/Interscope Records