Dr. Dre revives hip-hop with Compton, confirming innovator status

In Arts & Entertainment, Music, Reviews
Dr. Dre’s new album, Compton, is the producer’s third and final studio album. It’s been 16 years since he last released music and 13 years since Detox was promised, prompting hip-hop’s very own urban legend.
(Courtesy of Aftermath/Interscope)

The last studio album released by West Coast legend Dr. Dre was 2001 in 1999. Now, more than a decade later, Dr. Dre has graced fans with his third, and what he says is his final, album, Compton.

Compton is what fans have essentially been waiting 13 years for. It’s important to note that it’s not the infamous Detox, but a state-of-the-art rap album by one of the most prominent producers in the industry and the nexus of hip-hop and technology.

For over 30 years, Dr. Dre has created some of the best hip-hop tracks with almost every prominent rapper. Earlier this month, Dr. Dre finally addressed the existence of the mythical Detox album on The Pharmacy, a Beats 1 Radio show, officially announcing his decision to scrap the project because he “didn’t like it.” Dr. Dre didn’t want to deliver an album that wasn’t good enough for his fans—fair enough coming from a perfectionist.    

The longest awaited album in hip-hop history, Detox is considered a hip-hop urban legend with a 13-year history of release-dates pushed back, rumors, leaked songs and conspiracies under its belt. Detox has a long and complicated history that began in 2002 when Dre first went on the record about Detox, telling MTV he wanted to create a concept album, a hip-hop musical with different characters featured on the album.

Dr. Dre set several release dates that never saw the light of day. Dre’s most frequent reason for the delay was his focus on projects with other artists. Dr. Dre worked with rapper 50 Cent on his debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, which was later turned into a movie, Eminem’s Encore, and The Game’s Documentary.

Fans had not yet seen any sign of Detox, although artists’ claims of its existence helped keep the hype alive. Both Eminem and The Game reference Detox’s anticipated release on their albums. Hit producer Scott Storch called it “the most advanced rap album ever,” and in 2008 Snoop Dogg went on record saying Detox was real and “on and poppin’,” in an interview with Rolling Stone.

Once tracks began to leak on the internet, Dr. Dre and his camp decided to launch a multi-million dollar marketing campaign in 2010, where he was featured on a Dr. Pepper commercial, had Detox billboards all over LA and released singles along with music videos. This was the most hope fans had received that Detox might actually drop. Despite Dre’s efforts, a slew of other songs were leaked the following year featuring hip-hop heavyweights Jay-Z, Eminem and Ludacris. Soon after, while working on Kendrick Lamar’s Good kid, m.A.A.d city, Dre announced he was taking a break from music to enjoy time with family.

In 2014, Marsha Ambrosius, an English R&B singer, spoke with RapUpTv about working in the studio with Dre on an album that was no longer titled Detox. Later, Aftermath producer Dawaun Parker stated Dr. Dre left Detox behind and was working on a new project.

It wasn’t until March that Dre went on LA’s 92.3 and told radio DJ Big Boy he was working on a new album inspired by a biopic on rap super group N.W.A. Dre then went on his Beats 1 radio show, The Pharmacy where he laid to rest any hope for a Detox release—hip-hop fans could finally move forward.

Luckily for hip-hop, on Aug. 7th that meant moving forward into a new album, Compton, the soundtrack for the biopic Straight Outta Compton. The film and soundtrack touch on similar themes, opening with a television broadcast anchor reporting on the statistics of the dominant African-American community of Compton and the conditions of drug abuse, violence and rising crime.

The movie, directed by F. Gary Gray, takes place in late 1980s Compton, California where N.W.A. members Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, MC Ren and DJ Yella grew up surrounded by gangbangers, drug activity, violence and police brutality. On their journey, they became “the most dangerous rap group” introducing the masses to the harsh reality of a young, black male living on the streets of Compton.

Dr. Dre’s Compton acts as a narrative of his journey and contribution to hip-hop from his rough beginnings with N.W.A to his current mogul status. He sheds light on the importance of authenticity, police-community interaction, the streets of Compton and N.W.A’s legacy.

This third studio album is by far the most experimental piece by Dre. He collaborates with an array of West Coast legends such as Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Kendrick Lamar, Anderson Paak and King Mez, all of them adding to an already innovative record. Dre has always been known for his versatility and for never compromising on his art. The heavy chords on club song, Talk About It, sets the tone with a uncontrollable energy that flows once the bass hits.

Dre switches it up with soulful, smooth R&B tracks such as It’s All on Me, where Dre addresses the pressure he’s under and reminisces on his early years DJing at neighborhood parties in Compton and studio sessions with N.W.A. Dre raps, “When they run up your school bus with a two tucked, you might learn something,” an incident that’s included in a scene of the film.

Animal is a laid back West Coast track, but probably one of the most important tracks, touching on social issues concerning police brutality, misconceptions that lead to unfair treatment and systemic problems.

In Straight Outta Compton, fans not only see officers abuse their authority, but also the victimization of Rodney King, who was severely beaten on camera by LAPD in 1991 leading to riots in South Central LA after a court hearing ruled the police officer innocent. The film and soundtrack attempt to advocate social change and an end to racial discrimination, focusing on the relevance of these topics in relation to today’s social issues.

Dre also pays tribute to the late Eazy-E by sampling his voice on the record Darkside and having flashbacks on Talking to My Diary about N.W.A.’s early years in the studio as starving artists, reminiscing on the legacy of the group that so heavily impacted American music culture.

“Our art is the reflection of our reality,” says Ice Cube’s character in the film, and with this soundtrack, Dre reminds fans that hip-hop is supposed to be nothing less than authentic. That’s what N.W.A. was about; telling stories of what they saw on the gang-related surroundings of Compton.   

Dr. Dre’s complex synthesized chords, trumpet outros, flawless rap flow and pinnacle production gives this album an innovative sound that hints at Dr. Dre’s early sound of G-Funk and irresistible head bobbing beats and rhymes. Detox or Compton, in the end it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that hip-hop’s Dr. Dre delivered what can arguably be considered another bonafide classic.

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