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REVIEW: COMPTON,
THE AFTERMATH

The album opens with horns soaring in a crescendo, like the beginning of a Paramount or Universal picture when their logos hit the screen. It’s Dre’s world—you are entering a multidimensional mind melt, not merely another album. 

Compton, a16-track Instant Classic from Dr. Dre, has been delivered during a year that’s already been a critical and commercial MIC DROP for hip-hop, as Drake, Kendrick and J. Cole break streaming, sales, and social records with each release. It’s a powerful endorsement from an entire generation of people amid a dark parallel reality of police brutality, corruption and malevolence that has repeatedly dominated the headlines. 

Dre has historically functioned with the most clarity through a muse, whether that was Ice Cube and Eazy E, Snoop Dogg or Eminem—all of whom appear on this record—but in this case the muse is his beloved city of Compton and his complicated relationship with it from the very beginning to his recent induction into the Billionaire Boys Club. This album unfolds like the pages of a diary, a tale of two cities—one of inspiration, the other of doom. On opening track “Talk about It,” featuring young Dre protégés King Mez and Justus, the chorus lays it all out: “I don't know everything, but one thing I do know, is one day I’ma have everything.” 

Dre’s opening line on this album should be a fucking T-shirt: “I just bought California.” 

The songs aren’t just supremely musical, they are absolutely cinematic, with unconventional song structures in a surround-sound brew of brilliantly interwoven voices, chants, screams, horn parts—even a speech from his business partner Jimmy Iovine on one interlude— the mixing and mastering is Picasso-level genius. And Dre is pointedly aware of this. On “Deep Water,” he raps, “Would you look over Picasso’s shoulder and tell him about his brush strokes?” 

On Zane Lowe’s post-preview show last night on Beats 1, Dre explained his philosophy, noting, “I wanted to make this album musical so I got in touch with the best musicians… The hardest thing about hip-hop is to make it melodic and keep that grit.” 

The standout MC is unsurprisingly, Kendrick, who murders every beat he’s on. “It’s a really strange thing watching Kendrick work,” Dre told Lowe, “I’m watching him waiting to see him pick up a pen and pad, and he doesn’t do that. He paces around and then gets on mic, and that’s what you hear. Kendrick Lamar is the real deal. He’s seriously talented.”

Dr. Dre honored Eazy E throughout, inserting a cameo from his late homie like a ghost visiting on the song “Darkside/Gone” and the track “For the Love of Money,” which lifts its hook from a classic Bone Thugs N Harmony song, was a cool tribute since breaking that group was Eazy’s #1 mission in life before he suddenly passed away. 

“I tried to take myself back to moments working on this record, just to find inspiration.

One of the moments was working in the studio with E and some of the ways we used to record and the arguments we used to have,” Dre said. 

It’s tough to pick a standout track here, the album is that good. But special moments include “It’s All on Me” with a giant hook sung by BJ the Chicago Kid that will surely be on the radio within minutes; “Deep Water” with Kendrick, who takes a hell of a shot at Drake rapping, “Motherfucker know I started from the bottom/They liable to bury him, they nominated six to carry him/They worrying him to death, but he's no vegetarian/ The beef is on his breath, inheriting the drama better than/ A great white, nigga, this is life in my aquarium”; and of course the song “Medicine Man,” with that absolutely unhinged verse from Eminem. 

“The most difficult part was what was I gonna talk about?” the good doctor acknowledged. “I’ve been gone 16 years, what can I say? Some of the harder things to talk about, I can do that through the younger artists. But I want this album to be inspiring, motivational. That was the foundation for the entire record.” 

He’s already a legend and a billionaire, but with Compton, Dr. Dre has written a prescription for an enduring legacy to be the Greatest of All Time.

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