After almost two decades, Dr. Dre unleashes an album that justifies the epic hiatus

Mike Pizzo

Four and a half stars

Dr. Dre Compton

Piggybacking on the release of N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, high-ranking Apple employee Dr. Dre finally dropped a new album after a 16-year hiatus. Scrapping his long-planned on-again/off-again Detox, Dre instead gives us Compton, a project inspired by his early career and upbringing in the city of “the Black American dream.” This hour-long, cinematic magnum opus covers a lot of ground, with strategically placed guest appearances from all of your favorite N.W.A. byproducts (Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, The Game) as well as new talents boldly making their first major appearances here.

It plays almost like an all-star concert with special guests emerging from backstage every five to 10 minutes. You expect all of the greats to be present, yet when they materialize it’s still met with shock and thunderous applause. The lyrical standout of the new bunch is Flint, Michigan’s Jon Connor, who blazes up both “For The Love of Money,” and “One Shot One Kill,” holding his own next to Snoop Dogg on the latter. Debuting vocalist Anderson .Paak also breaks through, crooning soulfully on “Deep Water” and on the DJ Premier co-produced “Animals,” a pair of tracks embedded with a socially conscious yet middle-finger-waving message.

Dre’s own narrative is that of someone who has seen it all, experiencing the best and worst living conditions imaginable. Much time is spent reminiscing about the glory days of N.W.A. and Death Row, (“It’s All on Me,” “All in a Day’s Work”), pulling the curtain back on Dre’s rich history. It might seem like his best days are behind him, but his perspective is intriguing as he still maintains a fair amount of mystique.

This is punctuated by the incredible production of Dre and his team, who defy the standard 16-bar-and-hook formula that most rap songs follow. Strange interludes and off-kilter sprinkles of experimentation make the record completely unpredictable, keeping the listener’s interest throughout. Dre’s mixing ability really shines, as he creates a noisy, almost Bomb Squad-esque collage of sounds, while crisply layering multiple instruments and toying with the artists’ vocals. It’s that production that really sets this apart from anything else in the rap world, and his sound has come very far in the last decade-and-a-half. Welcome back, old friend.

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