A 360 Album Review of ‘Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre’

Jon Constante
Jon is a retired fratstar/aspiring adult. He enjoys cold beers, good company and good music. One day, Jon hopes to start his own record label and break the guinness world record of most mashed potatoes eaten in 30 seconds.

Nearly 16 years have passed since Dr. Dre released his last solo album, but the wait is finally over. A week ago, during his radio show on Beats 1, The hip hop mogul said he wasn’t happy with his highly anticipated album, Detox, which has become more of a myth than an actual forthcoming project.

“I didn’t like it,” Dre confessed. “I don’t think I did a good enough job.”

As any creative would tell you, whenever in a jam, sometimes the best thing to do is to crumple up the piece of paper and start from scratch. A fresh start appears to be just what the doctor ordered as Dre announced a new album entitled, Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre.



Inspired by the forthcoming N.W.A. biopic, Dr. Dre decided the best way to execute his “grand finale” was to go back. In Compton, Dre reminisces about the days he “sold instrumentals off a beeper,” the first time Snoop Dogg introduced him to that “chronic life” and the first night he met Suge Knight. He recalls djing parties that ended with shoot outs, borrowing Eazy E’s car and the harassment he faced from police that ultimately inspired one of the most controversial songs in hip hop history.


A common theme throughout the album is “sacrifice.” Dre frequently laments about his fallout with his former song partner, Eazy E, and the overwhelming pressure he’s faced to release Detox. But the indecisive Dre we saw during the infamous Detox era isn’t the Dre we see in Compton. While he shows the occasional moments of insecurity, there are also moments where the doc appears as confident and as assured as ever. In “Deep Water,” Dre asks, “Would you look over Picasso’s shoulder and tell him about his brush strokes?” The answer would probably be “no,” and Dre shows very little compromise on his own Dora Maar au Chat. Picasso’s famed 1941 depiction of his lover/artistic companion was revered for its lively colors and the complex and detailed patterning of the model’s dress. Dr. Dre applies that same level of attention to detail in Compton. The production is crisp, the instrumentation is vivid and every single feature on this album is designed to help Andre Young paint his masterpiece.

For the die-hard Dr. Dre who would sever their right arm for a new album:

Congratulations, you didn’t have to lose an arm for Dr. Dre’s new album after all! Sixteen years is a long time and the singles leading up to Detox were not looking too promising. While the sentiment behind “I Need A Doctor” featuring Eminem and Skylar Grey was touching, watching Em attempt to “rap Dr. Dre back to life” in the music video was a little on the much side.



“Kush” featuring Snoop Dogg and Akon was actually not that bad. It featured those signature Dr. Dre piano keys, but it still felt compromised — it sounded more like an aging artist attempting to be relevant again than a legendary producer giving us one more classic to marvel at. It’s not difficult to see why Dre decided to scrap Detox in exchange for something more authentic, and that’s exactly what we got on Compton.


Any true hip-hop connoisseur needs only to look at the tracklist to get excited about this album. The project reunites some of the OGs who’ve been with Dre since the beginning – Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, Eminem, Ice Cube, COLD 187um to name a few. But the doc also introduces us to some fresh up and coming talents such as King Mez, Just Us, Candice Pillay, BJ the Chicago Kid, and Anderson .Paak. The album also features Jill Scott, The Game, Kendrick Lamar and – wait for it – DJ PREMIER!

“Animals” is easily one of the biggest highlights on the album. It features a classic boom bap beat courtesy of DJ Premier and some very poignant lyrics by both Anderson .Paak and Dr. Dre. In the song, both artists discuss the discrimination they’ve experienced at the hands of law enforcement and the way blacks are portrayed in the media. The song takes a much less aggressive approach to police brutality than the 1988 N.W.A. anthem “F*ck the Police.” Yet, it’s interesting to note that 27 years later, a song about police injustices is as relevant as ever. Politics aside, the song is a real treat for any hip-hop head and a significant moment in the genre of hip hop. This sort of east coast west coast dream team collaboration is something you would have never thought possible in the 90s.


For people that like Hip Hop and think Dr. Dre is one of the all time greats:

Dr. Dre is known more for his productions than his rapping ability and it is a well-known fact that Dre does indeed use a ghostwriter (insert Meek Mill joke here). While he may not write his own rhymes, the doc is widely credited for redefining west coast hip-hop and molding some of its most legendary artists — and then of course, there’s Eminem. He introduced the G-Funk subgenre to the world with his 1992 debut album The Chronic and delivered another classic with his 1999 sophomore effort 2001. On Compton, Dr. Dre wasted no time blowing away the cobwebs with rattling trap drums and snares. “Talk About It” sounds very modern and was a pleasant surprise to start off the album. It is complete with stadium-ready horns and a soulful chorus. It’s the only beat of its kind in the entire album and probably done so on purpose; Dre wanted to let us know he can outproduce his contemporaries even at their own game by mixing a little bit of the old with the new. Another great example of this methodology is heard on “For the Love of Money” (your boy caught the holy ghost when this sample dropped). Dre revisits the Bone Thugz-N-Harmony classic and gave it a proper facelift. It’s the perfect song for hip hop’s first billionaire to revamp, as the Bone Thugz-N-Harmony version also featured Eazy E.

“Genocide” is another gem on this album. The song sounds a lot like vintage Dre and even breaks off into a doo-wop, scat/beat box session towards the end. It also features Kendrick Lamar, who pretty much killed every single verse he did on this album. Compton is also very theatrical. “Loose Cannons” features a disturbing skit reminiscent to the one heard on Eminem’s “Kim” off his classic Marshall Mathers LP. In “Deep Water,” we hear Anderson .Paak drowning in, you guessed it, deep water. Trumpets play as Anderson pleads for help, screaming “I can’t breathe,” a possible ode to Eric Garner, who was fatally choked by a police officer in Staten Island, New York, last year.

The album incorporates several elements from blues, jazz, soul and even some rock throughout its hour-long run time. Dr. Dre uses an Eazy E vocal sample in “Darkside/Gone” before breaking off into some 2001-esque pianos. Eminem delivers one of the album’s most memorable verses in “Medicine Man.” He reflects on his career and shows little remorse for the people he’s offended along the way. “And whatever consequence come with every verse is worth it so doc turn the beat on for who’s turn it is to get murdered on it,” Eminem exclaims. He then proceeds to rap a very Eminem punchline about rape for good measure because, well, it isn’t a classic Eminem verse unless someone is absolutely devastated by its contents.

For people who have no idea what a Dr Dre is:

Shame on you. But seriously, you don’t have to be a die-hard fan of Dr. Dre or of hip-hop for that matter to enjoy Compton. There’s enough variation in the beats to keep all kinds of music lovers entertained. Also, a fun game to play while listening to the album might be to guess the ghost writer for each Dr. Dre verse – just don’t try to call him out on Twitter about it.

Best song to cruise down the street in your 64 to: For the Love of Money feat. Jill Scott, Jon Connor & Anderson .Paak

Best song to c-walk to in the office: Just Another Day feat. Asia Bryant and The Game

Best song to work out to: Talk About ft. King Mez and Just Us

Most interesting track: One Shot One Kill feat. Snoop Dogg and Jon Connor

Future classic: Genocide feat. Kendrick Lamar, Marsha Ambrosius & Candice Pillay and Animals feat. Anderson .Paak and DJ Premier

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