Album Review Compton: A Soundtrack

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Gangsta-rap icon turned headphone and tech tycoon Dr. Dre has teased fans with news of a pending third album called Detox for the past 14 years, playing with their emotions by releasing a track here and a new model of Beats headphones there. Although tracks from Detox were leaked, the project was continually delayed and the album never came to fruition. In August 2015, the doctor finally took care of his patients – and of business – and announced the release of his long-awaited third album Compton: A Soundtrack, on iTunes and Apple Music, alongside the premiere of Straight Outta Compton, a biopic about the rise of N.W.A, which inspired him to create it.

After working on music in private for years in order to perfect his long awaited comeback (after his second album 2001 sold millions of copies in 1999), it seems as though Compton ended up being a bit of a rush job. And yet, that speediness helps the album sound more timely and free flowing. For the first time in more than ten years, Dre’s inspiration met up with a corporate deadline, and you can see the appeal for him: a chance to tie up his final record with a blockbuster film about his career’s origins. In that way, he’s refining the story of his come-up while coming to terms with how to step away from music for good.

Compton begins with a narration from an old TV documentary that describes how Dre’s California hometown went from being a black-middle-class town to a crime-ravaged “extension of the inner city.”

Moreover, Compton contains some of Dre’s most ambitious and original ideas ever, and can thus be thought of as Dre’s most explicitly political album. He features lines aided by Eminem and Kendrick Lamar that call attention to police violence, specifically the killings of Michael Brown (“Blood on the cement,/black folks grieving”) and Eric Garner (“I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe”).

Throughout, Dre’s rhyming and rapping is impressive. On standouts like "Talk About It" and "Genocide," Dre and his co-producers manage to include funky bass sounds, jazz trumpet, acoustic guitars, and drums.

Overall, his album is extremely thought provoking and enthralling—and should be regarded as more than “a soundtrack.” Compton is no Detox; it’s something realer, fresher, and better.