The arrival of Compton landed with a bang, out of nowhere almost. And when Dre’s opening line is a statement like “I just bought California!” it becomes instantly apparent that this album is going to do the same thing…. BANG!.
Relative newcomers King Mez and Justus are the first two voices herd on the record on opening track ‘Talk About It’ as they throw down verses over what is essentially a trap beat. It lays down an early marker that the good doctor has no interest in revisiting 90s West Coast Hip-Hop for the sake of nostalgia.
There are few straight up rap verses and one take 16s, nearly every guest spot is put through multiple layers of itself that give it a machine-like precision sound that can be frequently heard throughout the work of the genre’s forward thinkers like Travis $cott. Xzibit guests on ‘Loose Cannons’ but it may take repeated listens before you notice his presence as his words are frequently broken up with distorted screams and sharp echoes. It’s the small niche touches like this that highlight that even at the age of 50, with three decades in the business Dre has never slept on what’s happening around him.
As for every other guest that makes an appearance, unsurprisingly they’re nearly all faultless. When the doctor comes knocking you’re not going to par him off on some shit that’s been sitting on the shelf unused for the past year. This is the man’s first album in one and a half decades no one wants to be remembered as the guy that had the shittest verse on Compton. Sadly though, that title must go to someone, and it’s Shady. As he raps like an overly competitive school kid desperately trying to stay ahead of the beat and frankly it’s just irritating. He’s also responsible for the one vulgar moment that features in the 16 tracks. “I even make the bitches I rape c*m”- it’s as bad as it sounds and it’s a genuine shame that the most exciting talent Dre ever discovered almost knocks the whole album down a notch.
During the one hour run-time, Compton rarely visits the West Coast golden age sound bank. There isn’t a wealth of bouncy piano melodies, it hits harder than that. It frequently skirts along every element of modern Hip-Hop from the distinctive drum claps that Hudson Mohawke is synonymous for to the disjointed future jazz that filled most of Kendrick’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’. Speaking of K-Dot, it’s no surprise he is given three tunes to tear apart and the outstanding moment of the record comes on Deep Water, which has a beat that almost knocks as hard as M.A.A.D City (the stand out track from Lamar’s debut). “Motherf*cka know I started from the bottom” Kendrick sharply delivers, an unmistakable shot at Drake. A recurring theme on the record as on Darkside/Gone he has another go at the Canadian- “But still I got enemies giving me energy, I don’t wanna fight now.”
Compton might be shipped as a soundtrack to N.W.A biopic ‘Straight Outta Compton’ but there are very few ’90s elements holding the record down, and that’s only a good thing. If you want nostalgia, you can still find that on The Chronic or 2001, Compton is a timely remember that Dre still does it better than nearly everyone out there.
Compton is out now on Aftermath/Interscope