£21.99 – x 2 LP
Dr. Dre has been holed away for a worrying amount of time. A few years ago, he released a pair of singles ostensibly linked to his since-abandoned third album, Detox, and they were dire. “I Need a Doctor”, in particular, was awkward and clunky, and it seemed as though Dre was straining too hard to perfect his comeback. He only re-emerged from the shadows in the name of Aftermath’s latter-day luminary, Kendrick Lamar, who appeared to be energizing the elder statesman. But even Dre’s surprise appearance on Lamar’s major label debut good kid, m.A.A.d city in 2012 felt disjointed, providing more reason to fret over the producer’s impending solo return.
News that Dre had scrapped Detox entirely was confirmed alongside the announcement of this new album. Years of build-up washed away in the cancellation. It must have been a unique catharsis, purging an undeliverable hype with something tangible finally in hand. Compton isn’t a bait-and-switch. If anything, the album is undersold by its billing as a soundtrack, a tag that misleads how well it stands on its own originality. Dre claims the recording was inspired by the set of Straight Outta Compton, the just-released biopic about N.W.A., and for a guy who’s been helplessly coddling music in private for years, Compton ended up being a bit of a rush job. And yet, that haste helps the album sound more of-the-moment and free-flowing. For the first time in more than a decade, Dre’s inspiration met up with a corporate deadline, and you can see the appeal for him: an opportunity to bundle his final record with a blockbuster movie about his career’s origins. In that way, he’s toying with the bookends of his career, polishing the story of his come-up while coming to terms with how to step away for good.
Dre has been here before, of course, years removed from a game-changer with an entire industry’s eyes trained on him, wondering, “How might he do it again?” But he’s less invested in building a comeback narrative on Compton than he was on 2001. Instead, the album finds Dre coming to terms with his career for himself, not others.