16 years we’ve waited and all the blogs and publications are asking: “Was it worth it?”
The Chronic changed my music-life, as it changed many other lives. When N.W.A. first came out, it was still a little out of my range; I was still hanging out with MC Hammer and about to devote a couple years to Bell Biv Devoe and the post-New Edition crew. Public Enemy were the most extreme I got, but they weren’t as crass, dangerous or debaucherous as N.W.A. What does an 8-year old half-white kid know about fucking the police? It wasn’t until Dre released The Chronic — and then Snoop’s Doggystyle — that the combination of pre-pubescence and the need for danger really collided. Unwittingly, it also served as the bridge between my hitherto love of hip-hop and the impending conversion to alternative rock and industrial metal.
Compton is not The Chronic. It’s not even 2001. There are glimpses of each predecessor, but don’t expect Compton to be The Chronic 3/III/2015 of your dreams. The Chronic was damn-near perfect. The singles alone warrant classic status. Deeper cuts like “The Day The Niggaz Took Over” and “Rat-tat-tat-tat” cement that designation. 2001 gave us a couple more classic singles, but was not as funky, visceral or exhilarating as Dre’s debut. Almost a decade had passed, Dre was loaded, Snoop was R&B, and Eminem was in his prime. There was no need to change the game.
Jump forward almost two decades (!!!): Snoop is Bob Marley, Eminem is super into running, and Dre is even richer. Compton serves primarily as a vehicle for two things: promoting the upcoming N.W.A. biopic and “debuting” a new batch of proteges. Dre doesn’t even sound like Dre anymore. I’m listening to The Chronic right now and his voice is so deep, so commanding. Now I’ve switched over to Compton and his flow is off, his voice sounds a wee bit higher. I can’t complain, but it honestly took me a few double-takes to realize that it was Dre on the track and not one of the 3-4 other “guests.”
One thing that remains — thank God — is Dre’s masterful production. The soundscapes and atmosphere remind me of Dre’s one-time collaborator and my all-time favorite: Trent Reznor. Like Trent, Dre can craft an amazing beat, weave a lusciously flowing earworm, and connect tracks in a way that remind older folks like me the value of a cohesive album, even if their current lyrical output is pretty laughable and they are happy/rich shadows of their former selves… Compton is a press-play, sit-back, listen-through experience. The guests pop in and out, the melodies shine through moments of grit and ugliness, and Dre remains the mad puppeteer. I need way more listens to fully appreciate this, but at the moment, I’m convinced it’ll only truly unfold after repeat (all-the-way-through) listens. The latter half of the album is stacked. This is not a perfect singles collection like The Chronic. It’s a journey, a soundtrack not only for a *hopefully* glorious movie, but for an experience with a scarily-talented crew and its masterful doctor. For that, I think this trip is totally worth it.
Rating: 4/5 marijuana leaves
- Hearing Ice Cube rap “it was a good day.”
- Having Xzibit, Snoop and Eminem on the same album… is it 2000 again?!
- Anderson .Paak, half-Korean blasian, repping on 6 of 16 tracks on Compton. TIYL: Frank Ocean.
- Jon Connor: next big thing.
- That questionable skit at the end of “Loose Cannons” where they inexplicably kill a woman… No thanks!
- Eminem’s soon-to-be infamous line about rape on “Medicine Man”… Necessary at this point in your career, Em?