The last time Dr. Dre dropped an album, we were all huddled in a bunker, surrounded by bottled water and canned tuna, fearing the wrath of Y2K. (Or was that just me?) But now a new brighter era is finally upon us as the good doctor has finally unveiled Compton, his new definitely-not-Detox album via an iTunes stream, a technology that literally didn’t exist during the last episode of Dre’s career.
A lot has changed.
A lot is going to change.
Right now, it feels like we’re at a crossroads, about to fully enter the era of the stream, with a new crop of emcees taking hip-hop’s helm, and it’s both fitting and odd that it’s Dr. Dre who is currently standing at the nexus of hip-hop and technology; the same man who hasn’t released an album in over a decade is also living at the cutting edge.
But while the way we hear music is changing, the core of music itself, the feelings we get from it, hasn’t changed at all. You can’t monetize, subscribe or stream the chill you get when a great beat kicks in or when that line hits you. It’s in that spirit that I embark about the 1-Listen review for Dr. Dre’s much anticipated third solo effort, Compton.
If you don't know about our 1-Listen reviews, you can get up on game here, but simply put, I’m about to press play and give you my gut reactions in real time; no stopping, no pausing, no reflecting, just the pure truth of how the album hits me on my first listen. And then in a few months we’ll go back and review it again with some distance and perspective.
I don’t know what to expect from this album, and listening to it as a iTunes radio stream will undoubtedly affect the experience, but my hopes are guardedly high. Regardless, at some point you just have to press play and go, this is that point. After sixteen years of waiting, let’s get into Compton.
I’m hearing a bunch of horns, it sounds like the start of a movie. Dre’s talked about how he wants his music to sound cinematic for years. Sounds like the beginning of a news report. And now it is a news report, welcome to Compton.
“Talk About It” [ft. King Mez and Justus]
Wow. This is BIG, caps lock intended. It’s cool that Dre’s letting the youngings have their voice heard from the beginning. I wasn't expecting to hear Mez first, let’s take a minute to recognize that a relatively unknown (as far as the mainstream is concerned) rapper is kicking off a huge album. And is this Justus on the hook? The hook feels a little too soft considering this beat knocks like the big bad wolf, maybe it will grow on me. Seriously, this motherfucking beat is incredible. Not that I doubted considering how much he’s officially and unofficially produced over the years, but Dre hasn’t lost a step in the beat department. I need to listen to this album in the whip, and by “the whip” I mean “a whip with far better speakers than mine.”
“Genocide” [ft. Kendrick Lamar, Marsha Ambrosius and Candice Pillay]
These intros and outros are cool, but listening to this album as single stream, it’s confusing. I can’t wait to actually have the album, be able to go back and forward between tracks, I feel like it’ll make much more sense then.
Ohhhhhhh….I like this beat, a little wobbly and echoing with a dash of Pharrell-ishness. Now it’s kind of dancehall style with the vocals. A lot happening here, this one might be a little busy for me, the vocals and the beat at times don’t mesh, but it’s interesting. I already feel like there will probably be some material on this album that sick and some that just isn't.
Oh shit, aaaaannnnnddddd Kendrick just arrived. I’m listening, go away, leave me alone. Goddamn he’s good at rapping. Bonus points for the gun shots, Kendrick is a top three gun shot noise rapper ever. Oh, and I really like that outro. At least I think it’s an outro, I’m having a bad time with this stream.
'It's All on Me” [ft. Justus and BJ The Chicago Kid]
Already BJ’s voice sets it off. Shit man. This has some great bounce to it. Much smoother and polished than “Genocide.” Does Dre’s voice sound lighter? I feel like he sounds different. Anyway, I love this. Dre storytelling over a smooth ass beat. BJ the Chciago Kid is insane, he really affects the vibe. It’s incredible, this is exactly the kind of song I was hoping for.
"All in a Day's Work" [ft. Anderson .Paak and Marsha Ambrosius]
I’m so excited for Anderson .Paak, he’s my favorite artist making music right now, he’s all over this album, and I’m excited to hear what he gives to Dre sonically. Ok, skit over.
See! That’s the shit I’ve been telling you about. Paak! Every time his voice just hits you; it works. FUCK! Goosebumps. This is so hard but so smooth, like getting slapped in the face by a bunny rabbiit. Dre’s singing is a little eh, but there’s so much energy. My favortie moment so far. Can I go back to the start of this song? That minute and a half? Well, the rest ain’t so bad, Dre sounds great here. Paak is an absolute monster. I’ve heard damn near every song of his and I’ve never heard him with this much punch. He stole this effort.
I thought it was over…that was a nice little bridge...ok, I think it’s ending now. Yup, taking us out with a funking bassline.
Can I listen to this one again?
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“Darkside/Gone" [ft. King Mez, Marsha Ambrosius and Kendrick Lamar]
The production on this album is remarkable. It’s so colorful and lush but still has this undeniable bite to it. Mez’ Auto-Tune here isn’t really doing it for me, I like him better when he’s not using it. This is cool, I’m nodding my head and all, but i’m still not all the way in. I think I’m still trying to get my bearings, this album moves fast. Oh shit! Eazy-E! Oh shit! Marshall! Piano now? Everything's changing so fast. It’s gonna be fun sitting with this album and really diving into these ebbs and flows and the diverse array of sounds but it’s hard for a 1 Listen. Ah, there’s Kendrick. It’s hard to write this review while listening to him. This hook is great too, the album’s really hitting its stride.
“Loose Cannons” [ft. Xzibit and COLD 187um]
JESUS. Transition much? 0-100 real fast, then back down to 80. I’m having a tough time with this one. Kind of just waiting for X-to-the-Z. It’s epic though, just a little too busy for me. Wow, now back up to 100. Over 100 in fact. These drums are jumping out at me, but there is so much happening right now. This is not going to sit well with some of you - especially if you really like fast, aggressive music (Tech N9ne would have been great here) - but this is not my style. I’ll give it some more spins (after the review), but between the screaming and the skit, it’s just too much for me. Feels like one that’ll fall out of rotation. Now we’re disposing of a dead body in the woods? When did this turn into an Eminem album?
Can I take a break please? I feel like I need a warm glass of milk and a few sessions of therapy after that one.
“Issues” [ft. Ice Cube and Anderson .Paak]
And we’re not showing signs of slowing down. Honestly, this is not what I was expecting at all from this album. I went in prepared for bouncing west coast bangers and I feel like I’m listening to a Red Hot Chili Peppers album. I think I’ll come to dig it when I can adjust but it’s a lot to handle. I do love Ice Cube here. Woah! Anderson! Jesus, man. Again, never heard that sound from him. Here’s that deep voice from Dre I was expecting. He has a real modern flow here. It’s not slow and heavy-handed like most classic Dre. It has that same punch but it’s a little more brisk. I like it. Helicopters flying by, gun shots, sirens, it’s intense. I want to know who engineered this because they deserve a giant gold star.
“Deep Water” [ft. Kendrick Lamar and Justus]
Ok, I hear water so I assume this is the beginning of “Deep Water.” Man, all the rapping from Dre so far has been remarkably consistent. Very punching. All these emcees really have that bite they need to run with these sizeable beats. I’m secretly too focused on Kendrick’s verse being the one from that commercial to really listen. Is that Paak again? He’s not credited on this song though. Damn, Kendrick. More gun shots. I could have done without that change up in his voice in the middle - he was really killing it - but I love rapper gunshots so we’ll call it a draw. Woah. Did he really just say, “Once upon a time I killed a n***a on accident?!?!?! Yoh was right!!!! Shit Kendrick’s whole verse here is amazing, the most gripping one yet.
Oh this is cool. That drowning voice, the horns. This is really cool. I wasn’t expecting anything like this from Dre.
“One Shot One Kill'” [ft. Snoop Dogg]
Again, I wasn't expecting anything like this. Seriously, this just turned into a rock album. Did I mention I wasn't expecting this? I mean, you hear Snoop and Dre and you think swaying, laid back gangster music, but not pure rock. I dig it though. Snoop is surprisingly crisp. Jon Connor was an excellent addition, again, he has that growling, gravely flow that seems to be a constant on Compton. Yo, this shit just got weird. Is that Dre or Satan? I feel like I just walked into a creepy circus tent.
“Just Another Day” [ft. Asia Bryant]
IT’S MUTHAFUCKIN GAME TIME!!! I don't know who Asia Bryant is but I’m excited to learn. Oh, I see you Game. For the record, Freddie Gibbs would have murdered this; this is a fun album to play A&R on. I like this one. A great blend between bounce and bite; the album's been a little light on the bounce. Oh man. Great hook. I just audibly “wooooo”-ed so yeah, co-sign this.
“For the Love of Money” [ft. Jill Scott and Jon Connor]
This one should be cool, a really interesting combination of people. Word to Bone Thugs. Yeah, the album is starting to slow down a little bit. It's still got fire in its belly but it’s just a little more airy and bouncy. Everyone really brought their best. I guess that’s what happens when you record with Dre. Producing is more than 808s and hi-hats, it’s also knowing how to get the best out of everybody involved. More Paak! He’s everywhere! I love it! Ohhh, I like that build but it didn't lead to much. Guitar solo, whurring synths and thunder booms now? The engineer deserves a raise, everything sounds so crisp.
“Satisfaction” [ft. Snoop Dogg, Marsha Ambrosius and King Mez]
More bounce than Amber Rose on a trampoline. This has a very fresh, modern sound to it. I love Dre droppin knowledge. It’s cool to hear him with what feels like a more modern style; he’s preaching to the youngins in their language. I really love this beat. Snoop! I forgot about him, I was so into the beat. I love Snoop saying, “Labels are making me do a song with these dudes” like there is something he wouldn’t do for a check. I still love him. He’s magic. When he raps like this, Snoop can do whatever he wants. This song dragged a little at the end, but maybe I'm just excited for more Eminem soon.
“Animals” [ft. Anderson .Paak]
This is gonna be great. Is that a flute tucked in back there? Man I love this. Has so much bounce and spirit, but really listen to the lyrics. Dre really sounds great here. Love his voice on something a little feathery. Damn, this song is the truth. I love the message and the execution is flawless. Are y’all convinced Anderson is a star yet? PREMO!!!!! That was a treat. Like getting a cake, but then a stripper pops out the end holding yet another cake you can still eat.
“Medicine Mane” [ft. Eminem, Candice Pillay and Anderson .Paak]
I’m VERY excited for this one. Haha. Great line. “Doctor’s orders, go fuck yourself.” I was starting to feel a little burnt out after “Satisfaction,” but “Animal” and Dre’s verse here have my head back in the game. Okay….Eminem...I’m waiting….I don’t know why, honestly Em hasn’t wow’ed me in a minute but I’m still excited. Here we go. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Shit, his best verse in a minute. I haven't feel this invigorated by Mr. Marshall in a minute. Goddamn that was fun. Candice shouldn’t be slept on here, gives the song a maniacal yet charming feel.
“Talking to My Diary”
This is gonna be epic. Last song? “Talking To My Diary”? Dre’s about to drop knowledge like a clumsy librarian. I wonder if he’ll touch on “Detox”? I should probably stop writing and listen to him. He sounds so sharp, it’s hard to believe he hasn’t really rapped in a minute. I’m sorry, I want to write but he’s talking to Easy E here. Just listen. This horn section too! Man, what a way to go out.
Well sheeeeeeeeit. That right there is an album. Biggest takeaway is how diverse and strong the production was. I may not have loved every beat, every line or every choice, but the whole time I was invested. He managed to create an album that has so many different sounds and so many different voices yet gives it a consistent feel. I said it before, but I wasn't expecting this. I was expecting some throwback stuff, and I was amazed to hear how well Dre made something that felt so fresh and original.
I was in the womb for Straight Outta Compton. I was four when The Chronic came out and 11-years-old when 2001 dropped. Although I enjoy those albums, I’ll never be able to connect with them like those lucky old heads who lived it, but listening to this album I hear “it.” Dre’s a legend, he has been for a long time, but now I get to hear it for myself, I get to feel it in the moment. There's something special about living in the moment. Is it as good or better than his other albums? I’m not even touching that one, but it’s ambitious, it’s diverse, it’s exciting and when you hear you hear what made Dre a legend in the first place. No matter what the era, stream, CD or vinyl, Dr. Dre is just on another level.
Just don't make us wait another 14 years Dre. #detoxisntdropping
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]