What do you do when people are calling something groundbreaking simply because of the name attached to it. Do you follow the crowd and profess to something that you know to be false? Or do you simply state that what you know to be true?
Andre Young is a creative genius, and a very shrewd operator. His wealth, power and standing in both the music and business world alike is testament to that. As far as Hip Hop is concerned he is a living legend and will rightly be thought of as one of the genre’s foremost influences for generations to come. His already celebrated legacy however, seems to be lending itself to the many comments lauding his suddenly released ‘Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr Dre’ as the cultures equivalent of the second coming of Christ. This I am afraid, needs correcting.
What Compton is, is a very good collection of songs and artists that as usual, is intricately arranged and mixed by the man himself. Like the conductor of a modern orchestra, Dre’s tried and tested formula for getting the best out of the talent around him is almost peerless and the precise execution of Compton proves it. All of the elements that made the Doctors last full length release a modern classic are there. A gathering of great artists, a combination of great beats including a couple of Jeep worthy anthems, and an overall concept that binds the whole thing together.
The Dre signature can be heard loud and clear to varying degrees across the album and the fact that Kendrick Lamar is firing verbal ammunition on no less than 3 of the album’s best pieces of music is the cherry on top. A special mention must go to Anderson .Paak (pka Breezy Lovejoy) who doesn’t put a foot wrong on any of the 6 songs he appears on. Hopefully he won’t suffer the same fate Hittman did after 2001 made waves. Then there is the lexicon of talented beatsmiths on duty that reads like a real life list of Avengers. DJ Premier, DJ Khalil, Bink, DJ Dahi, Best Kept Secret, Focus and the man himself all report for duty and are allied to the cause. A list that is enough to turn even those at the top of the radii friendly charts a deep shade of green is great, but that doesn’t necessarily make for a constant stream of great results.
The first problem with the general overreaction to Compton, is that the world of Hip Hop has moved on dramatically from the days of The Chronic, Doggystyle and even 2001. The era of being able to use the terms ‘classic’ and ‘hit’ about the same song on a regular basis, is over. For a ‘normal’ release the classic and hit parameters would be set to normal levels. But for a Dr Dre release those parameters have to be adjusted. So an album like Compton can never be measured on ‘normal’ levels. There are many hits to be found on Compton and Dre has been shrewd enough to realise that the fan base, and the way they judge music generally, has changed. Much of what he has provided for the ears on Compton caters for that adjustment.
The second problem, is the Compton peaks way too early for my taste. The Kendrick Lamar and Marsha Ambrosius assisted Genocide is the ohhhh so obvious standout, but it is also takes up the third slot of a 16 track album. While the phrase ‘things go downhill from there’ is too strong a phrase to use, it’s fair to say that Genocides heights are not matched anywhere else. One or 2 others come rather close. All In a Day’s Work, the Easy E cameo featured Darkside/Gone, Loose Cannons, and the nostalgia trip that is Satisfiction (featuring a superb Snoop), all give Compton a superiority over its rivals in that all of the aforementioned tracks are available with one purchase rather than them each being a standout on other albums. The rest however, although nice headnods, are of a type that is the staple diet of sound systems the world over.
Nowadays though, these are foibles that will matter little to the average listener (no disrespect intended). The aura held by the Rap albums of yesteryear will never be recaptured and as such, their sound will probably never be fully rekindled. Although I don’t consider myself to be some sort of wine snorting equivalent of a Hip Hop connoisseur, I do like to think that when it comes to the previous work of certain members of the Hip Hop fraternity, I along with those of a similar musical upbringing to myself, hold those whose albums qualify in higher esteem.
Compton is, as I stated previously, an album chock full of hits. What it isn’t, is an album full of classics. While the numbers achieved will be wondrous, and the Beats Studio Pros and Pills will be working overtime blasting out the great music on show, I was always going to compare this album to past glories. And after 2 entries into Hip Hop folklore, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed with an album that is “merely” very good, as oppose to entry number 3.