|Review by Jhantu Randall|
With the success of the NWA Biopic “Straight Outta Compton” which spans the beginning years of West coast Gangsta Rap by telling the story of Eric “Eazy E” Wright, Oshea “Ice Cube” Jackson, MC Ren and Andre “Dr Dre” Young and DJ Yella, the public anticipation for another Dre produced album was at a fever pitch! Beyond just movie soundtrack, Dr Dre returned to the studio and created this album with a feeling that’s refreshing. Further pushing Dr Dre’s sound to be seen as the Quincy Jones of the hip hop genre.
While fans of that era may have initially been disappointed in the final product, Dre had managed to push his signature sound into the current decade by adding what seemed to be a heavier bass pattern to anchor his beats. It’s the strings arrangement that initially stands out and eventually holds its own on every track as it compliments the drum’s pounding rhythm which pays homage to what made him known.
Highlighting newer artists while bringing fan favorites back, the blend of old and new blend together quite nicely as the album itself weaves a loose story of life in Compton as told through the point of view of the artists who are from there. With names like Eminem, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Anderson Paak, XZibit, Cold 187um, Sly Piper and Marsha Ambrosias, its Kendrick Lamar who makes his presence felt but not only remembered. With this album, it may not stretch the confines of what gangsta rap was, but it fills the space that has been left vacant for the last decade. By giving sonically pleasing production it leaves the tracks wide open for the artists to spit their verses without any sense of restriction. While Kendrick is the standout, Eminem’s track, Medicine Man that gives a laid back yet verbally aggressive vibe where Eminem loses control and just lets loose in the second half of the song. My only gripe is when this moment takes place, the bass gets so heavy that the backing track gets a bit drowned out and distorted. It’s Dre’s track with Snoop that brings back memories as it effortlessly highlights the chemistry between the two even as the track experiments with an array of different sounds.
Overall, there’s no way that this project could ever live up to the hype that Dre himself has created over his 30 year career it definitely delivers heavily on that sense of nostalgia that so many fans claim they are missing. Near the end of the album, apart of me wanted to see how much further it could go. Even with Kendrick carrying the baton at the moment, the cold realization is this type of music may be destined to live just beyond the realms of what pop culture has become. Hope is not lost though, if they find a way to infuse jazz like they used to, it just might find its niche yet again. At least that’s what this listener is hoping for because this album took me back to days that seemed a little more care-free which was a much welcomed escape from the viciousness and competitiveness of the current day.