Return of the Doctor: Dr. Dre’s back

On Friday, the world witnessed something that most thought would never happen; the release of Dr. Dre’s third studio album. The status of Dre’s long delayed follow up to 2001 (confusingly released in 1999) became something of a running joke in the hip hop world. All that was known was it was called Detox and according to its creator it had been on the verge of being released since it was first announced in 2002. Ten years later and it still wasn’t ready. By this time it had acquired almost mythical status, with Detox becoming shorthand for any project subject to endless delays. Many said it was dead, hopeless optimists insisted it was coming. Then on August 1st, out of nowhere, Dre announced that his new album would be on sale in a week’s time.

The first thing to point out is this isn’t Detox. After 15 years, Dre finally ended the speculation by stating on record that it’s never coming. Apparently whatever Detox was, he felt it wasn’t good enough and decided to scrap it. Whether any material was carried over is uncertain but from Dre’s comments it sounds like a totally new project.

Compton: A Soundtrack was released just a week before the forthcoming NWA biopic. With this in mind, some thought the album was a promotional tool, designed to attract publicity for the film. However, first impressions suggest that while the movie may have inspired Dre to get back in the booth, this isn’t a rushed effort to try and cash in on its release. Compton‘s subject matter seemingly has a personal and reflective quality to it, as if it represents Dre’s attempt to make sense of the colossal success he’s experienced.

Initial reviews have been positive and suggest that this is a serious addition to Dre’s discography. Perhaps disposing with the Detox label was a smart move. The level of hype around that title was insane and however good the end product may have been would probably have overwhelmed any record. By announcing this new album out of the blue and releasing it so quickly after, Dre has removed almost all expectations. Fans and critics are so curious to hear what Compton sounds like that there hasn’t been much discussion of what people think it should sound like. Additionally, it’s hard to guess what an artist’s going to come out with after 16 years. No one expects Compton to sound like 2001 and there’s very little else around to judge what Dr. Dre will sound like in 2015. As a result, he’s basically returning to hip hop with a clean slate.

As always with Dre’s solo projects, Compton is filled with collaborations. Dr. Dre’s rapping skills have never been his greatest strength but his real talent lies in surrounding himself with the right people. The Chronic is really as much Snoop’s album as Dre’s and the addition of stand out verses from the likes of the D.O.C made it the classic that it’s revered as today. Similarly, Dre wasn’t afraid of utilising Eminem’s talents on 2001 alongside a host of others. On Compton there’s three tracks with his latest mega-star prodigy Kendrick Lamar. The appearance of Ice Cube on the track Issues is an interesting one, bringing the two West Coast legends together over two decades since they were in the world’s most dangerous group. For all the big names though, Dre’s also given a spot to some lesser known artists such as Anderson.Paak and King Mez. Considering the millions of people around the world who are suddenly going to be introduced to their music, their careers could be about to skip a couple dozen places up the ladder.

It may have been a long time coming but the initial signs are positive. First reactions tend to be simplistic though, with people leaning towards instant classic or total bullshit. After more than 15 years, it might take a while to judge Compton.

Keep a look out for the BTBW review coming soon.

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