Friday, September 11, 2015

Compton: A Write-Up By Tanjint Wiggy


  Bought physical copy of Dre’s Compton yesterday, learned more in 7 minutes reading the booklet than 7 weeks of Facebook handwringing. Some stuff that I think got overlooked when the album was being discussed when it was only available on iTunes without the credits easy to access:


  Dr.Dre co-produced 8 beats over 7 tracks (involved in both beats on Darkside/Gone) on the 16 track album, just about half. To put that in context, the only album you or anyone has heard in the last decade and a half that has a substantial amount of beats produced by Dr.Dre without co-producers is 2009’s “Relapse” album by Eminem, which really is a great record in my opinion. Dre produced about 13 of its 15 tracks and about 10 of those with no co-producer. In many ways I see Eminem’s “Relapse” as the ultimate culmination of “Detox” whose title has similar themes (drug recovery). Dre meant it to say he’s not relying on weed culture for his classic albums and Eminem had an actual Detox situation so I am not at all tripping that Compton: a soundtrack really does exist on the border of album and soundtrack, being more of an album than 1996’s Dr.Dre Presents…The Aftermath but less of an album than 1999’s 2001. Dre mixed every song, usually with help, notably with Premier on “Animals”. His old bassists, guitarists and keyboardists L.A. Dre, Mike Elizondo, Mike Resto and Scott Storch are nowhere to be found on this album. Dre raps on about 14 of the album’s 16 tracks, giving it its narrative about his life and N.W.A largely. Knowing what I know now about the music process, the fact that he mixed every track means more to me creatively now than when his last albums came out. Further context: N.W.A’s work was co-produced with DJ Yella. The Death Row work was heavily co-produced by Warren G, Daz and to a lesser extent Soopafly. The Chronic 2001 was co-produced almost entirely by Mel-Man with the exception of the final track which Dr.Dre did not even co-produce at all. It’s not new that Dre’s contributions are co-produced. Even mid-90’s Death Row singles like “Keep the Heads Ringin’” are co-produced by Sam Sneed.


Some more interesting tidbits about the album:


DJ Premier produced “Animals”. Can’t believe this wasn’t discussed on any threads I saw.

King Mez and Justus are writing Dre’s verses for the most part, some by Kendrick.

Snoop has no writing credits on either song he appears on. Who ya gonna call?!?

Ice Cube has no writing credits on the song he appears on. WHO YA GONNA CALL?!?


  Vocalists like Slim the Mobster and Candice Pillay appear on tracks they are not listed as features on such as “One Shot One Kill” and the final track on the record…Slim the Mobster was signed to Aftermath around 2006-2007 and his “additional vocals” on “Diary” at the end of the album is the only official appearance I’ve seen of his on any Aftermath project. He might just mainly be one of Dre’s writers but I stay thinking that for every Eminem and Snoop there’s a Hittman and Bishop Lamont; no guarantees in this game even if you signed to Dre.

Dre did not co-produce the song the Game appears on.

Dem Jointz is an insane beast. He has the best beats on the album and the two best in my opinion “Genocide” and “Satisfiction” are produced by Dem Jointz and others but not by Dre.

Y’all notice that Cold187UM is on this record? That’s amazing for those of us who followed the Ruthless/Dre saga over the decades. Just some thoughts on the album as an album:


  Every beat on this album is memorable and successful. Like Kendrick’s work, the content will make it less re-listenable to old guys like me than is ideal, but like punk, music this aggressive is targeting 16-22 year olds primarily though this music is so strong anyone can enjoy it and I do. It delivers on the promise of Kendrick’s first album – to come back to the end of the novel that Dr. Dre started with N.W.A’s work. Even eponymously- whereas N.W.A is Straight Outta, Dr.Dre and Aftermath and more characters from throughout his career are taking the listener into Compton. I wrote a review on the west coast connection forums (dubcc.com) of Kendrick’s first record where I say something like….it’s well done but all in all it reveals that in 25 years plus Dre’s music’s saga has only ended up about 5 miles from where it started. I did mean that as a jab at the time but this album completes the idea in a way that makes me revise the thought- I would call it the last gangsta rap album if I didn’t know that there’s all too many posers out there still itching to rhyme “trigger” with the n-word on their next record. For MY intents and purposes- this is the last gangsta rap album: it ties up and addresses the political implications of gangster rap, has a more mature attitude with less glorification of the Compton life it describes than the late 80’s work from these same people.

Some less holistic notes:


  The performances from Snoop on this record are insane, as are Kendrick’s and Eminem’s. The new male vocalists are good but they all kind of sound the same, even Snoop and Dre’s voices are tuned in a way that they sound similar to each other and other male vocalists on the record. I remember a mid-2000’s interview with Dr.Dre about Detox in which he said his next album won’t be about highlighting the artist with his beats but using the artists to tell a larger story, to be one instrument in the symphony of the album or even like an actor in an audio movie. He delivered on this because he gave the record a consistent sound, especially vocally, which reminds me – anyone notice how the song with Xzibit is a double time rap until Xzibit comes in and they give him an easier boom-bap beat? It’s super dope and it works for the song but I chuckled at that because I was excited to hear X2thaZ bust on the first beat as I listened to it closely for the first time. Dre’s beats are all fantastic, I particularly like “It’s all on me”, “Deep water”, and “One shot one kill”. Dre does sit down with his ghost writers and explain to them what he wants to say in a given verse. This is done to satisfying effect on the record as he addresses everything from his old friendships with the members of N.W.A. to uncashed checks from the Eminem salad days.


  I’m surprised at the hate I’ve heard this record get, it’s really solid and I am not sure what folks were expecting. Soundtracks like Above the Rim and Murder Was the Case being outstanding compilations was already part of Dre’s legacy from the Death Row years and this album is a proud and probably classic addition to that tradition.

___________________ Tristan “Tanjint Wiggy” Acker is a staff writer for JooseBoxx and member of the Inland Empire’s West Coast Avengers. Catch more of their work at westcoastavengers.com, follow Tristan on twitter @Wiggism or e-mail him at tristanacker@gmail.com.