Dr. Dre shaped the Los Angeles hip-hop sound

Dr. Dre shaped the Los Angeles hip-hop sound

Andre Romelle Young in art Dr. Dre is one of the most influential musicians in hip hop. Born in Compton, California, on February 18, 1965, he made a name for himself in the second half of the 1980s with NWA, godfathers of gangsta rap with political connotations. His 1992 solo debut, “The chronicle” (read the story here), is a milestone for hip hop to come. That was followed by only two more albums: “2001” released in 1999 and “Compton” in 2015. Dre’s legend is linked not only to the music he proposed himself, but also to his work as a producer and entrepreneur. To celebrate his birthday we suggest you read the review of his latest album written for us by Michele Boroni.

It’s the surprise of the summer of 2015 for black music. It is not the new Kanye West or even Frank Ocean, both announced for July, but the return to the scene of Dr. Dre, absent with his solo work since 1999 (“2001” the title of his latest album). In all these years, however, Dr. Dre has not stood still: in addition to having forged the hip-hop sound of Los Angeles, he has produced a myriad of records including those by 2Pac, Eminem, 50 Cent and Kendrick Lamar’s lightning-fast debut, he became an acclaimed record producer with his Aftermath label and entrepreneur of one of the most successful brands of recent years, Beats, headphones and streaming service, later sold to Apple.

The album that has just been released, however, is not even the infamous “Detox” on which Dr. Dre worked for almost 15 years, a project that totally failed. It is instead the soundtrack of the biopic “Straight Outta Compton” about the birth of NWA, a group of which Dr Dre was part, released in the USA last weekend. “Compton: A Soundtrack” is not the simple revival of the sound that started the phenomenon of gangsta rap in the 90s, but rather one of the records that in terms of production and structure of the tracks raises the bar even higher contemporary hip-hop.

“Compton” is a very layered album, which keeps many registers open – the samples, always elegant and never invasive (including some Italian ones), score atmospheres, old school and trap rhythms – and many voices, each of which has its own precise role and dramatic function in the great story of Compton, the LA neighborhood to which the album is dedicated. If “The Chronic” was the launching pad for Snoop Dogg and “2001” the showcase for Eminem, “Compton” is the consecration of Kendrick Lamar who had already told his biography in the Los Angeles suburb on his debut album and who here he is present in three tracks, among the best.

The attempt to update the West Coast sound that characterized hiphop in the previous two decades was fully successful: there are totally innovative pieces like “Genocide” where electrobeat, ragga and doowap are put together or like the initial “Talk about it” in who tries his hand at the trap genre that is so fashionable today.

There is no shortage of potential singles such as “It’s all on me” and “Animals” which features Anderson Paak on six tracks. Other names that recur in “Compton” are King Mez who wrote the vast majority of the songs, Marsha Ambrosius and protégé Jon Connor. In “One shot one kill” we also hear Snoop Dogg rapping properly, while in “Medicine man” Eminem rattles off effective politically incorrect rhymes, saving one of the weakest tracks on the album. .

Here are the lyrics: the risk could have been that André Young (Dr. Dre’s birth name), now 50 years old and a billionaire, had lost that
street credibility

typical of west coast lyrics.

Instead the lyrics are still reliable and plausible (sometimes very crude like the murder told live at the end of “Loose Cannons”) also because the stories are often inspired by reality: in “Deep Water” another piece of mixing skill, the rapper on duty repeats the phrase “I can’t breathe” several times, the same one uttered by Eric Garner who was strangled by a policeman in New York. Dr. Dre is still hungry, he is not satisfied and he shows it in the final track “Talking to my diary”, the only one without featuring, where the rapper-producer does a sort of self-analysis of his life, his successes (“Don’t be surprised that I built an empire”) and the controversies with Eazy E, the friends and the dead left in his path. In more than one interview Dr. Dre has declared that this will be his last album as a rapper. There couldn’t have been a better ending than this. .