After a 15-year wait between albums, the maddeningly deliberate Dr. Dre returned at the perfect time to bring the focus back on what hip-hop is really all about after we wasted weeks of energy observing the Drake vs. Meek Mill “beef.”
Don’t get me wrong: Beef is a foundation of hip-hop, but nearly every aspect of the Drake vs. Meek Mill war was another reminder that much of hip-hop has lost its edge over the past 20 years. A rap beef over hurt feelings on social media? In which the (decisive) winner, a part-time singer, buried his opponent by bragging about a deal with Apple? Drake wasn’t wrong when he said, “When I look back, I might be mad that I gave this attention.”
Sure, Drake connected with a few solid jabs on “Back to Back” — “trigger fingers to Twitter fingers” has become a viral phrase — but nothing in his two diss tracks resembled anything near the vicious bars thrown between Jay Z and Nas more than a decade earlier. Just a few bars from “Ether” would send both Drake and Meek Mill back to their studios in shame. And Funkmaster Flex’s stumbling to reveal reference tracks — as if Drake’s fans ever cared about his use of them — left everyone feeling foolish for following the ordeal so closely.
The premise behind the beef was petty. And sure, it got headlines, but the reality-show-level drama did nothing to gain new fans or grow the genre. Everyone, save for Drake’s die-hard fans at OVO Fest, felt as if they just witnessed a replay of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao.
Just a few weeks later, Dr. Dre, flanked by a small army of rap legends, modern stars and up-and-comers, has put everyone in the industry on notice: It’s about the music again.
Compton: A Soundtrack is not a bunch of Dre’s old Compton buddies reminiscing about the good ol’ days with some fun raps and beats. Dre’s new album is thematic, lyrical, detailed and, most importantly, up with the times. While he has not released an album in more than a decade, Dre has been active in bringing along some of the biggest stars in the industry in that time, keeping a pulse on the flavor of the times — and it shows. Compton is a high-brow, conceptual album with thought-provoking themes, soaked in West Coast instrumentals with a modern flair.