#50. Dr. Dre: Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre
Holding onto the bottom spot of this list is music industry veteran Dr. Dre with his third solo album, Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre. Compton isn’t just a big deal because it's his first album since 1999, or because he says it’s his last album. The real feat is that it’s been able to live up to the hype established by Detox, the infamous album that never was.
For those who don’t know, the final installment in Dr. Dre’s trilogy of renowned solo albums was supposed to be the long-rumored and overhyped Detox, which fans waited on for nearly fifteen years. Alas, the mythical album was finally scrapped after many false starts, delayed release dates, and misleading debut singles. Then suddenly in the summer of 2015 Dr. Dre announced that he would be releasing a third album after all, this time titled Compton. In less than a week the album hit stores, and from its fanfare opening to its closing trumpet solo, it did not disappoint.
In an interview with Billboard earlier this year, fellow producer Terrace Martin aptly referred to Dr. Dre as the Quincy Jones of hip-hop. The parallels are abundantly clear on this album, as he lets his rapping take a backseat to his prowess as a producer. Compton really does live up to its billing as a “soundtrack” with arguably the most cinematic album intro of 2015. “Intro” and “Loose Cannons” feature some of the year’s lushest hip-hop arrangements as well. Dr. Dre’s attention to detail as a producer extends much further than instrumentation, however. It’s the little details that stand out the most, like the faint cello countermelody hidden behind the Kanye-esque soul sample of “It’s All On Me.” Another example of Dr Dre’s attention to detail: although not overtly singing, his voice frequently outlines subtle melodies as he raps, such as in his verse on “Talk About It.”
Dr. Dre has managed to stay fresh thirty years after his entrance into the music industry thanks to records like “Genocide.” The experimental track is structured so heavily around chromaticism that it sounds closer to the beginning of avant-garde composer Iannis Xenakis’ “Metastasis” than anything from NWA. But what really keep his music fresh are the budding young talents with whom he surrounds himself—another habit he shares with Quincy Jones. Compton is full of features from relatively unknown artists, and it’s probably thanks to their talent that the album has made it onto this list. Burgeoning rapper King Mez has some of the album's best verses, and contributes to writing many of Dr. Dre’s own lyrics. Marsha Ambrosius and Candice Pillay are two talented singer-songwriters who contribute to songs like “Genocide.” Anderson .Paak is an up-and-coming singer who nearly steals the show twice on Compton, both with his and Dr. Dre’s call-and-response “All In A Day’s Work” and with his prominent performance on racial injustice ballad “Animals.” Dr. Dre has enjoyed one of the longest hip-hop careers of all time. But even if Compton is indeed his final solo album, his presence will be felt in the music industry for decades to come thanks to the new generation of musicians that he’s ushered into the limelight with Compton.