He was rich long before Apple dropped $3.2 billion on him to buy Beats by Dre.
“I remember selling instrumentals off a beeper/Before the headphones or the speakers,” Dre raps, reminiscing about bygone days, on “Talk About It.” “I was getting money ‘fore the Internet/Still got Eminem checks I ain’t open yet.”
He suffers from some pretty baller senior moments too.
“I want it all,” the 50-year-old superproducer declares on the same track, before catching himself: “Goddamn it, I’m too old/I forgot I have it all/But Andre still young enough to say, ‘Fuck y’all.'”
He can still build a nasty beat out of the tiniest details…
“Genocide” — helmed by L.A. producer and Dre collaborator Dem Jointz — is both sumptuous and abrasive, slipping a lazily descending bass line beneath a whip-snap snare that sounds like sampled static. (The virtuoso Kendrick Lamar cameo doesn’t hurt either.)
…and he can even build a nasty beat around a trumpet solo.
Numerous songs on Compton feature the horn-playing of young Baltimore jazz musician Dontae Winslow, who closes out the LP with a wild, extended solo (and who also composed the album’s opening orchestral flourish.)
He still has no love for the police…
On “It’s All on Me,” he recounts the origins, in his youth, of N.W.A’s landmark single “Fuck tha Police”: “Any given day, like, what the fuck?/Face down on the pavement with the billy clubs/Took that feeling to the studio and queued it up/Now it’s ‘Fuck tha Police’ all up in the club.”
…but, despite tracks that allude to the police killings of Michael Brown (“Animals”) and Eric Garner (“Deep Water”), he also has seemingly little patience for anyone who cites economic deprivation or institutional racism as excuses for not being as successful as him.
“Anybody complaining about their circumstances lost me, homey,” he announces on “Darkside/Gone.” “We ain’t even talking/Fuck that energy, fuck up off me.” This may be the one Dr. Dre lyric that Fox News pundits could love.
His relationship to women, at least in his music, remains…complicated.
Dre has never been one for progressive approaches to gender in his music. The track “Issues” ends with a prolonged, out-of-nowhere skit in which a woman is murdered violently, for no apparent reason, then carried into the woods and buried.
(So does Eminem’s, while we’re on the subject.)
“I even make the bitches I rape cum,” Marshall Mathers brags on “Medicine Man.”
He’s dubious when it comes to the fitted look dominant in hip-hop fashion these days:
The poster boy of creased Dickies isn’t having it with skinny legwear: “What the fuck is going on?” he asks on “Medicine Man.” “These niggas in tight shit like in the fucking Matrix.”
He’s made posthumous peace with Eazy-E, his onetime-partner-turned-foil, whom he believes is smiling on him from heaven.
The album ends with a celestial vision of N.W.A’s demented co-founder — the late M.C. born Eric Wright — floating angelically overhead. “I know Eazy can see me now/Looking down through the clouds,” Dre raps on “Talking to My Diary.” “Regardless, I know my nigga still proud.”