Last week, we learned that Dr. Dre's Detox, the most labored and rumor-dogged album in commercial rap history, had been given a mercy killing. “I didn’t like it,” Dre declared. “The record, it just wasn’t good.” It was a bracing death for material that had been accumulating in secret for over a decade, but Dre delivered the news calmly, while in the same breath confirming far more surprising information: He had managed to record a new album of original material, and it was called Compton. Not only was Compton not Detox, it was in many ways unlike anything Dre had released in his career: ragged at the edges, steely, and grim.
Talking to the inner circle of musicians who worked most closely with Dre during the heady months in which Compton was made, a common thread emerges: This is definitely not the album Dre had been promising to deliver to the industry for the last 16 years. Instead, it is the late dawning of an idea that seemed to draw direction from everything the leaked Detox tracks were not: It is not relaxed, not clean, not safe. It came together in a blur. Dre’s signature crisp funk is gone, and there is nothing on the album that aims to complement a weed high. Instead, Compton is hulking, sinewy, and defiantly odd. It’s the result of various collaborators—old and young, legendary and unknown—pitching in their talents, all guided by a singular force.