Dr. Dre is hoping this Friday will be his day all over again, because this weekend, the rapper-turned-producer-turned-business mogul will have even more to celebrate. Dre, born Andre Young, will be able to rejoice not only in the release of “Straight Outta Compton,” a movie about his group, gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A., he also just released an album.
(I’m not sure if musicians/rappers still call them albums, but to avoid confusion we’ll stick with that terminology).
“Compton: A Soundtrack,” hit Apple Music and iTunes Friday, Aug. 7, a week before the movie was released. Each makes interesting bookends to the Dre story: The movie is a look at what created the seminal gangsta rap crew N.W.A., and the album is his first since “2001,” which was actually released in 1999.
In-between albums, Dre was a little bit busy producing mega-hits for other rappers like Eminem and 50 Cent, and successfully selling every kid on paying over a hundred bucks for his signature Beats headphones. He was then able to convert his share in the head accessories into hundreds of millions in cold, hard cash-money and is now the nearest rapper to becoming a billionaire.
— Dr. Dre (@drdre) August 2, 2015
But is Dre, like many others who captured success at a young age, a victim of his own immense success?
He’s said that the new music was inspired by the movie, which is totally cool. But to title it “Compton: A Soundtrack” seems a bit bold to say the least. I’m not suggesting he shouldn’t represent whence he came, but doesn’t that title kind of presume that nothing has really changed in Compton since he lived there?
And surely Dre hasn’t lived any kind of life in the hood for nearly 25 years. He’s still a black man in a white society, but he’s also stupid-rich now. His wealth didn’t dissolve his blackness or erase that he was a member of a rap crew that proudly used the N-word and defiantly titled a track “Fuck Tha Police,” but why can’t guys like Dre move on from what made them rich and successful?
When Dre and other rappers Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg are old and gray and walk with canes — instead of the Wayne Newton and Frank Sinatra Jr. lounge acts or fossil-rockers like Kansas and Blue Oyster Cult — will N.W.A. and other rap crews still be performing what were once defiant and controversial acts to bleached-blonde or blue-haired audiences who want to relive the good old days?
Because of the money that Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Dre and the rest made in their careers, they probably won’t have to work and will be able to retire to the rapper-emeritus club. But the point remains. Once something is embraced by the mainstream, it ceases to be revolutionary or even rebellious. And it’s not like all of the members of N.W.A. are still talking about life in the ‘hood. Ice Cube, born O’Shea Jackson, completely reinvented himself and is now a star of sitcoms and family films, but we al, unfortunately, can’t be like Ice Cube, whose reinvention is nothing short of incredible.
But for Dr. Dre to release an album that claims to be a soundtrack of a place he hasn’t lived in for more than two decades is a little obnoxious to the people who live there now. Surely fans know he no longer resides in Compton or anything resembling a hood. But, of course, none of that will matter when the beat drops and since — from what people tell me — the music is good.
Noah Zuss is a reporter for TheBlot Magazine.