Dr. Dre’s first album in over a decade is here, and it’s streaming tonight live on Apple Music. Inverse staffers are listening live and reacting.
Corban Goble: We’re only a couple tracks deep, but the production on this is up to Dre standards.
David Turner: For sure, a couple decades since The Chronic it is still obvious that Dre’s sound of the “West Coast” hasn’t aged.
Winston Cook-Wilson: He’s working with more modern rhythms, like the insane trap cymbal overload on “Intro,” but the distinctive element, I feel, like, is a distinctive kind of laid-back feel rhythmically — like being a bit behind the beat or something. And Kendrick, who just dropped in, sounds so fucking good against that kind of feel (“Genocide”).
DT: Part of me wonders if Dre was less inspired by Compton than listening to Kendrick’s last two albums. Obviously he had a role in Kendrick’s debut, but so far feels like he didn’t want to get left out of the Nu-West Coast conversation.
WCW: Compton in the sense that right now Dre is literally telling us N.W.A. stories in his verse right now (“It’s All On Me”). Musically, I think you’re definitely right, David — not stripped down and to the point, super elaborate, like Dre laid down a drum track and then got a few other expensive people to come layer some more shit on top of it.
DT: To display a bit of home-state pride and bias, I’m enjoying hearing King Mez on these Dre overproductions. He isn’t a gangster rapper by any definition, but so far he’s providing a nice little “Woah this isn’t my space, but I got some things to say” perspective.
CG: This is dense as fuck musically, as if we could possibly expect anything else. Dre is kind of taking a backseat as a lyricist and letting the features shine on his platform. It’s fun hearing Xzibit and Cube on these songs, like “Loose Cannons.”
WCW: Certainly haven’t thought about Xzibit in a minute or had that moment where I realize that I am listening to an Xzibit verse (“Loose Cannons”). This has the most classic ‘90s West Coast gangsta vibes I have yet heard on here, right down to the intense, intermittent skit.
WCW: Getting a bit more aggro with this “Issues” track, in which Ice Cube says “fuccbois.” Not sure if that’s how he’d spell it. This track is the first one that doesn’t really sound like a piece of music to me — just like a bunch of unrelated, slightly grating ideas with some very skilled rapping thrown in. Dre’s snarl is sounding fantastic on “Deep Water,” though.
DT: Right now about halfway through this is making me reminding me of post-LAX The Game mixtapes. Where the production is thrilling and overwhelming, but the more I listen the actual bluster of the rapper is masking just how thin it really is. Obviously the talent and effort here is certainly better than a Brake Lights or Purp & Patron, but are these not gut reactions.
CG: The beat on “One Shot One Kill” is swinging its shoulders hard. Some of the songs, though — like “For the Love of Money” — sound like background music in beats commercials, scenes where Dre twiddles a knob and makes everything sound way better somehow.
WCW: Sounds like some of the jazz dudes Kendrick signed up for To Pimp a Butterfly stopped by Dre’s studio to just blow over some of his outros. “You are not now in the presence of nice guys” is a pretty hilarious end of a hook — I think that was a hook (“One Shot One Kill”). This one has a really early-’90s vibe in the most intense way possible, like it makes me want to listen to Spice 1.
This is syncing up really well with the Republican debate we’ve got on here in the background, by the way. Cruz is mean-mugging over these chill Jill Scott vibes (“For the Love of Money”).
DT: Yeah, my Snapchat is going to be amazing if you want to see it @dalatu.
WCW: Snoop is stuck on the most fitting beat for him, but doesn’t sound particularly good — King Mez, on the other hand, has been delivering on every track we’ve heard him on. He’s got a great energy. Does anyone else feel like many of these hooks are extremely weak?
DT: Yeah, there is nothing sticking to my mind, which would be fine if not for the fact a lot of these songs are kind of getting in a rut. “Animals” does appear a little more overtly political, which is certainly a throughline of Dre’s music, but still there is a vitality that lacks from something like The Chronic. Also DJ Premier & Dr. Dre. Woot.
WCW: Pleasant scratch break there. The second half of the album has a preponderance of super-manipulated, melodramatic R&B hooks….and, oop, here’s Eminem right in your face making Tiger Woods jokes…and, oh God…
CG: I’d say this falls off pretty hard.
DT: This was certainly an experience…remember that Dre is worth more than entire countries.
CG: Some parts of this are electric, and others fall a little flat… some of its on the collaborators. But, still … it’s exciting to hear new music from Dr. Dre.