Since the Beats deal, the media headlines have been focused on Dr Dre’s net worth and countless tech news pages dedicated to him as the the unlikely billionaire outside of the Silicon Valley nerdy norm.
What’s glaringly different about Dre is he’s no Stanford tech grad making it at Apple, his roots run deep down below the streets of Compton and closer to a generation of people still facing the stark reality of austerity, inequality and racism. This is an album for a generation plagued by the whitewash in the media over the news of Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Baltimore, Ferguson, Sandra Bland, Charleston as it goes on and on.
‘Compton’ is an intense album delivered with a deliberate intent – as sharp as the message of N.W.A – and Dre’s still got attitude to direct it bluntly. It may have taken 16 years for him to bring this album to the world, but it’s evident he has no intention of standing back and watching from the sidelines while he makes bank. Proceeds from the album will go straight to a new arts centre in Compton. For Dre it’s all about work, there’s no easy way out its nothing but work and more work.
If the forthcoming biopic of ‘Straight Outta Compton’ has something to offer – its a message about the audacity of hope. Where N.W.A rose against the tide of controversy and against all odds to gain something that no other music group had ever done before – ‘Fuck Da Police’ was a charged and angry reaction to a life of violence and fighting back. Hip-Hop has taken its place as the most revolutionary form of music because of the legacy of N.W.A – and Dr Dre has been an unapologetic leader in pursuit of a dream to shoot for the unimaginable.
Yep he’s got it all and he’s not resting yet. This album will be subjected to review after review – it’ll be taken apart bit by bit and reconstructed on every level but the overwhelming narrative of this body of work is one that resonates closely with a tide of the activism sweeping across the world.
It’s a story about a broken dream – one that didn’t live up to expectations for many people in a post capitalist era but from that same place new dreams were also built. There’s an uprising from the bottom, one that Kendrick reminded us about on ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ on the track ‘Mortal Man’ when he asked Tupac about the ‘ground’.
2Pac – “That’s how I see it, my word is bond. I see–and the ground is the symbol for the poor people, the poor people is gonna open up this whole world and swallow up the rich people. Cause the rich people gonna be so fat, they gonna be so appetising, you know what I’m saying, wealthy, appetising. The poor gonna be so poor and hungry, you know what I’m saying it’s gonna be like… there might be some cannibalism out this mutha, they might eat the rich.”
The message in the music is there – there will be a struggle but you have to have the audacity to dream, and if you want to move past your circumstances then you’ll need to face your fear and work endlessly. Maybe it took a biopic for Dre to be able to look at himself and N.W.A – look outside of himself and recognise that the ‘state of affairs’ are no different now as they were then – it’s his legacy that fuelled a feeling that put him back into the studio to create Compton. The stark truths of Compton today juxtaposed against Dre’s success don’t negate his overwhelming struggle to overcome his lot in life on his come up from the ground.
There’s no sympathy for apathy on this album – just a drive to push through against all odds. This isn’t an album for you if you want to know how to get rich quick or get your 15 minutes of realty tv fame. ‘It’s All In Day’s Work’ and just like the track, his life and his music is about working for it and Dre is a mentor on the job bringing through yet another new generation of hungry unknowns battling to take their place on the scene.
Fortune is only a privilege which shines on the few and striving to build yourself a better life just may not materialise the way you intended. The intro to the album is a testament to a broken American dream and today a dream that’s being broken for many across the world.
The media commentary on this album will inevitably try to dig out controversy about ghostwriting, beef, disses or anything else they can feed on to grab headlines – but Dre’s shining a glaring spotlight on what still remains as a contagion of racism and hate that fuels the killing of innocent black people at the hands of police and white extremists in the U.S.
For those of us living through austerity, whether living off welfare to survive or facing a future with no welfare to cushion the blow – there’s a future ahead that could be even darker and we’re left with one choice – to make it against all odds. For the generations that are now taking their place in the political process – this is a soundtrack to the struggle.