In 2015, Dr. Dre shocked a skeptical music world by dropping Compton, the long-awaited follow-up to 1999 chart monster 2001 that many expectant fans had come to believe was apocryphal. Loosely pegged to the release of the N.W.A biopic, Straight Outta Compton, the album found the West Coast rap founding father fully embracing his legacy as an auteur—an expert curator who knows his role and plays it to stylish, hard-boiled perfection. Dr. Dre has often compared his albums to films, and Compton sounds more cinematic than anything in his discography; with its all-star ensemble cast, it feels perfect for the age of Marvel movies that it surfaced into. Every beat sounds expensive and high stakes, often changing shape with the entrance of a new voice—either a legacy act, reigning royalty, or a protégé on the rise. Dre did not return just to cash in on nostalgia; he thoughtfully pits the greatest minds of his generation and the next couple—Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, Eminem—against a panoply of new talent from his home city, as a challenge to all parties to be on top of their game. As a rapper, Dre works to demonstrate the extent to which he can evolve with the times and play off of his collaborators. In “Genocide,” he goes toe-to-toe with his city’s star hip-hop talent, Kendrick Lamar, rapping in high, hoarse, and energized tones to complement Lamar’s own idiosyncratic, range-switching style. Elsewhere, then-newcomer Anderson .Paak assumes the Nate Dogg-like role of G-funk crooner but adds his own sense of urgency and eccentricity—see his inspired, unhinged interplay with Dre on “All In a Day’s Work.” Compton’s beats reflect a pangenerational viewpoint as well. There are dustier, sample-driven moments like “It’s All On Me” and satisfying throwback G-funk tracks like the Snoop Dogg collab “Satisfaction.” But there are also more curious variations on the theme—the lightly drunken neo-soul groove of “Animals”—and wild detours like the glitchy pseudo-trap in the second half of "Medicine Man." The album might be called Compton, but there’s a global quality about this music, reflective of so much hip-hop that came in the decade and a half during which Dre was largely absent from the pop music sphere as a soloist.

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