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Dr. Dre drops 'Compton,' his first album in 16 years

Rapper Dr. Dre performs during the 2013 BET Experience at Staples Center on June 29, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.
Rapper Dr. Dre performs during the 2013 BET Experience at Staples Center on June 29, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.
Chelsea Lauren/Getty Images for BET

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Forget about, "Detox," there's a new Dr. Dre album for everyone to talk about — and this one's actually been released. The hip-hop producer has dropped "Compton" exclusively on Apple Music, and the record — with guest spots from Kendrick Lamar, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and Jill Scott — has been receiving nothing but strong reviews.

In an interview with Beats 1 DJ, Zane Lowe, Dre explained that he decided to can the long-in-the-works album, "Detox," after he was unable to create a record that satisfied him, scrapping the project entirely. Instead, Dre found inspiration from the upcoming NWA biopic, "Straight Outta Compton," and that inspiration very quickly gave rise to "Compton."

Music journalist Scott Sterling joined us to help break down the hype and get a clearer picture of "Compton," and when he joined us after binge-listening to the record, we asked him about the legend of "Detox," the brewing controversy over Eminem's verse on the track "Medicine Man," and how Dre has managed to stay relevant for roughly 30 years, despite having only released three albums in his career.

Interview Highlights:

The album was made available for streaming last night — what's your verdict?

I went in with really high expectations. I tried to have measured expectations, considering the time it's been since Dre's released an album. But also it's Dr. Dre, so I couldn't really help but expect something great, and I was pleasantly surprised that it was even better than I wanted it to be. Actually, it's better than it really has any right to be. [laughs]

Dre's probably best known as a producer at this point since he hasn't put an album under his own name since 1999. Why is that?

Well, there's the legend of "Detox," which was the album that was supposed to have been released years ago now. He'd been working on it and tinkering with it, but ultimately it just never happened, and at this point I think that was a wise decision, because it was turning into the "Chinese Democracy" of hip-hop. ["Chinese Democracy" was a Guns 'n' Roses album that was 17 years in the making.]   

The expectations had just gotten so out of proportion that there was nothing that he could have done on that album that would have lived up to the hype. So to take this turn and create a new album inspired by the "Straight Outta Compton" movie, I think that was a really savvy move on his part, and I think we got a better record as a result of it.

Dre was 23 years old when NWA released "Straight Outta Compton." He's 50 now. Why do you think he's remained relevant for so long?

For one thing, he built his legacy on music. If you listen to popular radio right now, you won't hear the musicality that you hear on this album. He has a depth of range that's just so impressive, and that's really where he's built his legacy, and then from there the whole Beats thing with Jimmy Iovine and the headphones game took him to an entirely different level of relevancy where he hasn't had to release any music.

It wouldn't be a hip-hop album if there wasn't already controversy about misogynistic lyrics, and I'll single out a couple songs. "Loose Cannons" ends with a skit in which a woman is murdered, and "Medicine Man" features a line by Eminem that's so offensive I can't even imagine it passing through anybody's mind. Why is that misogyny necessary?

I really don't have an answer for that. As far as the Eminem verse is concerned, he's always going to make a point to get a rise out of people. That's how he's become Eminem — he's always had a way of balancing this immense talent with this ability to just really make people angry.

On "Medicine Man" he comes in so strong, just with the fury of classic Eminem, and then he throws this line out of nowhere that's like a suckerpunch to the gut, like, What have you done to this verse? It's completely unnecessary, and to me it cheapens the verse, even though I understand that he wants people to get upset. It's unfortunate, because the verse is so powerful and he delivers it so well.

Dr. Dre has said that he wants this album to be inspiring and motivational. Do you think he succeeded on that front?

I'm going to say yes. As someone who's listened to hip-hop for a really long time, from the moment I started listening to the album last night, I was just struck by how powerful it sounds. He's had a long history of being influenced by Parliament-Funkadelic with their live funk and deep, strong musical playing, and it's all over this album.

And it's really important for youngsters — who are just getting into music and who are really only used to hearing digital sounds and basic productions — to hear this lush instrumentation, with guitars, bass, drums and saxophones. I'm really glad that he stepped up and delivered this kind of album.

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