Is Dr. Dre actually any good? Sure, he was in one of the most important rap groups of all time and put out two classic albums (he only put out two albums, believe it or not), but as the wait for Detox droned on and on, and we kept getting snippets from it that just weren’t worth the wait, I got to wondering if he really had anything left in him. And today’s the day I find out, as he just put out a brand new album, and it’s entirely possible that he wrote some of it all by himself. Let’s see if the man can still put together a good album, one song at a time.

1. INTRO

Off to a great start. This intro offers a history lesson as to how Compton became what it is today, along with some dramatic production by Dre, Dontae Winslow, and Focus…. I’m excited to see where this goes.

Grade: A-

2. TALK ABOUT IT ft. Justus and King Mez

I gotta say, this kind of came out of left field. Dre seems to be testing out that Migos flow, but I don’t think it works really well. Justus does a mediocre Drake impression on the hook, and King Mez isn’t nearly as good as he thinks he is. The beat’s a step down, but it’s OK I suppose.

Grade: C-

3. GENOCIDE ft. Kendrick Lamar, Candice Pillay, and Marsha Ambrosius

“Genocide” takes a little while to get off the ground, but once it does it’s pretty solid. Everyone does a solid job, although Dre’s verse is clearly written by Kendrick Lamar. Regardless, it’s always a treat to hear from Kendrick. It’s catchy, well-written, well-produced, and overall just a pretty solid track. I don’t see it becoming a favorite of mine, but I like it. I’m looking forward to hearing more from Candice Pillay.

Grade: B+

4. IT’S ALL ON ME ft. Justus and BJ the Chicago Kid

Now this is classic Dre right here. He talks about his experiences first meeting Snoop Dogg and Suge Knight, as well as his inspiration for writing “Fuck tha Police”. BJ does an admirable job as a Nate Dogg substitute. It also has this really mellow, distinctly Dre beat that I really like. So yeah, good stuff. I didn’t even notice Justus was on it.

Grade: B+

5. ALL IN A DAY’S WORK ft. Anderson .Paak and Marsha Ambrosius

I think I like it? The beat’s pretty nice and the lyrics have a nice punch to them, but something about this Anderson .Paak dude throws me off. He seems to be tiptoeing the line between Ed Sheeran and Yelawolf. I guess he’s pretty OK, but I can’t see myself getting into him and he kind of throws off the mood of the song sometimes.

Grade: B-

6. DARKSIDE/GONE ft. Eazy-E, King Mez, Marsha Ambrosius, and Kendrick Lamar

So from what I can tell, King Mez is the new 50 Cent, in that he’s basically a standard gangsta rapper with the occasional flash of brilliance. He pulls his weight on “Darkside”, the first part of this epic double feature. But even though he does a surprisingly fine job and Kendrick comes through with some Drake sneak disses, I’d say Dre pretty much owned this track, and considering this is Dre’s album, that’s a good thing.

Grade: A

7. LOOSE CANNONS ft. Cold 187um and Xzibit

I really liked the first half of this song. But then Cold 187um’s verse started. First of all, I know this guy’s been around for a long time, but what kind of fucking name is “Cold 187um”? And apart from that, he seems to have been going for an Eminem vibe with this verse, talking about being out of control and graphically depicting murdering a significant other. It’s an interesting skit, I guess, but it really comes out of nowhere and the song sort of falls apart because of it. Overall, I still really like it.

Grade: B+

8. ISSUES ft. Anderson .Paak, Dem Jointz, and Ice Cube

Looks like they got the living members of NWA back together, except for MC Ren, DJ Yella, Arabian Prince, and the D.O.C. It’s… OK. Honestly, we’re well into this album and the songs are kind of starting to run together. Subjectively speaking, I think Dre did an OK job. Ice did an OK job. Dem Jointz’ chorus was pretty catchy. The beat was nice. But this really seems like a song that I’d forget very fast.

Grade: C

9. DEEP WATER ft. Justus and Kendrick Lamar

Oh. My. God. So, this is probably the worst beat on the album, which is a shame, because it’s easily the best song. Dre goes in, and it sounds like he wrote it himself, the extended water metaphor is really cool, and Kendrick’s verse is without a doubt the best on the album so far. I’ve noticed there’s been a lot of good acting on this album, which I guess is a Dr. Dre thing. Good on you, Dre. Let’s see if you can keep it going.

Grade: A

10. ONE SHOT, ONE KILL ft. Jon Connor and Snoop Dogg

Interestingly enough, Dr. Dre is not featured on this song. He does the beat, and does a solid job at that, but he gives most of this song to one of his newest discoveries: 2014 XXL Freshman, Jon Connor. After a surprisingly heated Snoop verse, Connor does the chorus and a verse, and he absolutely bodies it. What I like about this album is that every song is distinct in one way or another, and even the worst track (“Talk About It”, in case you forgot) has something distinct about it. This is really another song where every element works.

Grade: A

11. JUST ANOTHER DAY ft. Game and Asia Bryant

I’ve never really admired Game as a rapper. He’s perfectly fine, but I guess in general it’s harder for me to get into gangsta rap. That being said, this is the fourth great verse we’ve had in a row on this album. The man infamous for frequently using the same freestyle obviously didn’t drop a game-changer, but Game has changed, in that he seemed to be exerting a lot more effort than he typically does. Once again, nothing against the guy. I realize not every verse can be this good. But it’s really solid. Asia Bryant’s part is kind of an afterthought, but it’s good.

Grade: A-

12. FOR THE LOVE OF MONEY ft. Jill Scott, Anderson .Paak, and Jon Connor

This one’s pretty OK. Kind of nondescript (ironic that it came right after I said every song was unique).

Grade: C+

13. SATISFICTION ft. King Mez, Marsha Ambrosius, and Snoop Dogg

Let me start by saying “Satisfiction” is a really clever title. Considering all the heavyweights on this song, it’s a bit of a surprise that Marsha Ambrosius does a better job than any of them. Sure, Snoop pulls his weight and Mez is somewhat competent, but the only thing that really stuck out to me is the chorus. It’s a really catchy, well-written chorus, and I think it might have fit better if the rest of the song was just Marsha Ambrosius.

Grade: B

14. ANIMALS ft. Anderson .Paak

I just can’t get into Anderson .Paak. I don’t know if it’s his voice or his style or his lyrics, but it’s just hard for me to sit through these songs. I really like the subject matter of “Animals”, and I think it’s an issue that demands to be explored, but I feel like this song does kind of a lazy job of it. Dre’s verse is pretty cool, though.

Grade: C

15. MEDICINE MAN ft. Anderson .Paak, Candice Pillay, and Eminem

If I had to say what I don’t like about this song, it seems like it’s made to make Dr. Dre and Eminem look cool, rather than being fun to listen to or well-written. But it does a phenomenal job of making Dre and Eminem look cool. Doc misses the opportunity to actually call people out and winds up spitting a really good verse directed at… people in general. Em is a little wiser and spends his verse talking about himself, how he intends to silence haters with this verse, and how he was given an unfair advantage due to his race. His verse is a bit more serious than I prefer Em to be, but it’s far from bad.

Grade: B

16. TALKING TO MY DIARY

Now, this is what I’m talking about. This is the only song on the album that’s just Dre, and… it kind of sucks. It’s a good concept, and it’s well-produced, but Dre’s verses aren’t up to snuff with any of the others on this album, which is what’s lead me to believe that most of his verses on this album are written, as many of his have in the past.

Grade: C-

So, final thoughts. Dre seems to be a much better producer than he is a rapper. King Mez isn’t nearly as good as he thinks he is. King Kendrick continues to reign supreme. Marsha Ambrosius is awesome. So is Candice Pillay. Was it worth the wait? No, but I don’t think that’s the point. Dre’s supposedly only been working on this album since March, and it really feels that way. This wasn’t meant to be Dr. Dre’s big comeback. At this point, he doesn’t even want to do one. This was just a Dr. Dre album. And maybe that’s how it should be. Overall, I give it a B+. Even though it has a few wack tracks, I enjoyed listening to it, and I’ll probably look back at it nostalgically a few years down the line.

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