30 November 2015

Dr Dre - Compton

Well, here we are. The supposed final studio album by Dr Dre. Not bad for a guy who is a colossus in the hip-hop world, mostly down to not only some of the finest producing skills on the planet but also for mentoring and coaching some of the most popular hip-hop stars in the genre. From Snoop Dogg to Eminem to Kendrick Lamarr - and a shit load of others in between -, Dre has an ear for talent. He was also a pioneer in a predominantly West Coast style of hip-hop known as "G-Funk", where the beats were slower and the music little more than a minimalist melody. It was very effective. This was kicked off by his debut album - The Chronic - which also introduced us to Snoop (Doggy) Dogg. That's an example of mentoring. He also unleashed Eminem onto the world and set a good example of how white guys CAN be rappers and not completely embarrassing like Vanilla Ice or the Insane Clown Posse (who I actually like but sometimes I feel they can take their schtick a bit too seriously for what it is - two white guys in black and white face paint with an obsession over a soft drink called Faygo)

Born Andre Young in Compton, L.A, Dre started getting involved in hip-hop in the early 80's by not only listening to early pioneers like Grandmaster Flash but also at a local club called Eve After Dark. It was at this club where he first started performing as a DJ. Soon, he ended up in a group called World Class Wreckin' Cru - this would be brought up later in a diss-rap by Eazy-E (N.W.A had parted on very bad terms amid disputes over money and contracts) Dr Dre was dressed in drag on the album cover, a contrast to the somewhat macho image Dre protracted in not only the gangsta rap of N.W.A but also The Chronic as well ('chronic' being a slang term for cannabis, as we all know). Still, it was from here that Dre's career began in earnest and before long, he was a most sought out producer. Accusations of women-beating after an unsavoury incident involving a female reporter called Dee Barnes followed (he basically shoved her head into a wall after asking too many questions about Ice Cube - he regrets it now though), but other than that black mark, things have been all good for Dre. Aside from hip-hop, he's also been a bit on an entrepreneur, especially with the "Beats" range of headphones. Basically, the guy has had more fingers in more pies than Mr Kipling and, quite frankly, he's earned it due to some great work over the years. I'm sure if you looked, you could find a bigger list of what he's been up to. We're wasting valuable blog time, let's get to the album.

Recorded alongside the N.W.A movie biopic "Straight Outta Compton", it contains a few of his former protegees and collaborators, namely Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Xibit, Kendrick Lamarr, The Game as well as COLD187um. It has a compilation feel about it, and as mentioned, is supposed to be the final studio album by Dr Dre. It replaces an album that he was gonna make called "Detox" - that ended up in the lake of Development Hell fire...anyhow, onto the music.

1) Intro - Does what it says on the tin. Is basically a sample from a TV show which promotes Compton as the "black American dream" for middle-class black people. This then went to shit as it sharp turned into a ghetto due to crime and rising unemployment. As far as these things go, there isn't really much to say about it other than 'does what it says on the tin', and I've already said that.

2) Talk About Everything (Featuring King Mez & Justus) - Brooding piece with some great music in the background. "One day, I'll have everything". Sounds like this is about still trying to do your best even though you've practically conquered everything - Andre still young enough to say fuck'em all! This is a good opener proper with a great rhythm but it's not gonna be a booty-shaker at the club.

3) Genocide (Feat. Kendrick Lamarr, Marsha Ambrosius and Candice Pillay) - This one sounds like the G-Funk of yore with more modern sounds. Don't be surprised to hear it as the soundtrack to a future Grand Theft Auto game, Some great music, all keyboards with a haunting descending bass-line.

4) It's All On Me (feat. Justus and BJ The Chicago Kid) - Talking about the old days of parties (dealers over-tipping, bitches stripping) and the occasional bout of police brutality, after lamenting modern issues such as record company bollocks and "baby momma trauma"...quite a reflective song. A short song too, peetering out with a piano run.

5) All In A Day's Work (feat. Anderson, Paak and Masha Ambrosius) - group female back-ups are a common theme on this one. Talking about when rappers had more need for guns than a stylist. Also commenting on the current rappers who get all showbiz once they get a reality TV show. Surely this isn't about Kuntye West and his Hobbit of a wife? Mind, twenty years ago it was all about hating the so-called "studio gangsters". A haunting melody which sounds like a squeezebox or something over the standard type of G-Funk rhythms. Nice hi-hat outro too.

6) Darkside/Gone (feat. Kendrick Lamarr, Marsha Ambrosius and King Mez) - This ain't no motherfuckin' game! Fast paced rapping in this one and also a shout out to...Eazy-E! It even contains a sample of a line he said on a Julio G recording called Westside Radio. It's a nice show of respect as they had a bit of a beef for a while. Tinkly pianos and superb female vocals in the chorus.

7) Loose Cannons (feat. Xibit, COLD187um & Sly Piper) - Starts off with a slow opening before picking up a steady flow, the mood darkens when COLD187um steps up. and gets darker still when Xibit comes into it! It's possible this is one song which started off as three different songs that went nowhere so they experimented and decided they sounded better when combined. The sample which details an attempted suicide that turns into a homicide is mental! Soft but abrupt outro...

8) Issues (feat. Ice Cube, Anderson Paak and Dem Jointz) - Ice Cube is in the house! The man who went from FUCK THE POLICE to making family films makes an appearence with a rhyme or two. Doubt we'll hear from MC Ren or DJ Yella though. This one is a bit rough musically, not as free-flowing as the previous songs. Still not bad though. Bit more of a desolate feel to it though.

9) Deep Water (feat. Kendrick Lamarr, Justus and Anderson Paak) - Where's a lifeguard when you need one? As the last track, this one is harsh in a musical sense and the rhymes are scatter-gunned all over the place. I cannot really describe the vibe to this one, nice trumpet melody though.

10) One Shot One Kill (performed by Jon Connor and feat. Snoop Dogg) - Jarring guitar opening and a funky beat. Snoop Dogg is finally rapping on a record that's as good as The Chronic and Doggystyle. It's been a while. This is a fucking belter song, possibly because things had started to settle into a routine musically, this keeps it all fresh. Name-checks Toni Braxton as well.

11) Just Another Day (performed by The Game and featuring Aisa Bryant) - big beats and keyboard melody, we're back into the G-Funk traditions. Great female back-ups too.

12) For The Love Of Money (feat. Jill Scott, Jon Connor and Anderson Paak) - Group female vocals interwined with female back-ups soon give way to more vicious raps. Nice guitar lick in the middle of the song.

13) Satisfiction (feat. Snoop Dogg, Marsha Ambrosius and King Mez) - Basically making a point that having everything is not quite all that. Another good rap by his Royal Snoopness. The female back-ups on this are quite scary too. Like the thoughts of someone with regrets all over their brain. More great music though.

14) Animals (feat. Anderson Paak) - More G-Funk amid some raps about standing up for oneself. The chorus for this one is sang very soulfully whilst the raps themselves are quite harsh. Well, the song is saying about how certain parties only want to see what they want to see. It's a good song.

15) Medicine Man (feat. Eminem, Candice Phillay and Anderson Paak) - Rolling beats and sparse music, very good! Nice to hear Eminem again. The female vocals sound sweet even though they're spouting some stuff which sounds nasty! I'd talk about them more but Eminem is the star here. I've not heard the guy since "Relapse" and I can't remember what that was like. Mind, the guy is on fire here, sounding as pissed off as he used to get back in the day.

16) Talking To My Diary - The only song without guest appearences, yet it has a few writers attatched to it. This is no surprise as Dr Dre has mostly been about the music and production, any raps he did, other writers had a hand in them, which is fair enough. He also does another shout-out to Eazy-E as well as mentioning MC Ren and DJ Yella. Defintely the sound of a man who is going over past events and lamenting certain aspects of them, The music is a great bassline and trumpet over some smooth beats. The trumpet is a great sound on this.

The only problem I had with this album is that it's at least six tracks too long. Things tend to sound a bit samey after a while which dilutes the overall impact and reduces the score by at least one point. There are other albums out there that are guilty of the same thing so it's not an isolated incident. However...it's definately a great album. Sounding like the past, present and future of hip-hop at the same. Talking about how rappers once had substance to their art before it became all about style, back when rappers had game instead of a 'brand' to think about. Back when their music was about real life experiences such as everyday life, be it scraping enough to get by or detailing police brutality or the fact that most of their friends are dead before they've had a chance to enjoy the fruits of the gangsta lifestyle. Now it's all (to quote 'Family Guy')  WALK INTO THE CLUB, PARTY AT THE CLUB, EMPHASISING "CLUB" etc. I guess that's what happens when things get watered down. But, back to the topic at hand, yeah, this is a good album.

8 - Oh you have my attention, and maybe my money, time and heart.

Chris J.

Top Track: Medicine Man.

Sadly, this album isn't on Spotify. It's on iTunes though. It might be on Tidal and Deezer, but I wouldn't know as I don't have these. If someone could check and let me know, I'll edit this review. Thanks.


(Must be clampdowns happening, took a while to even find THIS!)

Bachar Mar-Khalifé - Ya Balad

Bachar Mar-Khalifé is an artist that I have only discovered through my usual game of cover roulette; that image is quite stark image which was took by acclaimed photographer Lee Jeffries, which has been described on the Infiné Records website as follows - his images also refer to the sacred. In the representation of the passion, joyful suffering - but to me it seems to show a man who is in pain and with the title translating to 'Oh Country'.  Bachar Mar-Khalifé was born in 1983 in Beirut, in Lebanon, he is described as Franco-Lebanese after he moved to France aged six as a refugee.  Now this album is sung mainly in Arabic and I have not been able to find a website with the lyrics, so I cannot go into details about the lyrics sadly - but I am still intrigued about how this album sounds...

“Kyrie Eleison” starts this album with a vocal repetitive serious of words and is joined by a gentle piano, I will not lie and say I understand what is being sung but I love the tone to the vocals and the passion in the voice as well.  Halfway through there is an uplifting keyboard section added and Bachar sounds as if he is shouting out in wonder and joy.  It is hard not to be uplifted by this and the ending which has a church organ sound as the song reaches a dramatic conclusion. “Balcoon” is second song which has electronic drums, bass, keyboards and it sounds like a guitar as well in the background.   It is gentle and relaxing to me, it has a trip-hop vibration to the music and it brings to mind sunshine and chilling times I have experienced in my life.  The song itself might have a totally different meaning, but it is bring a warm glow to my heart.  "Lemon" follows on from and this is a song that has a Mediterranean feeling, I am hearing shades of North Africa, Middle-Eastern influences in the song and it is a song that brings joy in my heart. It is one of those song that is very infectious and has been bringing a smile to my face ever since I heard it.  It goes round in a loop and gets under your skin, sticks in your mind and sounds as if it should have always existed in my life.

The fourth song is called "Layla" and this was the first song on the album that I played to Mrs Carter and she actually stopped still and looks on in awe, usually she looks a little confused by what I play but she was instantly impressed by the music on this song.  It is a start off with soulful beginning, beautiful keyboards, gentle percussion and a brilliant bass performance which underpins everything.  Then the tempo changes and it takes it up another level, everything has been infused with a new layer of energy which is then taken away as the piano and vocals end this beautiful number.  Following on is the haunting song called "Yalla Tnam Nada" which features Golshifteh Farahani, it is a slower song and the drums are used to emphasise certain sections of the song, the piano is very hidden and the vocals are given the time to shine.  It took a while to sink in, but it comes at you in a different way; but it is a song that gives more with each listen, each listen is a little more rewarding.  "Wolf Pack" follows on and this track is full of energy and noise, the instruments are all given time to shine as everything starts to loop around and it moves in a way that sounds as familiar to me as Aphex Twin.  It has some really aggressive moments in the song, well maybe the word aggressive is wrong - forceful might be better.  Either way it is has shades and depths to the music which take the listener on a journey, once more I am in love with the music of this fine man and it sings to me in ways that other artists cannot.  Next is the title track "Ya Balad" and we already know this translates to "Oh Country" - it has a haunted tone to the music and if the lyrics translate to the photo then there might be a shade of regret, wishing and longing mixed into this music.  Whatever is being said, parts of the song sound like pain being derived from the heart and the passion is there to see and you do not need to speak the same language to hear someone singing in pain - just a hauntingly beautiful song.

"Madonna" starts with a vocal which is almost a whisper as some gentle piano repeats in the background. There is offerings of praise in this number as the mixture of musical styles come into the song.  The name suggests links to religion and the hallelujahs also give a feel of offering, again I am just surmising here and I do not wish to offend if my thoughts are wrong.  It is a piece which has passion driving through it and it is an interesting piece. "Laya Yabnaya" is brought into the world with vocals and percussion, building around a simple pattern that adds more percussion as the song slowly builds up with other instruments being added at slow intervals as the drone nature of the song is given a chance to open up to the audience.  It drifts backwards to the drums and vocals only every now and then which adds a shade of the night to this which I find beautiful.  It is a stunning song that has been haunting my dreams recently and is a very close second behind "Lemon" for song of the album.  The penultimate number is called "EII3" which starts with piano and an accordion (I am hoping it is one of those, my ears have been through so much recently), it is a short interlude which sounds incredibly lonesome and thoughtful.  It is also one of the few tracks of the album which is not a perfect length and could have been given a little bit more time, but it is always best to leave the audience wanting more.  Ending the album is Dors Mon gâs which sounds like a lullaby with an added sense of unease to part of the music, some of the piano sounds sinister in places as if there is a deliberate part of the song which is showing the world that something still needs to be discussed or resolved.  It ends the album on a thought provoking number and still keeps my interest going on this album.

I might not be able to speak the same language as Bachar Mar-Khalifé or have shared life experiences as this man has been forced to live through, but this album is a work which is something that has introduced me to his world.  It is also an album that is still evolving in my mind and with each listen it takes a new form in my mind’s eye, with each spin of the record I am finding notes and passages that do not need words to gain a reaction from me.  I do hope that one day I get to read a translation of the words, I would never want to hear them in another language as they sound beautiful as they are now; this album truly moves me and it is another great record from 2015.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track - Lemon

You can purchase Ya Balad on Amazon here

You can visit the Bachar Mar-Khalifé artist page on InFin
é Records here

You can follow the activities of Bachar Mar-Khalifé on Facebook here

You can stream Ya Balad on Spotify here

You can stream Ya Balad on Deezer here

You can stream Ya Balad on Tidal here

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