AFP

NEW YORK

Dr Dre has become one of music’s richest entrepreneurs but on the work he has declared as his grand finale, the rap legend vows never to forget his street roots.

Capping one of the biggest waits in rap history, Dr. Dre late Thursday put out his first album in 16 years, timed one week before the release of the biopic ‘Straight Outta Compton’ about his former band, gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A. ‘Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre’ offers a wistful look back at the now 50-year-old’s upbringing in the Los Angeles County city long synonymous with gang violence.

While in time-tested hip-hop fashion the album’s lyrics are full of bloodshed and boasting, Dr. Dre’s tone is striking for coming off not as angry but inspirational. ‘I’m strong - financially, physically / Mentally I’m on a whole ‘nother level / And don’t forget that I came from the ghetto,’ he raps on the introspective ‘Talking to My Diary,’ the closer of the album and perhaps his recording career. Dr. Dre, whose real name is Andre Romelle Young, was instrumental in creating the sound of N.W.A. The group stunned much of white America in 1988 with ‘Fuck tha Police,’ an unapologetic indictment of officers’ treatment of young African Americans. After massive success as a solo artist and producer, Dr. Dre headed Beats, an equally dominant company of headphones and other audio products. Apple last year bought Beats and brought Dr. Dre into its fold in a $3 billion deal. Dr. Dre, who released the album first on the new Apple Music streaming platform, has pledged to donate all his royalties to build a performing arts center in Compton.

Dr. Dre’s net worth is estimated by Forbes at $700 million.

Or as he puts it in his first lines on the album: ‘I just bought California / Them other states ain’t far behind it either.’ ‘Compton’ marks a wider musical exploration for Dr. Dre beyond the turntable-driven hip-hop early in his career. The album features powerful performances by Baltimore trumpeter Dontae Winslow, who closes out the album with brassy strength.

Dr. Dre drives into hard-edged funk on tracks such as ‘One Shot, One Kill’ and ‘Genocide.’ The Death Row Records co-founder also brings out an all-star cast of collaborators for the album including his proteges Eminem and Snoop Dogg and N.W.A. bandmate Ice Cube. Also appearing in a brief, posthumous snippet is Eazy-E, the original N.W.A. frontman who died in 1995 from complications of AIDS.

‘I know Eazy can see me now, looking down through the clouds,’ Dr. Dre says in one of many references to his once estranged bandmate. Dr. Dre also taps younger artists including the relatively unknown LA rapper Anderson .Paak, British soul singer Marsha Ambrosius, and especially 28-year-old hip-hop sensation Kendrick Lamar, who also hails from Compton.

Eminem, in ‘Medicine Man,’ shows off his reputation as the quickest-tongued of rappers. But Eminem also makes a crude comment about sexual assault - an indirect reminder that Dr. Dre, despite his commercial success, has faced accusations of violence against women.

Dr. Dre has only released two previous solo albums: the blockbuster 1992 work ‘The Chronic’ and ‘2001,’ which, despite its name, came out in 1999. He had long been reported to be working on an album called ‘Detox’ but recently revealed he had shelved the project, admitting to himself that the quality was subpar. By contrast, Dr. Dre said that songs came to him quickly for ‘Compton’ as he returned to sites to shoot the movie.