Stunning how much not being Eminem does for collaborating with Dre…
Jonathan Bogart: Just Blaze does a pretty good Dre-circa-’94 impression in the production, but of course the most vivid (and least convincing) Dre pastiche comes from the doctor himself. Kendrick Lamar was born the year that N.W.A.’s first record was released, so it’s hardly surprising that he runs this edition of it — it’s been drilled into all our heads for decades that it’s a young man’s game. What’s more surprising is how generous he is with his elders.
Anthony Easton: Are they making an argument about gangsta rap as an act of verisimilitudinous reporting and civic pride? Because I always thought it was more about rhetorical excess and refusal of an imported social contract?
Alfred Soto: Dunno what Lamar needs Dre and Blaze for except as insurance: he’s an up and comer because they worked on a track.
Colin Small: Just Blaze has been producing long enough to refine his production style to point: it’s always the same, but it always moves. The track is all bitter-sweet tension, stretched horns and awkwardly graceful verses always coming to glorious choral resolution. Dre raps Kendrick-written lines much more effectively than on “The Recipe”, and even sounds like he finally has a heart to call his own. It’s not as complete or sui generis as “Cartoon and Cereal” and its a little obtuse for a stand-alone, but if you’re from Compton, I’m sure this is heaven. Hell, I’ve never been to Compton and it’s already pretty great.
Iain Forrester: The production is rich and dramatic, not least the neat twist it takes at the end. Kendrick sounds much more comfortable over it and is a better city guide than Dre and his headphones, but the way they alternate keeps the momentum up.
Brad Shoup: Good on Dr. Dre, not even pretending the lead artist isn’t writing his lines. The first Dre verse is all Kendrick, the second sounds like late-period Jigga. Just Blaze is Just Blaze, forever and ever: the loping, horn-heavy sample occasionally resolving into a fist-tight break. The sonically explicit Cali tribute — that talkboxed funk — is used as a graceful coda, rather than the meat of the piece. And there’s something really affecting about Kendrick etching his name all over the place, as well as the endless hawking of Dre’s industry rap sheet.