Maybe the most anticipated album of 2015 will be released on Friday, “Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre” (iTunes/Apple Music), featuring Eminem, Ice Cube, Kendrick Lamar and other established big names. But the album also features a half-dozen new acts -- including King Mez (Morris Wayne Ricks II), a 25-year-old Raleigh native.
It’s a big breakthrough for Mez, who left Raleigh last year to seek his fortune in Los Angeles. Thomas “Big Pooh” Jones from local hip-hop stars Little Brother provided introductions that led Mez to the studio of Dr. Dre (Andre Young), founding member of the iconic West Coast gangsta-rap group N.W.A.
“They brought me into the studio to write rhymes for Dre and liked what I was doing, so they said to stick around,” Mez said by phone from Los Angeles. “Eleven months later, I’m still here.”
Mez appears on three “Compton” tracks, “Talk About It,” “Darkside/Gone” and “Satisfiction,” opposite Lamar, Snoop Dogg and Floetry’s Marsha Ambrosius. The album accompanies the upcoming N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton,” and it’s Dre’s first record under his own name since 1999’s “2001.”
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Perhaps not coincidentally, Mez has some personal history with “2001” going back to his own childhood.
“It was the first CD I ever bought with my own money,” Mez said. “Funny how things happen. I was listening to Dre and Snoop and all these people, and I wrote Snoop’s verse on this. It’s an honor to be a part of it.
“Dre is somebody I’ve always looked up to,” he added. “Maybe the biggest ever from both an artistic and business standpoint. There won’t be another like him. I tell him all the time, I feel like I’m a younger him. I hope it plays out like that.”
After “Compton” debuts, Mez’s next order of business with be his own music. A mini-album is in the works, to be followed by his first “official” full-length album -- after four underground mix-tape releases (the most recent being 2014’s “Long Live the King”).
“I’ve never actually sold any music, and I feel like selling it differentiates it,” Mez said. “It’s exciting to come off a big platform like this where I have the ears of a lot of people. There are some important things I want to say, heavily oriented about love, man. Love of God, for sure, getting people to love themselves and be thankful for what they have and their situation.”
“Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre” can be ordered here starting at midnight Thursday.