Game - Jesus Piece

Posted January 10, 2013
Tags: The Game,

West Coast phenom Game takes fans to church with the release of his fifth studio album via DGC/Interscope. Heralded by lead single "Celebration," bonus track "Holy Water" and non-single song release "Hallelujah," Jesus Piece is available in two versions, a standard edition containing 12 tracks and a deluxe edition featuring three bonus cuts.

A panoply of notable artists make guest appearances throughout the set, among them 2 Chainz, Big Sean, J. Cole, Jamie Foxx, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and Wiz Khalifa. Producers include Cool & Dre, Jake One and Sap.

Jesus Piece Album Review

Game is the Dennis Rodman of hip-hop. And before you start screaming “shots fired!”, allow me to explain. Like most people, when I think of Rodman the first thing that comes to mind is his headline-generating behavior. But if you can manage to forget, for a moment, about Rodman’s tumultuous public life and focus strictly on his on-the-court performance, the raw numbers, it becomes immediately clear that he belongs among basketball’s elite. We’re talking five championship rings, two-time Defensive Player of the Year and the most rebounds per game of any player in NBA history. Ever. Goddamn – I don’t think most people realize Rodman was really that good, but he was.

Similarly, when I think of Game the first thing that comes to mind isn’t the music, it’s the headlines, the beefs with a new rapper every other week, the legal troubles. But then I start looking at the man’s resume. We’re talking a career that’s now almost a decade long. That’s a lifetime in rap years. We’re talking multiple platinum albums, including at least one classic (or near-classic). It can be hard to just focus on the music when Game sometimes seems so focused on everything but the music himself, but by any measure, his career really has been that good. So while I’ll admit that I’m a little surprised that his latest album, Jesus Piece, is dope at best and solid at worst, I really shouldn’t be. After all, it was only a year ago when his R.E.D. Album looked shaky in the lead-up to its release, then turned out to be one of the year’s best. Jesus Piece certainly isn’t his best album, but if it ends up being his worst, then Jayceon’s doing pretty damn good for himself.

The downside to Jesus Piece is that it often feels like it lacks a strong identity, an effect only accentuated by a guest feature list that’s longer than his arrest record. Take the album’s two biggest singles, Celebration and Lady, for example, both on their own merits, catchy and well crafted tracks. But both also rely on samples - Bone Thugs’ 1st of Tha Month and D’Angelo’s You’re My Lady, respectively - so prominent they almost feel like covers, and four (four!) guests on each track. These are good songs, but they don’t feel like good Game songs. And even when Game plays a larger part in his own tracks, he often makes so many other references and adopts so many other styles. For example, on Ali Bomaye’s second verse you can hear him consciously or unconsciously (it’s hard to tell) adopting Meek Mill’s flow. Or on title track Jesus Piece, a cut obviously inspired by Kanye…so inspired that Game even references Kanye repeatedly (“huh?!”).

But at the same time, that beat on Ali Bomaye is absolutely a beast, and on the whole it’s just one of those songs that demands some serious head nodding. Similarly, especially considering Common’s verse, Jesus Piece has to be considered dope. And as long as we’re being positive, Pray is a good reminder of just how fearlessly lyrical Game can be when he decides to really go for it, an effect that’s echoed on the Kendrick Lamar-assisted See No Evil. (Remember, Game gave Kendrick his first spot on a major label album.) And it’s hard not to respect Game for a track like Hallelujah. This is some of that real street gospel.

In other words, my feelings on Jesus Piece are complicated. On one hand there are too many guest features, on the other some of those guest features are excellent. On one hand the album’s sound sounds like an amalgamation of other rappers, on the other it’s kind of dope Game is versatile enough to incorporate any influence he wants to. There are no easy answers here, but Game has never been simple, never given us easy answers. He’s always been one of rap’s most complicated figures: too intelligent to dismiss as “ignorant”, to prone to outbursts to only appreciate for his artistry. Hip-hop just doesn’t make many rappers like Game. In fact, I can only think of one basketball player who even comes close, and I don’t think Game will ever fall apart like Rodman did. But while the world tries to figure him out, it looks like Jayceon Taylor is just going to continue making quality albums.

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted January 10, 2013
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