I've been in a relationship with The Game('s music) for more than a decade now, since I listened to his 2005 debut album, Documentary, like it was the second coming of both NWA and 50 Cent. But like any longterm relationship, that original rush of adrenaline has long since worn off and we've fallen into a predictable pattern. Here's how it goes.
I play Game's new album, I like Game's new album. Then the months roll by and I see headline after headline about how Game has beef with seemingly every rapper, producer, reality TV show star, model, waiter and paleontologist alive. Those beef keeps coming and I keep ignoring them until I've almost forgotten that I ever liked Game's music at all. Then his new album drops, I listen with low expectations, and I'm pleasantly surprised. Damn, how could I have forgotten that he can rap this well? How could I have doubted his ability to put together a quality album? Turns out I like the Game's new album. Then the month's roll by...
So guess what? Truth be told I've spent the last two years or so, since I was pleasantly surprised by how good his R.E.D. Album was, slowly but surely forgetting I like Game's music. But now that I'm about to press play on his Documentary 2 album I have to say, I'm excited. It feels insane to expect that the sequal will have the same impact as the original, both Game and the game are in such a different place than they were a decade ago, but I'm ready to be pleasantly surprised yet again.
So in the now long tradition of 1 Listen Reviews, I'm about to dive into this album without pausing or rewinding a single second of the music, this is just my pure, stream-of-consciousness, gut reaction to the album as it plays. Then I'll revisit the album in a few months when I can really measure its impact. Let's go....
Cars revving, music blasting, we're in a Compton parking lot. A shooting's about to go down. A shooting's gone down. I mean, it's an intro.
"On Me" (ft. Kendrick Lamar)
The "Intro" slides seamlessly into the next track, it's the little touches like this that matter. And oh shit, Erykah Badu samples? I'm in. Game's rapping about how he's known Kendrick for a long time, he really is hip-hop's most high frequency name dropper. And here comes K. Dot's verse. Did Game mention he's known K. Dot for a long time? He's known K. Dot for a long time. Anyway, more of a slow flow from Kendrick, smoothly enjoyable but not particularly impressive. No, wait, nevermind, he just closed the verse out with a sped up flow. I shouldn't have doubted him. Goddamn, Game just let Kendrick take over this track. I haven't been counting exactly, but I'm pretty sure that was a 4,719 bar guest verse. And even now that Game's back, it sounds like he's rapping on a TPAB beat. Oddly experimental and weirdly paced for a Game track, I'm gonna have to revisit this one a few times.
"Step Up" (ft. DeJ Loaf and Sha Sha)
Oh shit, and he just seamlessly transitioned into the next track as well. This is what I was talking about when I said I'm always surprised by how high quality his albums are, although I shouldn't be. This beat is ill, feels like a real return to more sample-based production. Oh great, now we're gonna have to read Beef With Chris Brown headlines after that line about Karrueche, not like Game's any stranger to provocation. So that's...Sha Sha on the hook and Dej Loaf on the outro? I honestly can't tell. Overall another very solid effort.
"Don't Trip" (ft. Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and will.i.am)
Ah, will.i.am, so good to see you reunited with your west coast gangster rap friends Game, Cube and Dre. Speaking of which, is that little spoken intro going to be Dre's only contribution? Kind of feels like a knockoff Neptunes beat. Oh, nope, here's Dre rapping again, on his aggressive shit. My brain says that I should be feeling this track, but my heart just doesn't. Maybe I'm just having an allergic reaction to will.i.am. He's like peanuts or shellfish or...gluten? Whatever it is people are allergic to these days. Anyway....
"Standing on Ferraris" (ft. Puff Daddy)
Whoa. Ten seconds in and I didn't expect a song featuring Puff with the word Ferrari in the title to sound anything like this. What's this sample? I know this, it's gonna drive me crazy. Yo!!!!!!!!! This is kind of infinite flames though. Just hanging back and vibing to this one, although this Puffy rant is kind of disappointing. I've grown to love insane Puffy rants, this is more like a...well measured, moderate Puffy rant. It's the O'Douls of Puffy rants. Remind me to talk about how his rant on "Holy Ghost" is an all-time great.
"Dollar and a Dream" (ft. Ab-Soul)
Once again this beat is incredible, the production on this album's been immaculate...minus "Don't Trip." And Game coming through with some great punchlines...oh shit, now that Lupe tweet makes sense. Fiasco must have listened to this album like seven seconds after it first leaked. Did Game just say that he was dealing crystal meth? You don't hear a lot of rap meth references. And here comes the Solo verse - damn, this is some of that classic Solo rap. Game's really trying to make sure the TDE demographic picks up this album. Dope song.
"Made in America" (ft. Marcus Black)
Enjoying myself so far, but knowing that I have more than ten tracks to go is feeling daunting. We really needed 19 tracks? But back to the matter at hand - another seamless transition! Another smooth sample! And he just name dropped Nas because of course he did. Why does every Game verse feel like he's reading the contacts on his phone? I'm being overly harsh, he's really rapping here, I dig it. Ha, and he just name dropped Mac Dre, Jacka, JT and Biggie in one line. Perfect timing. And he just name dropped 50 Cent. Turns out I wasn't being overly harsh at all.
"Hashtag" (ft. Jelly Roll)
Now this is some different shit, it sounds like Lil Jon getting crunk over a blues bass riff. This is Jelly Roll like...that fat white dude Jelly Roll? Or is there another Jelly Roll I don't know? I'm very confused right now. This may be amazing, or it may be terrible. This is the limit of a 1 Listen review. I guess...points added for going outside the box, but points deducted because I'm not sure what the point of leaving the box was. So we'll call it a draw, for now.
Game speaks Spanish like a middle age white guy on vacation in Cancun ordering quesadillas. That's the lesson I learned from this skit.
"Dedicated" (ft. Future and Sonyae)
This is some of that old school Future, when he was singing about romance instead of how much more he loves the lean than his family. Maybe it was recorded pre-Ciara breakup. That also means in the back of my head I'm expecting Drake to start rapping any minute. The beat's a big switch, far more modern radio synth than the sampled beats we've heard so far. Jesus, he just name dropped Future, Nicki Minaj and Meek Mill within the space of a few bars. He just can't help himself. It's an addiction. I'm feeling vaguely bored by this song right now if you couldn't tell. This might be a good time to put this on the speakers and run to the kitchen, re-up on salsa. Delicious, delicious, salsa...yep, definitely bored.
"Bitch You Ain't Shit"
I guess we've officially reached the songs-about-relationships middle stretch of the album. Can I count Game using that line from "Xplosive" as a name drop? A lot of raps about girls performing hygienically risky sexual manuevers. It's mostly just gross, and makes me miss Nate Dogg. Maybe he could have rescued it from mediocrity. I think I'm going to choose to pretend like this song never happened.
"Summertime" (ft. Jelly Roll)
Back to the sampled beats, this one has a Kanye type vibe (although that's the next song). Shout out to Uncle Greg whippin in the kitchen. Uncle Greg was the greatest. And this is...Jelly Roll again singing? This can't be the same guy I'm thinking of, or maybe I don't know the Jelly Roll I'm thinking about nearly as well as I think I do. Overall, a pretty vibin, chill track. I like it, but I bet it will end up as one of those songs that would have been left off a tighter album.
"Mula" (ft. Kanye West)
Jesus these reviews get exhausting around the track 14 mark, even with salsa reinforcements. I could really use some serious dopeness to get my energy back and...huh...maybe...this maybe could just be it. Oooohhhh.....it took a sec for this beat to get me, but now it's absolutely got me. Kanye back to singing hooks without Auto-Tune, please don't tell me all Ye is gonna do is the hook. Did he just rhyme "Uber" with "shooter"? I believe he did. Gangster rap in 2015 I guess. According to the track list Sevn Thomas also produced this. Well fuck, now I need to know who Sevn Thomas is. In my dreams we get a full Kanye verse here, but I'll take it.
"The Documentary 2"
Another sterling skit. No, looks like it was more like a completely unnecessary intro. And now the beat - I don't have to look at the credits to know this is Premier on the cuts, I know that style anywhere. I have to believe this got made the same time Premo was with Dre making Compton. Game started out by name dropping Dre because of course, but now he's off and running. Just realized my head is nodding. Tell you what, you just assume that he name drops like seven people per verse unless I say otherwise. Don't know why that's bothering me so much on this album. Larger point, this is something epic.
"New York, New York"
Just realized it's weird - for a completely L.A. rapper, most of the beats Game chooses to rap over aren't very "west coast" in the funk sense, musically he is a little more of an east coast sounding artist. Onto the rhymes, I'll give it to him, that was a dope Kanye-related punchline. The man can rap. Wait...what the fuck? That's it? He's just going to stop one of the best songs on the album so far? Why would you do that, Jayceon? WHY?!?!?!?!?!
"100" (ft. Drake)
I mean, of course he has Drake on a track. Of course. That vocal sample is crazy, and of course Drake comes through and delivers a catchy hook. Of course. I mean...it's one of those songs where I completely get why it exists, but I'm not going to be listening to it on my own time. Drizzy sounding very Big Sean-ish on this verse - ghostwriter alert! (I'm joking, kind of.) So...many...name...drops...from...Game. If this wasn't the 17th track on a 19-track album I might be able to relax and enjoy it more, but right now? I'm honestly just praying it will end soon. You know what guys, let's not let the beat ride. Let's just not this time.
"Just Another Day"
I'm starting to get outright salty about the length of this album. Four seconds in and I already know it's going to be a waste of time. Can we just call this song Game Name Drops Everyone in the NBA. Individually all these components should work, beat is nice, hook is nice, rhymes are nice, but they just weren't combined correctly. It's like mayonnaise and chocolate syrup.
"LA" (ft. Snoop Dogg, will.i.am and Fergie)
No. Please God. Don't do this to me, not now. Didn't Fergie get a GRAMMY for being one of like 49 people who wrote on Kanye's "All the Lights"? I'm pretty sure that's a true fact. Instead of listening to this song I'm killing time trying to remember rap trivia. Listen, I'm sure the fact that I've been typing without stopping for over an hour now isn't helping, but I'm still pretty sure even under the best circumstances this song would be trash. Nope, you can't pull out a beat switch this deep in and expect me to forgive you for making me listen to Fergie and will.don't-spell-my-name-with-any-capital-letters.i.am.
I don't want to say I called it, but I called it. That album played out exactly how I thought it would. It could have been five tracks shorter, but overall that was a very high quality album, Game came through. Still, I know I'll probably slowly but surely forget about this album too, because I don't really know who Game is as an artist anymore. He's a master collaborator, his albums always have every producer and guest verse you could hope for, but who is he? What is he trying to say with these albums other than "listen to me"? For years Game has been hovering in this rare middle ground, too good to ever really fade out, not good enough to truly be in the upper echelon, and maybe there's nothing wrong with that. If he comes through every two years or so with a dope album, what complaints could I possibly have?
The name dropping really does need to stop though...
Pre-OrderThe Documentary 2, available October 9 on iTunes via Blood Money/eOne.
[By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]