The Game launched himself into a seemingly impossible situation with the release of his new album.
Not only did the Compton legend give everyone two albums in an era when attention spans can barely handle a single body of work, they’re titled The Documentary 2 and 2.5. Even a quick glance at hip-hop history reveals how tough it is in hip-hop to match the level of a classic album, especially when it's been a decade since the original and the artist is in a whole different mind-state.
So, what drove Jayceon to not only attempt to follow up a classic, but do it over the course of two albums?
In his documentary, The Game cites that he’s been working on The Documentary 2 for at least two years. To provide evidence of this time table, we see countless studio sessions throughout the 50 minutes that feature artists who didn’t make either album: Keyshia Cole, Trey Songz, Jason Derulo and more. It almost feels like this doc is meant to tease fans for everything they didn’t get. Game himself claims he crafted 700 songs during the recording process. Who knows how accurate that is, but he definitely has material stashed away, and I've heard some of it.
Just a few months ago, I was in the studio with Cool (or Cool & Dre) and one of Game’s A&Rs who played an unreleased record that isn’t on either of the albums. It had a reference hook of Game doing his best Fetty Wap impression, but the verses were monstrous. In the age of “give me more,” Game could continue to ride off these songs without having to make anything new for at least a year if he wanted, but that almost makes his insistence on making Documentary 2 more confusing.
For as much buzz, hype, anticipation and nervousness as there has been since the title was revealed, Game didn’t go into recording thinking that this would wind up as The Documentary 2. Unlike some sequels, he stumbled into it through a feeling.
“The crazy thing is I wasn’t going to call this The Documentary 2,” Game says in his documentary. “Once I started the recording process and really filter out the music, it started to feel the way music was feeling when I was in the studio with Dr. Dre on my first album. I was in the studio with Dre on this album and it just had the same feel.”
“I talked to Stat and Dre,” he continued. “They told me not to call the album The Documentary 2, because I was setting myself up for failure since that album was such a huge classic. Calling it that was going to be crazy.”
It's not a particularly complete or logical answer, but when you think about it, The Game has built his whole career on the unpredictable and seemingly "crazy." He’s never stood down from a beef or name dropping in his rhymes. Anybody else doing the things he’s done would’ve been finished years ago, but Game came up through the powerhouse of Aftermath and Dr. Dre. Where everyone else didn’t get a shot, he made sure he was getting his by being hot in the streets with a slew of tapes. I tend to associate the term crazy with his career a lot whether I’m referring to his actions or his lyrics.
During an interview with Power 106 earlier this year, The Game made a bold -- dare we say, crazy -- statement regarding his first album. “I listen to my first album and everybody thinks it’s so amazing, but I think I’m better than that,” he said. “I listen to it and I hear all the flaws in the young me, and I’m like, ‘Man, I would’ve never did this song like that today.”
The Game does illustrate this point on The Documentary 2.5. He identified what he believes are flaws and remakes in a style that matches his mentality in 2015. The album feels like a re-introduction to who he was and who he is now. Records like “From Adam” and “The Ghetto” would’ve fit into his debut album nicely as both showcase parts of his life and upbringing. If anything, Doc 2.5 feels like a continuation and even includes “Like Father, Like Son 2,” updating on his two sons and further building on a strong collaborative relationship with Busta Rhymes.
As for why The Game decided on a double album, we can take a glimpse into the past for his reasoning. Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G, two of his favorites, made double albums, and, simply, he wanted the chance to add that accomplishment to his resume.
Through Instagram, he wrote: “In a world where labels punk artists to keep their albums down to 10-12 songs, I don't give a fuck because 2 of my favorite artists 2Pac & Notorious B.I.G. put out dope double albums. I figured 10 years into an iconic career I'd give my fans the opportunity to have one from me.”
Double albums worked better in the ‘90s. That’s a fact, because the internet didn’t play such a huge role into hip-hop. If you put out two discs worth of material it would last years, but now it doesn’t last days. An artist can release an album and fans will still ask for more music in the weeks and months to come. Are we too spoiled, or is it that a lot of double albums don’t hold up in quality? Probably a little bit of both.
For those reasons, The Documentary 2 was kind of doomed from the start. The 38 songs found on both discs could’ve been scaled down to one album, which only contained the very best of his album-worthy cuts. But it’s not a question of whether or not the quality is great. Millenials don't appreciate the art of delivering a double album, and the jury's still out on whether Game delivered a double-album worth the length.
Sure, we’ll listen, but will it hold up as the next wave of new albums drop? Will it live on in hip-hop conversations like the original Documentary? And if it doesn't, who's to blame? The audience, or the man who decided to play the classic album sequel game in the first place?