Throughout his career The Game has experienced many ups, downs, label changes, album delays and famously survived a countless amount of beefs. Since his debut ‘The Documentary’ dropped ten years ago, he has gone from the lone representative of the west coast to an elder statesman of sorts, providing mentorship for the “new” west. He, along with Snoop, and Dr. Dre handed the crown to Kendrick Lamar in 2012, it made perfect sense because Game gave him one of his earliest opportunities on a Black Wall Street mixtape almost a decade ago. He also would go on to take Nipsey Hussle and Jay Rock on a national tour and introduced the world to Glasses Malone. In a way he has been very instrumental in bringing the west back to the forefront, more so than he my ever receives credit for.
After releasing his first 5 solo albums with Interscope he’s now an independent artist recording under his own imprint, Blood Money Entertainment. The fact that he’s made it this long is a feat in itself, he waged war on his former crew (G-Unit) and its leader (50 Cent) less than 6 months into his career. The probability of him still being here, and relevant once seemed astronomical. After raging against the machine and its biggest star, it cost him a working relationship with his one time mentor Dr Dre, (whom he would reunite with during the recording of 2011’s RED Album) the once platinum G Unit stamp, and support from Interscope. In ways his sophomore album ‘Doctor’s Advocate’ saved his career. Recorded with no financial help from his label, coaching from Dre or assistance from 50, the end result was a solid body of work and Games personal favorite album of his discography. It would go on to debut at #1 and be certified platinum, meanwhile eclipsing sophomore releases from Young Buck and Lloyd Banks.
When news broke that there would be a sequel to his classic debut, blogs ate it up. A release date of January 18th was selected, exactly 10 years to the day of its predecessor. Much like his last few releases it would see several delays, finally getting a release date for September 25th which was subsequently changed to October 9th. In true Game fashion, he surprised fans while on Hot97’s ‘Ebro In The Morning’ with news that it would be a pseudo double album, with 2 separate albums being released in consecutive weeks, all was forgiven and the anticipation once again rose to the level of his Interscope days.
The album starts off with a star studded cast for the first 5 tracks, beginning with “On Me” featuring Kendrick Lamar. Going back and forth on an Erykah Badu sample (“On & On”), the end result while solid, doesn’t quite live up to their previous collaborations on the last 2 Game albums (“The City” and “See No Evil”) but a pretty good start none the less. The following track, is the unimpressive “Step Up” rehashes a sample used by both Gang Starr and 2Pac respectively, the bridge from Brandy’s “I Wanna Be Down” and features a rant-like chant from Dej Loaf. On paper “Don’t Trip” looks like something special, featuring two of the Godfathers of gangsta rap in Dr Dre and Ice Cube. Though it ends up being pretty bland, mostly because of Will.i.am’s production, which is more or less a lazy rendition of Digable Planets “Return Of Slick” slightly sped up. East meets west on “Standing On Ferraris”, where once again a hip-hop classic is sampled, in this case Notorious BIG’s “Kick In The Door”. While he rides a Christopher Wallace-like flow throughout the song, it doesn’t live up to its predecessor in the least bit, not that I expected it to.
Five tracks in, it looks as if this will be a sample heavy, compilation of sorts. While none of the opening tracks are completely terrible, none of them live up to expectations. “Dollar And A Dream” finds Chuck trading bars with TDE’s Ab-Soul over an amazing track by longtime collaborators, Cool & Dre. Soul pays homage to Game for his contributions to him and his peer career before it effortlessly transitions into “Made In America” featuring Mvrcus Black on the intro, a soulful hook over a piano laced Bongo produced track. It may have taken a few tracks but it seems like Game finds his comfort zone in the self reflective tracks he’s become known for since his debut. But just as soon as the album is on the up and up comes the totally unnecessary “Hashtag” featuring Jelly Roll channeling his inner Lil Jon screaming throughout before finally settling down towards the end of the song. While Game’s verse is pretty good over an electric guitar and not actual beat it isn’t enough to save the song from mediocrity, fortunately its clocks in at barley 3 minutes.
Female directed tracks have become the norm in hip-hop as a whole, and Game’s albums have included at least one person. While he’s struck gold with Doctors Advocate’s “All Around The World” (featuring Jamie Foxx), RED Album’s “Hello” (featuring Lloyd) and most recently Jesus Piece’s “All That” he’s had his share of misses in the department as well. “Circles” for the most part falls into the latter group. After a ‘Love & Hip Hop’-like argument for the first 3 minutes of the track Q-Tip more or less, saves the day after a beat switch and a dope verse. Staying in the same lane, “Dedicated” finds Game speaking honestly about his recent breakup with former fiance Tiffany Cambridge. Joined by one of the hottest artists of the moment, Future on the hook makes for a very good song with some single potential despite a slower pace than usual. “Bitch You Ain’t Shit” is a lighthearted jab at the Instagram models of the day, with a hook perfectly suited for the late great, Nate Dogg. The production sounds like something that could’ve been used on the orginal ‘Documentary’.
Mike Will-Made It shows off his versatility on “Summertime”, the piano laced slow p track sounds like something the RZA would’ve made in the mid 90’s. Jelly Roll redeems himself on the hook as well, Game spits 2 dope verses in a calmer tone than normal but it works out perfectly. While we may not see ‘SWISH’ anytime this year, Kanye West appears on “Mula” for hook duties, on a track he also co-produced. It’s a little Travis Scott-ish, but it’s entertaining and Game is shedding light on the extent of his 10+ year working relationship with Ye, dating back to when they were both unsigned is refreshing. DJ Premier and the only production credit for Dr Dre powers “Documentary 2”, as one of the brighter spots on disc 1. Channelling the time table he started with 2005’s “No More Fun And Games”, he once again uses the final verse to break down how long he’s been rapping down to the year, month and the day before referencing the Wu-Tang Clan, Ja Rule and even MC Hammer. “New York, New York” is a politically driven record in the vein of ‘Year Of The Wolf’s “The Purge”. It’s a very well put together track that features an intro from some of NYC’s most legendary DJs. The only drawback is that the song is very short, knowing Game he could’ve went on for a couple hundred bars.
“100” was the first official single from the album, released at the beginning of the summer with an accompanying video that finds Game welcoming Drake to his Compton neighborhood alongside both real gang members and the children of the community. Johnny Juliano and Cardo production bring back memories of Heatmakerz circa ‘Diplomatic Immunity’. The song never quite became a hit, but it was met with good reviews and ends up being a dope record. While the spirit of Nate Dogg is still fresh on the mind, “Just Another Day” samples their first collaboration (“Where I’m From”) from ‘The Documentary’, once again taking time out to pay homage to Eric “Eazy E” Wright. This would’ve made a perfect ending, but as usual, he had to make yet another dedication to his hometown. “LA” is a pretty good track, but doesn’t live up to the momentum built by the previous 6 tracks. Snoop Dogg’s verse that sounds like every verse he’s spit for the past 20 years, be it good or bad, Will.i.am even gets a verse, that adds absolutely nothing to the track. His work on the hook along with fellow Black Eyed Peas member Fergie, is pretty mediocre as well. The final beat switch, a great 24 bar verse from Game saves the song from being completely skip worthy, and a Bump J reference puts his career in perspective. He’s been around and one of the better rappers for a decade, in ways he’s flown under the radar to an extent. Even though he’s always had a way to generate publicity, the greatness of his discography has been widely overlooked even as he’s outlasted almost all of his peers that debuted in 2004-06.
Overall disc 1 has much more good than bad, solid production and just an overall group of genuinely good songs. The drawbacks include some of the most anticipated collaborations not exactly living up to expectations. The first few tracks are more or less remakes of other songs with new verses by Game and friends. Some samples should be completely left alone, especially if you’re not gonna add to them at all. The skits are pretty random on here, it doesn’t really take away from the quality too much, but they could definitely been left off. Disc 1 ends up being a better version of ‘RED Album’, had it been somewhere between 12-14 tracks it would’ve been somewhere near the top of his discography.
Stating his reason for making double album was his own fandom of the BIG, 2Pac, and other greats who have attempted to make a classic double CD. To be completely honest, after disc 1 he’s in for quite the uphill battle. Once again, he has an all-star cast at his disposal. The opening track sort of continues where he left off on the former disc, speeding off with Mitchy Slick, but now he’s in the car with Sway discussing the origin of his beef with 50 Cent (before being interrupted by rival Crip gang members who eventually reappear towards the end of the album). That conflict became the catalyst to Game building some of his strongest alliances with others who weren’t seeing eye to eye with Curtis at the time.
Anderson Paak is featured on the first 2 tracks and he doesn’t disappoint “Magnus Carlsen” is a smooth traditional west coast type record, Game speaks on everything from the Charleston church shooter all the way to his own friends and loved ones to pass away in the past year, makes for a great opening track. “Crenshaw” pays homage to the infamous South Central strip. Gang culture plays the forefront in the majority of the disc, but not in a stereotypical way, Game sheds light on the duality, questioning the survival of young black men if the senseless violence continues in our community. After effortlessly bringing us into his world, “80’s & Cocaine” is the second part of the track, that brings back memories of 90s era gangsta rap, and while it’s only 1 verse it’s executed to perfection. The other half of TDE’s Black Hippy appears on “Gang Bang Anyway”, here Schoolboy Q is the voice of the Crips while Jay Rock speaks for the Bloods. Game verse is one of the best of his career, playing the neutral role while giving the back story to how the two notorious LA street gangs formed, from the political parties of the 60’s. Shedding light on the first Crip on Blood murder in 1972, a skit of it’s reenactment leads into “The Ghetto”, featuring legendary Queens MC, NaS. The chemistry of the two first became evident on ‘Doctor’s Advocate’ continues here with each spitting 2 verses about the parallels of life in the ghettos throughout the world. Just 4 tracks into disc 2, and it already feels like something special.
In the vein of “Start From Scratch”, the Cool & Dre produced “From Adam” finds Game drunk, near tears reminiscing about the loss of his eldest brother and friends throughout life. He also questions who was behind the shooting that nearly took his life in 2001. Lil Wayne provides a thought provoking chorus, contemplating if retaliation will lead to the demise of both sides of the war. Immediately followed by an equally memorable “Gang Related”, an introspective record about what lead him to becoming a member of Cedar Block Piru Bloods set. His allegiance in tow, the record ends with a voicemail from an OG, warning him to not end up like the late 2Pac. “When’s The Last Time You Seen” is Game’s chance to share his theories on the deaths of both Pac and Biggie. Orlando Anderson is blamed for the former, and the LAPD for the ladder. One of Pac’s last collaborations was with living legend Scarface, so it’s only fitting for him to share his last interaction, the track itself gave me goosebumps.
Fans of classic west coast hip-hop are in for a treat, as DJ EZ Dick makes his return on “Intoxicated”. Over a smooth beat provided by DJ Khalil, Dion sings about some of his vices. Game doesn’t appear on the track which is a bit of a drawback because the beat would’ve gone perfectly with the tone set throughout the first half of disc 2. “Quik’s Groove” allows Game to pay homage to Compton pioneer DJ Quik, borrowing his signature flow. Sevyn Streeter and Micah handle the infectious hook which is guaranteed to have you two stepping. The most unlikely production credit belongs to Travis Barker on “Outside”, which is surprisingly good. With a classic west coast feel Game takes you on a ride through his hood, bumping into E-40, Lil Eazy, and Mvrcus Black in each of the songs verses. The ride continues with Battlecat produced “Up On The Wall”, featuring the next-generation of west coast hip-hop, Ty Dolla $ign, YG, and Problem. Sampling the Kool & The Gang classic, “Get Down On It” out of town gang members are put on blast. After another unnecessary skit, “My Flag”/”The Homies” gives Game the chance to put on for some of his fellow Bloods over a hard hitting DJ Mustard track. Game uses his 8 bar verse only to introduce his artist Skeme, from there the mic is passed to Jay305, San Diego’s Mitchy Slick amongst others. The second half of the track is also produced by Mustard with Ty Dolla contributing some uncredited vocals.
Once again in traffic, Game encounters the same rivals from the intro who are subsequently stopped by the police. Instead of surrendering, they begin a shootout leading into “Moment Of Violence” which is as angry as anything NWA recorded and questions the nature in which urban areas are policed. King Mez and Jon Connor appear on the menacing track provided by Mike & Keys along with DJ Khalil. Unifying for the sake of fighting the police is the theme, brings memories of Ice Cube’s “We Had To Tear This Motherfucker Up” (‘The Predator’). Ending on a soulful note before leading into the sequel to the classic “Like Father Like Son”. This time around the subject of the track, Game’s eldest son Harlem spits a few bars before handing the mic back to his father who closes the gap between the 10 years since the original track. Once again Busta Rhymes performs a slightly altered chorus, Alchmist beautifully samples the Buckwild produced predecessor. The album closes out with the Tone Mason produced, Whitney Houston sampled “Life”. With no hook, Game effortlessly skates on the track once again mentioning the Charleston church shooting, his baby mother and his youngest daughter, Cali.
Everything that didn’t live up to expectations on disc 1 is perfected on disc 2. There’s much more substance, depth and self reflective material. As he recently said in an interview with HipHopDX, the first half of the album is “for the fans” while the second half was what he wanted to do. Disc 2 is by far the superior body of work, and as it stands may be his best to date. It is no doubt one of the best double albums from a hip-hop artist.The 9 months we waited was well worth it because a quality product was delivered, commercially he probably won’t match his prior success, but creatively this is the pinnacle of his career. Only time will tell if ‘Documentary 2/2.5’, like it’s predecessor is seen as a classic, but if I had to say, it definitely deserves consideration.