“You see, it’s all just a game, ladies and gentlemen, and the quality of your living depends entirely on your ability to play the game…and I play the game.” With such a self assured beginning it’s little surprise to know that this is US hip hop’s newest prot�g� The Game, played by Jayceon Taylor. He ought to be careful, though – recent reports of assault on a DJ and ‘a blaze of gunsmoke’ around his Compton home are indications of the quality of living he enjoys at the moment.
Such goings on, of course, are as much a part of a West Coast rapper’s life as you or I doing the laundry. For it’s the West Coast where The Game’s musical heritage lies, and he never lets us forget it. Dr Dre, no less, is the producer, Eazy E and Jam Master J his other major influences. This album puts them all in the same breath.
Dre’s production is immediately apparent in the percussive piano sound of Westside Story, where 50 Cent makes the first of several appearances. The second, California Sunshine, is a warm evocation of the tropical Los Angeles heat, with an effortless rap from the guest. It’s the most chilled part of the album though, for Higher brings in pounding piano and string chords, Church For Thugs goes widescreen with screaming trumpets and the serious, self-important We Ain’t brings out the album’s dark side with a guest slot from Eminem.
More stars abound – Mary J Blige trades with The Game’s rap over rolled piano chords on Don’t Worry, and Faith Evans appears on the anti love song bump and grind of Don’t Need Your Love. The Game’s gravelly tones mean his voice is already instantly recognizable, and he almost justifies his self importance by holding his own alongside all the A-listers.
Most moving of all is Dreams, a song recorded with Kanye West. It becomes something of an elegy to lives cut tragically short on the West Coast – Aaliyah, Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes, and most poignantly of all, Yetunde Price, the sister of Serena and Venus Williams, who was shot in Compton in 2003. On similar lines is Start From Scratch, where the confident fa�ade drops slightly next to Marsha of Floetry’s shaky, vulnerable vocal.
Like many rap albums The Documentary is too long, but it maintains a high level of interest right up to and including the end, with Busta Rhymes appearing on the final track, The Game intoning “Lord forgive me for my sins, I know it’s last minute”. It’s a confession that almost nullifies the lyrical put downs that have gone before, with Mariah Carey and The Source magazine in particular taking a heavy beating.
It’s an impressive effort though, a debut album to file alongside that of 50 Cent, and it introduces a strong presence to the West Coast (like they need another one!). The Game should be around for some time, providing he can keep clean.