Whether you hate it or love it, The Game’s debut album, The Documentary in 2005 brought the grit and recognition back to West Coast gangster rap. Hip-hop’s landscape was already well under construction by the mid 2000’s. Artists with completely new and previously unheard sounds came into the fray. Perhaps concerned with hip-hop’s recent transgression into the mainstream lighthearted playfulness, The Game’s approach was more primitive and raw. His sound was undeniably aggressive and unapologetic, creating a new sound for the streets – or perhaps simply resurrecting pieces of an old one.
The streets lent themselves to all aspects of Game’s persona. From his voice, which could crack pavement to his lyrical hood life braggadocio, nothing sounds like a false front. The most intriguing of this album for me is the juxtaposition of Game’s gritty street life divulgences and the million dollar sound of the production. At the time, it seemed as though everyone was at Game’s side, made evident by the album’s final production credits. Seven productions from Compton godfather, Dr. Dre only to be accompanied by cuts from Kanye West, Timbaland, Just Blaze and Eminem helped to diversify our cohesive view of Compton through the eyes of one of its loneliest sons.
The music traversed a smorgasbord of traditional and more current hip-hop sounds. From the classic g-funk laden synths of “Higher” to the pulsing eclectic rhythm of Timbaland’s handiwork on “Put You On The Game”. Needless to say, there were lots of heads for The Game to impress. And impress he did. He didn’t use intricate lyrical or rhythmic patterns to dazzle, but instead let gangster vernacular fly off the hinges, forming a white-chalk outline of his uncertain path.
It’s lines like, “I find out who sprayed and I’m putting you under the pavement. No Buddhist, priest or Catholic path that can save ‘em.” That instill both the fear and fearlessness of the hood within you. It’s darkly beautiful music that more often than not, you’ll either be bobbing your head or jumping up and down on the rooftops to. The song construction is varied but works best when Game sticks to the verses and passes the authority of the choruses off to 50 Cent and Nate Dogg. I don’t know if it was the presence of all the greatness around him or simply a matter of respect but Game name drops people throughout this album like a person trying to fanboy his way to legend status. Shaq, Yao Ming, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Rakim, Lebron, Randy Moss, Biggie, no one is safe. The name drops don’t necessarily detract from the quality of the album due to their clever use as a timeline of how long Game has been rapping, but they do take up precious space that could have been used to tell more compelling stories.
In the end though, we get all that we came for and much, much more. That resurgence of gangster rap with all its incantations and street hardiness being present. Any skeptics of the West-coast’s relevance were quickly reassured of its liveliness thanks to this album, that sonically, is one of, if not the best sounding album since Dr. Dre’s, 2001 in ‘99. Who would have thought that such a revitalizing project would come from a bunch of the art form’s biggest influences rallying around someone, who was discovered by Dr. Dre. and at the time was an unknown MC from Compton? Not I, but it most definitely did.