The R.E.D. Album (released August 23, 2011 )
Journey with me back to grade school. There was always one kid in class who was very talented, be it in academics, music, athletics or the arts, whom everyone HATED. Not out of jealously, mind you. The guy was hated because he was just so freaking annoying.
Say hi to Jayceon Taylor.
Proclaimed as the savior of West Coast hip hop, Game released The Documentary in 2005 to very high praise, myself included. In the years that followed, his work became more uneven as his mouth began to kick into high gear. Game picked fights with nearly every major artist you can think of, and even rappers I’m sure you’ve never heard of. He changed record labels and face tattoos as often as you change your underwear; has retired and unretired; and has released a metric ton of weak mixtapes while his LP release dates are pushed back farther than George Jefferson’s hairline. Game’s mentor Dr. Dre has taken him to the proverbial woodshed many times, but that hasn’t helped much.
And let’s not forget about his irritating habit of name dropping in every single song.
Despite his many, MANY flaws, I would never question Game’s talent, just his focus. But shockingly, Game has rediscovered that focus on his newest release, The R.E.D. Album.
One listen to the album’s first proper song backs me up. “The City” is as aggressive and arrogant as Game has ever been, which beautifully coincides with the epic beat. Fellow West Coaster Kendrick Lamar’s incendiary contribution to the track is just icing on the cake – I promise you, that guy is one song away from a breakout career.
Game expertly weaves street tales on “Ricky” while rampaging through samples of the 1991 “Boyz N The Hood” movie (basically Cuba Gooding screaming “RICKY!!!” over and over). “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and “Heavy Artillery” are just as hard-hitting. But I’m most impressed with Game’s performance on the DJ Premier-produced “Born in the Trap,” which is a superb blend of East and West Coast styles.
Game tones down the aggression to show love to his family on the self-explanatory “Mama” and “California Dream,” which retells the birth of his daughter (identical to “Like Father, Like Son” on The Documentary). It’s a great look at the man instead of the gimmick, making both tracks enjoyable despite so-so hooks.
Oh, but it ain’t all good in the hood. Game’s current single “Pot of Gold” with my golden-haired Cousin Chris Brown, takes Game WAY out of his element. He tries his best to toughen up the track but it just doesn’t work. “Good Girls Go Bad” would have made a better single. Plus it features Drake, and I know how y’all love Drake.
At 21 tracks, there is also way too much filler. Pointless narrations from Dr. Dre (doing his worst Morgan Freeman impression) clutter things up and slow momentum. And a handful of tracks – “Paramedics” and “All the Way Gone” among them – should have stuck to Game’s mixtapes.
By the way, I’m not as bothered by Game’s infamous name-dropping as most, but I’m sad to report that old habits die hard. If you took a drink every time Game mentioned a celebrity’s name, you’ll pass out by track 4. Speaking of track 4, on “Martians Vs. Goblins,” even guest Tyler the Creator calls out Game on name-dropping. Game’s response in the song? “F*** you, Tyler.”
If you personally dislike Game, The R.E.D. Album might not’t allow you to overcome your prejudices. But hopefully, it will remind you that the guy is almost as good as he thinks he is.
Best tracks: “The City,” “Ricky,” “Born In The Trap”
4 stars out of 5