Jesus Piece (Deluxe Edition) (to be released December 11, 2012)
When it comes to getting under the skin of hip-hop fans, few rappers are more skilled than The Game. For example:
– Constant – and I do mean constant – name-dropping of every rapper who ever existed
– Bizarre beefs with D-list rappers
– Questionable tattoos that are covered up later
– And don’t forget about the time he played himself on the old game show Change of Heart
But what’s often lost in that whirlwind of hate is that Game is a very, VERY good rapper. His 2005 debut, The Documentary, was a near classic and last year’s R.E.D. Album was just as noteworthy.
This year, Game waited until we celebrated Jesus’ birthday to drop Jesus Piece with an album cover that I’m sure will continue to incur the wrath of fans. Why is Jesus dressed like Lil Wayne dressed like a Blood?
Game knows what he’s doing. He loves the attention.
If there are any grandmothers out there who are intrigued by the stained-glass album cover and want to give their grandchildren some wholesome gospel rap this Christmas, put the CD down and walk away slowly. Just listen to the track “Church” – where Game commands a stripper to “climb back up that pole to meet Christ” and guest King Chip says “that baby oil is like holy water” – and you’ll know this isn’t approved by Kirk Franklin. At least I hope not.
Songs like “Pray” and the title track creatively build upon the holy concept, as Game fashions himself as a guardian angel for a troubled woman on the former, and gets introspective on the latter. But most of the other concept songs – especially “Hallelujah” – waste the concept. There’s not much there but organs and Jamie Foxx screaming ‘WELL’ like a sweaty preacher. It’s like Game heard Meek Mill’s “Amen” song, said “Imma do a whole bunch of songs like that!” and poof.
But let’s not forget, when Game is focused, there are few better on the mike. Despite the title, “Heaven’s Arms” isn’t nearly as gimmicky as other concept tracks and allows Game to do what he does best – spit pavement-cracking lyrics over concrete-hard beats. The same goes for “Name Me King,” where he and Pusha T make a potent combination. A focused Game is nearly unstoppable.
Game also takes us down memory lane. “All That (Lady)” chops up the old D’Angelo hit (“Lady,” duh) but the ensemble cast of Lil Wayne, Big Sean, Fabolous and Jeremih seem pretty bored. “Celebration,” which rides on Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “1st of Tha Month” is MUCH stronger and is perfect for your holiday gathering. Just make sure grandma isn’t around.
I wish Jesus Piece had more tracks like the bonus cut “Blood Diamonds,” a pretty fascinating look at the progress of blacks over the centuries and the things that continue to hold us back: “Vote against Obama, now you diving in the deep end/I’d rather take my chances at this water fountain, drinking.” It’s enough to cancel out the ridiculousness of the other bonus track, “I Remember.” The less said, the better. Which means it’ll be blowing up your radios soon.
Jesus Piece is far from Game’s worst release – there are some real gems here – but it seems a bit like a lost opportunity. The album concept is strong but track quality is all over the map, from immaculate to embarrassing. With a bit of editing and more focus, Jesus Piece could have made it to the promised land. Unfortunately, it’s just more ammunition for Game’s haters.
Best tracks: “Name Me King,” “Celebration,” “Heaven’s Arms”
3.5 stars out of 5