The Documentary 2 (Disc 1) (to be released Oct. 9, 2015)
2015 has been the West Coast’s year.
Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly stands atop the heap as album of the year. Dr. Dre may have reneged on Detox, but he took us to Compton, an album that exceeded even the most cynical of expectations. And the NWA biopic “Straight Outta Compton” dominated the box office — I bet even your grandma is familiar with the “Straight Outta” meme by now.
There’s no better time for The Game to ride that wave of western success, coincidentally, a full decade after blessing rap fans with his best work.
Over the past 10 years, it’s been pretty frustrating to be a Game fan. His debut, The Documentary, was credited with reviving the West Coast rap scene after years of dormancy. But he’s been wildly inconsistent since then, with albums that range from solid (Doctor’s Advocate, The R.E.D. Album) to passable (LAX, Jesus Piece) to downright atrocious (last year’s Blood Moon travesty).
It only took 10 years for Game to rediscover himself and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. The Documentary 2 — the first half of his double album — steps away from the distractions that have plagued Game’s past works to deliver the uncut rawness that made him a superstar.
No more suspect production. No more pointless beefs. No more mimicking other rappers’ flows. And, thankfully, no more pulling punches. It’s Game at his most visceral.
“On Me” pairs Game with K. Dot and Game actually does the improbable and outshines Kendrick — the first time I’ve heard that happen all year. Over a sample of Erykah Badu’s “On and On,” the pair swap childhood war stories, which becomes a recurring theme of the album. “I used to wish that I was 2Pac/Then I realized that might get you shot,” he spits on “Made In America,” a coming-of-age tale that warns the listener that the road to riches is littered with potholes. “We all make mistakes look what happened to me and 50” — this is a more reflective Game, 10 years wiser than his cocky youth.
Sonically, the album sways from that classic West Coast knock to gritty soul, thanks to an array of all-star producers. Dre and will.i.am, concoct one of the most infectious beats of the year on “Don’t Trip.” Its bounce is guaranteed to snap necks. Mike Will Made-It’s “Summertime” is as breezy as its namesake while Kanye West and Sevn Thomas’ “Mula” creeps through your speakers like a phantom. Jahlil Beats’ “Standing on Ferraris” uses Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ iconic “I Put a Spell on You” as his canvas. It’s the same sample used by The Notorious BIG for “Kick In The Door,” so it’s no shock that Puff Daddy joins Game on his lyrical rampage. Game swings for the fences on this one: When he says “All my s*** bumps like Craig Mack’s face,” Puff audibly flinches. Just nasty, in more ways than one.
“Beard so long, I’m feelin’ like Rick Rubin,” Game also quips on “Standing on Ferraris” — and his facial hair isn’t the only thing in need of a trim. At nearly SEVENTY-FIVE minutes, The Documentary 2’s length is its biggest flaw. When your tracklist boasts 19 tracks, weak links are inevitable. But surprisingly, even the less desirable tracks have redeeming qualities. Eric Bellinger’s unnecessary crooning on “Circles,” drowsy Drake sounding like he just rolled out of Mumm-Ra’s sarcophagus on “100,” Future just being Future on “Dedicated” — even when his guests underwhelm, Game makes the tracks work by sheer willpower. He’s just too hungry to lose this time around. The only track that’s a total loss is “Hashtag,” with Jelly Roll screaming all over the beat like Stinkmeaner from The Boondocks. Who signed off on that?
Once again, it’s frustrating to be a Game fan. The Documentary 2 is so vivid, so forceful and so engrossing that it flirts with five-star status. At times, it seems like it could surpass its lofty predecessor and with a trim could have been an album of the year contender. But the overwhelming glut of tracks pull it down to earth. The Documentary 2 is often too much of a good thing — and keep in mind, this is just the FIRST of two discs! We’ve got another 20 or so tracks to come.
Still, make no mistake, The Documentary 2’s first disc is probably Game’s best work since his powerful debut.
And that’s just the half of his warpath.
Best tracks: “Standing on Ferraris,” “Don’t Trip,” “Made In America”
4 stars out of 5