1992 (to be released October 14, 2016)
Remember a year ago when The Game surprised many heads by dropping a stellar sequel to 2005’s The Documentary?
Well, I wasn’t surprised. When you look beyond the name dropping and social media stunting, at his core Jayceon Taylor is a pure, bonafide MC – one of the best in the industry right now.
And anyone who still doubted Game’s bars was suddenly silenced a few weeks back when he unleashed “Pest Control” – a blistering diss track that reduced rivals Meek Mill, Sean Kingston and Beanie Sigel to ashes. It might possibly be in the conversation for best battle records of all time – easily the best since Nas embraced y’all with napalm.
Game’s no fool – he knew carpet bombing Meek n’ friends would put All Eyez On Him for the release of 1992, his eighth studio album that serves as one big nostalgia trip for ‘80s babies.
I was 12 in 1992 – one month older than Game himself – during the infamous LA riots that were triggered by the arrest and beating of Rodney King, and I vividly remember the racial unrest.
It’s the same climate of unrest that swirls in our communities today.
The album opener “Savage Lifestyle” puts that chaos into context:
And just so we clear, this is pain and despair
We burn our own s*** and we aware and don’t care
Tell the national guards to disappear
We got guns too and we ain’t scared
So f*** the man, f*** the President Bush and his legislation
S*** gotta change and we ain’t waiting, f*** patience
Cause the government corrupt, I can prove it
Martin, Malcolm, Huey P. Newton
And that’s why the whole city out here looting
It’s where 1992 shines brightest – using the lessons of hip-hop’s golden era as cautionary tales in 2016. The album reads like a love letter to rap’s glory days. “Bompton” and “F*** Orange Juice” are essentially freestyles over D.O.C’s “It’s Funky Enough” and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message,” respectively. It’s a callback to the days of freestyling over radio songs with your friends on lazy afternoons.
“I Grew Up on Wu-Tang” and “However Do You Want It” also borrow from old favorites (The Wu and Soul II Soul, naturally) but producer Bongo wisely alters the beats enough to retain their familiarity without overpowering Game’s storytelling.
“True Colors/It’s On” borrows Ice-T’s colors to serve as the score for Game’s childhood, from birth to the block – “Was a whole lotta blood, yeah I was born in it/Gang banging my family got torn in it, all over.” The somber “Young N***as” continues the story, where gang ties rip apart a longtime friendship.
Started off as brothers but sometimes s*** falls apart
How can I hate this n***a with all this love up in my heart
With this n***a mean mugging every time we in the class
N***a tuck that blue rag or Imma beat your f***ing a**
Harsh, yeah. But this was reality for many teens in early 90s.
While 1992’s throwback production is its biggest draw, some beats really fall short. “The Soundtrack” is a little too mellow, while the unremarkable instrumentals on “What Your Life Like” really drag down the experience. They really come off as second rate next to Cool & Dre’s soul-drenched “Baby You,” which sounds like something your grandma would blast on Saturday mornings while cleaning the house.
And unfortunately, “Pest Control” doesn’t make an appearance here, but we do get the lyrical assault of “92 Bars,” where Meek AGAIN gets beheaded for our entertainment: “You better have Ross call me or you gonna be eye level with a roach feet/ This ain’t a diss, n***a/This is all lives matter except this n***a’s.”
So who’s bringing the pound cake to Meek’s homegoing service?
If it wasn’t already obvious from the album cover – which tips its hat to Snoop’s Doggystyle – 1992 is a pure nostalgia trip and therefore a tough album to rate. It’s sort of like rewatching New Jack City: While younger generations will likely be bored by glaring flaws and clichéd material, my generation will wholeheartedly embrace the experience because it was such a huge part of our formative years. You 20-somethings might have to knock a .5 off the score below.
When it comes to 1992, you really had to be there to love it.
Best tracks: “92 Bars,” “Baby You,” “True Colors/It’s On”
4 stars out of 5