The Game has a good ear for beats, usually. And for the past two years, as he’s refined his voice into a near clone of Nas, he’s had a pretty nice flow as well. But for some reason, everything he puts his hands on save The Documentary is dull as hell. This reason is fairly easy to pinpoint, and it’s a real shame he seems unable to escape it. This reason has become as much a part of the Game’s ongoing narrative as his inability to release R.E.D. Album, his love affair with Dr. Dre, and his attempts to revive the West Coast scene. This reason is also, ostensibly, one of the things that makes the Game unique.
That reason is his incessant insistence on name-dropping brands, cars, other rappers, their parents, their siblings, neighborhoods, actors, directors, homeless people, flight attendants, police officers, EMTs, waiters, bitties in the BK lounge, and really just about any name that comes to his mind. And in his eagerness to do this shit, he almost always loses track of where he started a verse. It’s not like Lil’ Wayne, where the lost points are obvious and a strength of his character. The Game obviously seems to feel like he has a point, but his precise flow married to such imprecise lyricism just causes everything to run together in a haze of words that (to my ears) mean absolutely nothing. Listening to the Game most often feels like staring at a white wall; no matter what I’m listening to, it’s a new beat with the same old blabbering on top of it.
Some people don’t hear it like this, though, and so the hype for his R.E.D. Album is reaching exponential levels of undeserved expectations. As a result, the Game decides to give us a double disc of b- and c-sides after already unloading the wholly unsatisfying R.E.D. Files, Red Room, and Brake Lights mixtapes in the past 12 months. The music here just constantly reaffirms that while the Game tweets and interviews comments like “I have total control over when I get to release my album” and “there’s only one or two songs here that I think are even worth considering for R.E.D. Album”, the more likely scenario seems to be that the label is waiting for him to make worthwhile music like he did on The Documentary and, to a lesser extent, Doctor’s Advocate.
Much ado was made about the production lineup for this tape, especially the RZA and Dr. Dre mixes. But he doesn’t do the RZA track any justice at all (not to mention RZA is suing over its use), and the Dre stuff doesn’t sound too far removed from the understudies also on the tape, Che Vicious and EP. The Neptunes provide stuff that feels like it’s from the Lord Willin’ era, while StarGate throws a rocked out version of “Black & Yellow” renamed “Purp & Yellow” that showcases exactly why the West Coast has become so irrelevant over the past decade thanks to gaudy, nigh-unlistenable production. The Game does rock an interesting double time cadence there, though.
And that’s all opinion based on the 55-minute Disc One. Disc Two opens with an old Ruff Ryder protegé, Mysonne, getting five minutes to himself to try and show the Game how to do himself. The guy sounds eerily similar to 50 Cent, and he does come close to doing the Game’s style well, but for the most part his verse feels pretty meaningless as well. It’s funny to hear him synthesize Game and 50 like that, but otherwise the song is just a series of famous and infamous New York-related things being strung together by simplistic rhyme schemes. And it’s kind of disappointing to hear the Game again on one of the rare tracks without a feature afterward, because where Mysonne just went through the motions, the Game forces things like the bars about Khaled that just aren’t interesting at all.
He also draws from other artists too much, whether it’s flow (Slick Rick, 50, Nas, and other New York MCs), lyric/song concepts (Russell’s nieces, Khalifa’s Taylor Gang, Ross’s Ashes to Ashes, Kanye’s “Classic”), or beats (“The Kill”). It’s to the point where it becomes easier to understand how the Game cuts so many records, since all he needs to do is either string different name brands together or try to make his own version of someone else’s song or joke. There’s no denying that the Game has his worthwhile moments as a rapper, it’s just that they usually come in small doses as a feature on someone else’s record. How his own music touches so many people is really beyond me at this point, and if I had any hope at all for R.E.D. Album beyond its production, this mixtape would have done an awfully good job deadening that hope.
// Notes from the Road
"A-WA's debut album Habib Galbi made NPR Music's '30 Favorite Albums of 2016 (So Far)' list.READ the article