The Game: The Documentary

[14 February 2005]

By Pierre Hamilton

Just What the Good Doctor Ordered

The Game is not 50 Cent. He’s not Eminem either. And fuck it, while we’re on the subject, The Game is not Tupac, Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas, or Jadakiss. Hold your head high though, there’s good news a coming. On the upside, he’s not Chingy, J-Kwon, or Guerrilla Black. After Pac died, Death Row splintered and the West Coast fell. For many years, it stayed silent, save the occasional, but short-lived spray from some wannabes verbal AK. With the release of The Documentary, The Game comes cocked and fully loaded. He’s a nigga wit attitude and he’s coming straight outta Compton.

The first time I heard those words, I was scared shitless. Growing up black in a working class Canadian suburb, I could hardly relate to a pack of gun-toting niggaz . . . with attitude holding a sawed off shotgun to my eardrums. When Ice Cube let the words “I’m comin’ straight outta Compton, crazy mothafucka named Ice Cube/ From the group called niggaz with attitude” fly from his lips, it sparked a revolution. In Compton, hip-hop met a drug-infested hood spilling over with violence and embraced its nihilistic ‘Get Rich or Die Trying’ lifestyle. Hip-hop, secure in its new surroundings, became gangsta rap.

Suburban kids gobbled it up and gangsta rap exploded into a multi-million dollar industry. This spawned a generation of reasonable facsimile emcees—MCs that concocted gangsta lifestyles in order to make a move for gangsta rap’s throne. Scooped from Compton’s slums by Dr. Dre, The Game has the right lineage, the proper upbringing, and an address that all but secures him the throne.

To a younger generation of rap fans, fans for whom Biggie and Pac are distant memories, this album is a classic. For the rest of us, who prefer to insulate ourselves from forward progression with frequent fixes of nostalgia, he’s overshadowed by his contemporaries, forgetting that by dwelling on the past, you and I cast our shadows of doubt over him.

Let me be Frank with you.

Frank: It’s hard to fail when your camp is comprised of G-Unit, Shady Records, and Aftermath, arguably the holy trinity of modern day hip-hop. Dr. Dre’s production is impeccable. It’s as though he captured the heart of the hood (“Westside Story”), hooked it up to an 808-drum machine, and got the crew from West Coast Customs to pimp the ride. There will always be something sinister, yet enjoyable about the way a Dre beat bumps. Kanye West and Just Blaze (“No More Fun and Games”) serve up more sped up soul for your ears and Timbaland’s “Put You on the Game” dishes out more of his standard fare.

Game’s album doesn’t resonate with the same vibrations of Pac, but he manages to reveal a softer side to his menacing posture. Over the Dr. Dre’s production (“Don’t Worry” featuring Mary J. Blige), he releases a heartfelt stream of consciousness rhyme about his love for his bitch (Maybe heartfelt was the wrong term). It’s the same ghetto formula as 50 Cent’s “21 Questions”, but the lyrical content easily surpasses the former. Same goes for the “Like Father Like Son”, where Game asks the lawd fer forgiveness while recounting the birth of his first son. As the last track on the album it demonstrates that there are levels to Game, he’s not just a braggart—though he’s a good one—he’s a narrator recalling his own ascension to the throne.

The Game weaves fables from fact and fiction, spicing them up with the occasional dose of rap history. On the Kanye West-produced “Dreams”, he sews together a soulful Martin Luther King Jr. type speech with the acerbic wit and hustler charm of Malcolm X. He’s not selling you this whack “How much do sound like Biggie?” routine and we should be grateful. 50 loans his voice to three tracks, hitting the mark on “How We Do”. Dre’s signature hypnotic beat pulsates and Game’s verse scorches. See, gangsta rap is venomous. The beat has to plant you on the block. The strings and synth have to become your frayed nerves. You’re pulse has to pound like a beat from an 808 drum machine or else it doesn’t work. You have to believe that these niggaz will kill you. Now throw in fiddy and Game’s virile hood tales, gangsta threats, and unrepentant attacks of the bourgeoisie, and the result is classic.

The Game is 50 Cent. He’s Tupac, Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas, or Jadakiss. He’s the gangsta rapper of right NOW for a generation that demands its own ghetto soldier, someone who has lived a life to which they can escape. With the older generation getting old, it’s time to charge the future of gangsta rap to The Game. He’s a self-conscious, malicious, nihilistic gangsta rapper with a heart and lyrical content. In fact, he’s just what the good doctor ordered . . . another N.W.A.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/game-documentary/