Music

The Game: LAX

On his third album, rap's estranged headcase follows his first post-G-Unit album with one of 2008's most consistent rap full-lengths.


The Game

LAX

Label: Geffen
US Release Date: 2008-08-26
UK Release Date: 2008-08-25
Amazon
iTunes

Since the start of his career, basically one narrative has followed The Game: He’s an artist whose success is completely unrelated to his talents as a rapper.

After his arranged marriage with G-Unit eventually fell out, Game was, either fairly or unfairly, charged with the task of repeating his historic success without the aid of 50 Cent, the man whose (then) infallible pop ear was basically the only reason anyone even cared about him in the first place. Though it didn’t really flop in the traditional sense, Game’s last album, Doctor’s Advocate, has yet to sell half as many copies as his breakthrough debut The Documentary, and it placed exactly zero singles -- even the Kanye West feature with the expensive video -- in the top 40.

Somewhere along the line, in between his fabricated role as heir to the G-Unit throne and his reemergence as the West Coast’s vengeful Moses, Game basically lost his mind. His exile from G-Unit lead to him becoming scarily obsessed with his old crew, harping on the same disses and beefs on diss tracks and freestyles that sometimes lasted over ten minutes.

His demons though, as would be revealed on Doctor’s Advocate, ran way deeper than anyone really anticipated. The album’s most stunning track, “Doctor’s Advocate”, had Game portraying himself as a wrecked alcoholic before rapping what amounted to a breakup note to his mentor and muse Dr. Dre, which included the almost heartbreaking revelation, “Sitting here looking at my platinum plaques / Thinking, ‘What the fuck am I without a Dr. Dre track?’” The rest of Doctor’s Advocate ran the gamut from pretty good bites of classic Dre tracks (the whiny “California Vacation”) to really awful bites of classic Dre tracks (the indefensible will.i.am produced “Compton”).

Though the album had as many hits as misses, Game’s persona as a bitter, depressed, lonely and alcoholic rapper who is willing to rap about being all those things made for compelling listening, especially coming from someone who started out with G-Unit, arguably the most soulless and robotic group of rappers currently working. If Doctor’s Advocate had a major fault, though, it was that its chosen aesthetic as a blatant West Coast homage blunted the complex persona that Game had fallen into. When coupled with the rear view mirror-nature of his lyrics, the beats made Doctor’s Advocate a little too cloying.

On LAX, Game hasn’t changed, but he’s picked a group of beats that get him closer to extricating himself from both his West Coast Messiah complex and the post-G-Unit narrative. And while Game has yet to carve out his own identity as a rap artist, LAX shows that, on his third album, he might be on the right track.

The album starts off on a familiar tip: with the underdog Game (“Paul Pierce to you LeBron niggas”) as Cali rap’s last hope. But where the same type songs on Doctor’s Advocate turned him out as a sort of childish mascot, the first quarter of LAX finds a forceful and urgent Game rapping over rumbling, grimy beats in a stretch of songs that are maybe the best evidence in favor of his continued relevance.

On “State of Emergency”, over a rippling N.W.A. bite by J.R. Rotem, Game tries storytelling on for size, and it results in one of the better homages he’s ever done. He even brings Ice Cube in for the chorus (“California ain’t a state it’s an army”) in an obvious baton passing moment, and while it’s not as convincing as Game probably thinks it is, the shoe fits better on “State of Emergency” than it maybe ever has.

From there, things stay solid and consistent, whether Game is sparring with Raekwon (“Bulletproof Diaries”), handing off to Ludacris (“Ya Heard”, featuring the album’s best punchlines) or going in alone, as he does on the menacing “Money” and “House of Pain”, a DJ Toomp production that splits the difference between early '90s West Coast beats and Tha Carter III’s “You Ain’t Got Nuthin”.

As the album progresses it starts to lose momentum, though even its softy middle of prerequisite loverman songs isn’t as cringeworthy as you’d expect. On “Angel” he clumsily follows a Common verse by riffing on “Used to Love H.E.R”, and “Never Can Say Goodbye”, although Game pulls off the rapper role-play well, is almost comically maudlin. “Game’s Pain”, on the other hand, is one of his best nostalgia trips, but “Letter to the King”, which should be an earnest and endearing tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, is marred by some of Game’s worst raps (“I feel the pain of Nelson Mandela / cuz when it rains it pours / I need Rihanna’s umbrella”).

All told, if LAX is the most important album Game has ever released -- the one where he has to prove that he can sustain an artistic career beyond 50 Cent and beyond exacting revenge upon 50 Cent -— then he has proved to be more up to the task than probably anyone thought he would be. And though LAX has its debilitating faults, it certainly stands up with any rap full-length released this year, which for this point in Game’s career, might even make it a miracle.

7
Music
Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

PopMatters Seeks Music Critics and Essayists

If you're a smart, historically-minded music critic or essayist, let your voice be heard by the quality readership of PopMatters.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Books
Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Books

John Pham's ​J​&K​​ - It's a Matter of Perspective

In J&K, John Pham explores perspectives in the psychological sense. Like Picasso, he views things from more than one angle.

Film
Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Film

The Road to Murder in Love and War: Three Films from Claude Chabrol

The character's in Claude Chabrol's The Third Lover, Line of Demarcation, and The Champagne Murders are obsessively doubled and mirrored, reflecting and refracting their hunger for sex, love, money, and power.

Film

'Memento' Is the Movie of the Attention Economy

We are afraid of time, and so like Leonard in Memento, we kill it, compulsively and indiscriminately.

Film

What Lurks Beneath: 'Jaws' and Political Leadership in the Time of COVID-19

Boris Johnson admires the Mayor in Spielberg's Jaws. Remember him? He was the guy who wouldn't close the beaches -- and sacrifice that revenue source -- during a public crisis.

Recent
Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Music

The Killers - "Caution" (Singles Going Steady)

The Killers go for the big hooks and singable anthems on "Caution", but opinion is sharply divided about the song's merits amongst our Singles Going Steady panel.

Music

Lilly Hiatt - "Some Kind of Drug" (Singles Going Steady)

Lilly Hiatt sings about a different kind of love on "Some Kind of Drug". Hers is for a city and the impact gentrification has had its soul.

Music

There's Never Enough Time for Folk Music's James Elkington

The sometimes Wilco and Richard Thompson sideman, in-demand producer, and songwriter, James Elkington, muses on why it's taking longer than he expects to achieve more in a week than most of us get done in a lifetime.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Music

Salsa Band LPT Hints at the Genre's Future

LPT's debut album, Sin Parar, hits all the right notes for a contemporary salsa album.

Music

Jennah Barry Offers Up a Warm, Sublime Collection of Memorable Tunes on 'Holiday'

Canadian indie folkster Jennah Barry returns with her long-awaited sophomore album, Holiday, which takes on a looser, more relaxed approach.

Music

Fotocrime's '80s-Inspired Rock Is Often Half-Baked

Fotocrime's South of Heaven is interesting mostly in that it's one of the most mediocre rock records I've heard in a long time.

Music

Maria McKee Puts Down Her Electric Guitar and Picks up Dante on 'La Vita Nuova'

"Show Me Heaven" was another country. Maria McKee has moved to England, immersed herself in the Classics and turned away from the 21st century.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.