Since the rise of Midwestern and southern hip-hop, the rap game has lacked a mainstream rapper with that coastal edge. Not to say that the middle of the country isn’t as rough as the coasts, but personally, nothing hits me as hard as N.W.A., Tupac or Biggie.
So here to resurrect the West Coast of the game, is The Game: an aptly named rapper who remarkably manages to drop an innumerable amount of references over an obviously commercially driven set of beats, without sounding as cheesy as Guerilla Black.
It works because the beats are mainstream hip-hop at its best and when combined with the referential lyrics, the album works as a retrospective look at gangsta rap.
The greatest producer in the history of the genre, Dr. Dre, starts the album off and sets the tone. “Westside Story” is just classic West Coast; beginning with an “In Da Club” type synthesizer before that smooth Dre piano creeps up on the beat.
Kanye West grabs the mantle and runs with it on “Dreams,” which ascends to ridiculous heights. A few tracks later “How We Do,” another one produced by Dre, continues the streak of bonafied hits. 50 Cent joins the chorus of all-stars here and puts down a solid verse while carrying the hook. If anything, The Game struggles with hitting his hooks, and I never thought I’d say this, but you almost welcome the familiar Fiddy singing the chorus. The rest of the album is littered with musical perfection provided by the likes of Timbaland, Hi-tek and Just Blaze.
Apart from the music though, The Game’s lyrical prowess is not much to shout about. He doesn’t have a signature style like Fiddy or Lloyd Banks, his G-unit mates, and he doesn’t come close to the overall ability of the great rappers he idolizes so much. Yet what makes his effort so enjoyable is that The Game is aware of the skills of others; as he says on “The Documentary,” “I never take shots at legends.” And as much as he maintains the braggadocio that is required of all gangster rappers, he never seems insincere. Especially on a track like “Start From Scratch” where he begins pretending not to regret anything, before pouring out all his regrets “It’s a doggie-dog world/Jesus please holler back.”
In fact the album is like a testament to the way in which rap has affected his own life as well as the lives of so many others. The rapper The Game is a product of the rap game, and his debut album is an ode to the great hip-hop albums of the past 20 years. It especially reminds us of how much Dr. Dre is missed in modern rap and raises the anticipation for his return on Detox.
But in the meantime, lay back, sip your gin and juice and roll to The Documentary.