Jayceon Taylor, best known as rap artist The Game (or simply "Game", I guess), released his Aftermath/Interscope/G-Unit backed major label debut, The Documentary, in January of 2005. A few short months later, his relationship with Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson imploded after Game refused to take his side in useless rap beefs with Fat Joe and Jadakiss (of The Lox). A few short months after that, Jayceon Taylor Photoshopped a mixtape album cover for the latest entry in his series, You Know What It Is Vol. 3, which featured him carrying the disembodied head of the man who continues to be his worst enemy in our chosen genre today.
The Game isn't known for subtlety.
The Documentary ended up being one of the biggest surprises of 2005, proving that, not only was The Game positioned to be a viable player in hip hop, but gangsta rap itself was still alive and well. So it probably hurt the man's feelings when, in the midst of the most exhilarating time of his life thus far, he was unceremoniously dropped from the G-Unit, the rap crew who was forced to adopt him after Interscope head Jimmy Iovine threatened to drop Game from the label entirely if Dr. Dre couldn't find a place for him.
Understandably, Jayceon launched an attack on his former friends that lasted the length of several mixtapes (and, depending on which day of the week it is, may still be going on in the present day), stealing their beats and verbally dismantling the likes of Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, Young Buck, and the lone female member Olivia, while saving the majority of his vitriol for Curtis himself. Caught in the crossfire were his former coworkers Eminem (who, rumor has it, never gave much of a fuck about Game anyway, and only worked with him as a favor to Curtis) and Dr. Dre himself, who never officially weighed in on the battle but still quietly took all of his instrumentals from Game's sophomore effort, The Doctor's Advocate, away, so I guess it could be said that he sided with the bigger moneymaker (at the time).
You Know What It Is Vol. 3 is a significant departure from the previous two volumes in this series, as most of the project features Game and his weed carriers (including a surprising appearance from female rapper Charli Baltimore, now known as "Chuck", apparently) throwing darts at the G-Unit. It isn't all negative, though: Game also had the good sense to throw in some tracks featuring some other actual name-brand artists in an attempt to prolong his fifteen minutes of fame, at least one of which may be a leftover from The Documentary that sounds really fucking good. Game even included a tribute to the late Justo Faison at the very end, turning You Know What It Is Vol. 3 into a somber affair toward the end.
But for the most part, this mixtape is a giant middle finger to Curtis Jackson's empire, which now hardly even exists. So did The Game actually win the war? It depends on who you ask.
Can't have a mixtape without an introductory track, especially when Jayceon feels it necessary to explain how he isn't with G-Unit anymore. As if anybody who was remotely interested in this mixtape wouldn't have already known that shit.
2. 300 BARS & RUNNIN'
Unlike the first two installments in this loosely-knit series (which seems to exist only to inform listeners that The Game is, in fact, capable of throwing away more bars than some rappers can come up with in an entire lifetime), “300 Bars & Runnin'” takes multiple shots at his former G-Unit brethren in addition to the usual suspects (Memphis Bleek, Jay-Z (indirectly, as always)). Also unlike the first two installments, this one actually contains some funny punchlines, specifically those aimed towards his old label-sanctioned friends. (I keep laughing out loud at what Game says when he swipes the “I'm So Fly” beat from Lloyd Banks.) The track burns through approximately nine hundred and two different instrumentals to score Jayceon's tirade, helping extend the life of this already tedious exercise. Also, he says one bar four times, so this really should have been titled “297 Bars & Runnin'”, although I have better things to do than actually count each individual line on this fucking monstrosity of a track. Songs like this are why mixtapes exist.
The Game tackles the Kanye West-produced beat to Cam'Ron's “Down & Out”. (Cam'Ron would later become yet another adversary for the Curtis Jackson steroid train. Coincidence? Absolutely.) Unlike a lot of mixtape rappers, Game actually pays attention to the vocal cues the instrumental provides, so this is much more creative than it should be. But “Down” isn;t much of a dessert after the fucking Carnival World Buffet of lyrics that “300 Bars & Runnin'” was: it just made me antsy to finish listening to this shit already.
4. POISON BANANAS (FEAT. ROCKSTAR & M.O.B.)
I just realized that, as long as I've had You Know What It Is Vol. 3 in my possession, I've never actually listened to “Poison Bananas”. And other than its title, which would make for a terrific band name for a group that only strives to perform in high school cafetoriums, there is little to recommend. I will say that one of the guests (I don't care to find out which one) provides a more compelling performance than Jayceon's riff-on-Guerilla Unit-as-Gorilla Unit-but-still-racist hook, especially with his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reference, which was actually funny. But yeah, this shit was pretty stupid. This kind of song is exactly why mixtapes have gotten worse throughout the years: the lack of a filter between the artist's mind and his mouth.
5. I'M A KING (FEAT. T.I.)
One of the most generic-sounding Southern rap songs I've heard since turning on the radio this morning. But that's just the instrumental I'm talking about: T.I. and Jayceon are awful for entirely different reasons.
6. OLIVIA (DEBUT SINGLE)
I'm still concerned about the fact that the best insult Jayceon and his friends could come up with for (former) G-Unit songstress Olivia (of “Bizounce” fame) is that she's really a man. Were you just not able to find anything wrong with her, Game? Did you offhandedly call her a dude after she refused to fuck you, and your friends took that brief aside and ran with it? I fear for the level of creativity from the Black Wall Street camp, as this smacks of old-fashioned grade school horseplay. Can't say that I didn't laugh at some of the line deliveries during this interlude, though, so I guess I'm also at fault, since I'm encouraging him and all.
7. G-UNOT SKIT
Jayceon resorts to piecing together sound bites to make it appear as though Tony Yayo was in love with his boss, Curtis. Somehow, Donald Trump (seriously?) becomes involved. This was a minute-and-a-half of my life that I will never get back.
8. PLAY THE GAME
I'm sure that Dr. Dre was thrilled to discover that his “Tha Next Episode” was repurposed for an immature G-Unit attack record. The Game isn't a dummy, though: within the span of one verse, he addresses damn near ever single suspicious turn that Curtis Jackson's career has taken thus far. And yes, we all know that Tony Yayo is an old man. Can we not come up with something funnier? The skit at the end was also unnecessary, but this is a mixtape, so the laws of physics need not apply.
9. LIL' BIT (REMIX)
How is imitating Curtis Jackson's flow from the already lame-ass hit record “Just A Lil' Bit” supposed to act as a slap to the face of the G-Unit puppet dictator? All this proves is that The Game really wishes that he was Curtis. It's similar to the ongoing one-sided battle Jayceon is currently having with Jay-Z (he says the beef is squashed, but I don't buy that shit for one minute, since this is The Game we're talking about): the level of obsession is dangerously close to the level of Fatal Attraction. I hope Curtis doesn't own a pet rabbit.
10. M.O.B. FREESTYLE (FEAT. M.O.B.)
The Game takes a smoke break, allowing the members of M.O.B. to sneak into the booth and kick a couple of verses over Mobb Deep's “Quiet Storm”, which is ironic, as Mobb Deep was just about to align themselves with Curtis and, as such, become part of the problem and not part of the solution. The second rapper is far more interesting with his rhymes than the first guy, but the hook, which is awful, renders the song impotent anyway.
11. WHY YOU SMELL LIKE DAT (FEAT. ROCKSTAR & M.O.B.)
You shouldn't drag all of your weed carriers into your G-Unit beef, Game. Isn't this how the fight started in the first fucking place, when Curtis tried to force his petty beefs upon you?
12. STREET MUZIK (FEAT. SHEEK LOUCH)
I usually find myself defending Sheek (from The Lox) during his solo efforts, because he has to try that much harder to keep up with the likes of Jadakiss and Styles P. He isn't very good on here, but he is far better than Jayceon, whose tacked-on verse swipes the generic “street music” concept and takes a sloppy shit all over it, as he goes after Curtis and company nonstop without bringing any new or funny insults to the table. This was a waste of my time.
13. LYRICAL EXERCISE (FEAT. ROCKSTAR)
Rockstar receives a solo showcase, but oddly enough, the beat to Hova's “Lyrical Exercise” is not used (another dig at Shawn Carter, perhaps?). Rockstar sounds pretty interesting anyway, though, so this is an oasis in a desert filled with the tiresome rants of Jayceon Taylor, who was only able to focus on one thing at a time (the G-Unit beef, obviously) at this point in his career.
14. WHERE I'M FROM (FEAT. DR. DRE & NATE DOGG)
Although this track boasts appearances from both Dr. Dre and Nate Dogg, there isn't much going for it: Dre's ghostwritten lyrics sound bland and share the same consistency as Play-Doh (Dre has a tendency to always sound like his collaborators whenever he decides to actually drop a verse, usually because those same collaborators are also the guys putting the words into the man's mouth). This dream team sounds pretty good on paper, but this boring track never made it to an actual album for a reason, and not just because Dr. Dre cut ties with The Game after You Know What It Is Vol. 3 dropped.
15. NEVER BE FRIENDS
There's no reason for anybody to sample Aerosmith's “Dream On” if you're not going to also use the vocal sample during the hook: without that cherry topping, this is just a boring fucking loop. Which, I have to say, I kind of saw coming.
16. SWALLOW THAT SLUG (FEAT. CHARLI “CHUCK” B'MORE)
If Chuck B'More (better known as Charli Baltimore, former mistress to The Notorious B.I.G.) was truly hoping for a comeback in hip hop after this weak reworking of Gwen Stefani's annoying-as-fuck “Hollaback Girl”, then she is a fucking fool. This song is a travesty to the ears and should never be listened to by anybody.
17. HATE IT OR LOVE IT (STREET REMIX)
How deliciously meta: The Game redoes his own hit song “Hate It Or Love It”, adjusting the lyrics into a Curtis Jackson slam, which is rendered even stranger when you realize that Curtis and Jayceon recorded the original track together. On here, Game blatantly rips off Jackson's rhyme style during the parts on which he originally performed, even becoming confused enough at one point to call himself a homophobic slur which was supposed to be a dig at his former friend but turns into inadvertent self-loathing. Yeah, this was a strange little excursion.
18. ALL I NEED (FEAT. W.C.)
I like this song so much that I'm a little sad that it never made it onto one of Game's proper albums, but the reason this shit works is W.C., the West Coast veteran who C-walks away with the song as if it was your best friend's hot wife. Jayceon even adapts his flow to a whisper over this entertaining-as-shit club-ready beat. More tracks like this, and less G-Unit baiting, could have made You Know What It Is Vol. 3 a banger. Oh well.
19. PLAYAS ONLY (FEAT. R. KELLY)
Sounds like a quasi-sequel to “All I Need”, except that Game steals his cadence from his own “How We Do”, and R. Kelly's hook sounds at least twelve kinds of really fucking stupid. At least this track doesn't last very long.
20. LAY LOW (FEAT. M.O.B.)
With Snoop Dogg's message prior to the start of this beat-jacking of one of his better recent hits, it's almost as though he is endorsing Game's ridiculous beef against G-Unit (or, specifically, Tony Yayo, at least on this track), which can be problematic, as the only guy in hip hop that Snoop actually has a problem with these days is Suge Knight. To their credit, the members of M.O.B. don't cave in to peer pressure, sticking with the status quo while Jayceon lets his hurt feelings get the best of him. A poor use of what is still a pretty good Dr. Dre instrumental.
21. DREAMS (FEAT. THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.)
A goofy inclusion, “Dreams” features The Notorious B.I.G.'s first verse from “Juicy” over the Kanye West-handled beat for Game's “Dreams”, even managing to work in some Faith Evans and Jay-Z sound bites from the Kanye-produced “A Dream” (from Hova's The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse). Strangely enough, Game is nowhere to be found, which actually isn't entirely disappointing, given the high-caliber guest star. But aside from hearing 'Ye shout out the star attraction at the very beginning, there is no point for this mash-up to have ever appeared on a mixtape ostensibly promoting The Game.
22. JUSTO TRIBUTE
In an odd show of restraint, The Game steps away from
all most of the ridiculous infighting prevalent on this project in order to pay tribute to the fallen founder of the annual Mixtape Awards, Justo Faison, who passed away from injuries sustained in a car accident earlier in 2005. And with that, You Know What It Is Vol. 3 is over.
SHOULD YOU TRACK IT DOWN? Sure, if you like hearing rappers complain about one another for the duration of an entire mixtape (although, to be fair, The Game did warn us with that shitty album cover). You Know What It Is Vol. 3 upholds its promise of relentlessly attacking Curtis Jackson and the G-Unit, and back when it first dropped I had more of an interest in this beef, as I didn't care for Curtis, but in listening to this today, only a handful of the tracks manage to hold up, and Jayceon's attacks grow tiresome midway through the second fucking track. You Know What It Is Vol. 3 is better than the previous two installments, mainly because The Game was that much closer to establishing his true identity in this rap shit, as opposed to just being the guy who was still trying to find his footing while throwing half-assed shots toward Memphis Bleek and Joe Budden. This is for Game and rap beef historians only.