As a person, though, he comes across as an immature loose cannon, quick with a retaliatory response aimed at anyone, and I mean anyone, who he thinks looked at him sideways. His onetime mentor Curtis Jackson, who included The Game within his G-Unit crew at one point, tends to be his primary target in interviews (after Curtis dropped him from the group for befriending the enemy (Ja Rule, Fat Joe, etc.), Game attacked him for basically being a bastard: their beef has continued off and on ever since), and Jayceon has also engaged in a relatively one-sided war of words with Jay-Z since his debut album, The Documentary (I say "relatively" because Hova has yet to ever official respond, and no, that "Dear Summer" song he did on Memphis Bleek's album doesn't count). The Game's plan of attack has always been to burn the bridge quickly and beg for forgiveness afterward: the laundry list of rappers who Game has thrown potshots at is probably longer than any bill presented to Congress. And yet the man still has more friends in the industry than Canibus. I'm just saying.
Anyway, the long-delayed The R.E.D. Album is Game's fourth full-length project, and his third attempt at winning back the audience that abandoned him around the same time Dr. Dre did, which happened right after The Documentary dropped. Having been shuttled to Geffen/Interscope after his beef with Curtis caused a rift between him and his Aftermath home, The Game had to impress the label before they could guarantee a release date: the three-year delay between his third album, L.A.X. and The R.E.D Album (which he claims is not a tribute to his allegiance with the Bloods but an acronym for his "re-dedicating" himself to hip hop: *cough* bullshit *cough*) can be explained by the fact that every single goddamn song he dropped as a potential single for the past three years has been met with indifference, and the label refused to fund an album that wasn't going to sell any units. This is actually a pretty smart way to handle the situation, in my opinion: why waste your resources on an artist who can't prove that he still has an audience?
Obviously, The Game finally unleashed a minor hit, or else I wouldn't be holding The R.E.D. Album in my hands right now. I also blame Dr. Dre, who finally decided to stand by his former employee during this troubled time in gangsta rap, although he didn't care enough to actually bless our host with a beat. Weird, that.
1. DR. DRE INTRO (FEAT. DR. DRE)
The good Doctor apparently narrated The R.E.D. Album, contributing a useless rap album intro that has fuck-all to do with anything. (This isn't supposed to be a concept album or Jayceon's biography, so what the fuck was the purpose of this?) I'd like to note that, back on The Game's 2005 major label debut, Andre popped up during “Higher” to promise listeners that Detox would eventually happen. Here we are, six years later, and it still hasn't come out.
2. THE CITY (FEAT. KENDRICK LAMAR)
This moody opener (classified as such by me, thanks to the Cool & Dre instrumental) ultimately falters for a number of reasons, only a handful of which I will actually discuss right now, because I don't want to dwell too much on the negative when I still have the majority of The R.E.D. Album to listen to. First off, this song has hardly anything to do with any city, especially Compton, California: Jayceon certainly pretends that it does, but he uses the track as an excuse to justify his continued career, and his hometown only plays a peripheral role, almost as though he's looking at Compton through his rearview mirror while he's speeding the fuck away toward financial security. Secondly, The Game's vocal delivery appears to change depending on what side of the bed he woke up on that morning. Third, our host complains that critics found L.A.X. “average”, which “stressed [him] out”: that is truly a first world problem (it's not as though he lost his deal and his home in the process). Finally, blogger favorite Kendrick Lamar, who also hails from Compton, is assigned hook duty for the most part, and his contribution is both the worst chorus I've heard in a while and the most complex lyricism I've ever heard on a Game album. This is made all the more clear at the end, when the music evaporates and K. Dot's verse continues acapella: it appears that The Game and company simply trimmed Lamar's verse to suit their own selfish needs, making this collaboration sound unnatural. This probably isn't a good sign.
3. DRUG TEST (FEAT. DR. DRE, SNOOP DOGG, & SLY)
What should have been a promising guest list turns in a bizarre club-ready missive. I actually liked DJ Khalil's beat, and Jayceon himself sounds alright enough (he isn't terrible at these club songs: one of my favorite performances from him is on the aforementioned “Higher”), but Snoop is entirely wasted (possibly literally while he was recording an homage to his own “Gin & Juice”) in a short four-bar cameo, and being presented with Andre Young's current persona, that of an old man who still goes to the club, is a bit unsettling, especially when he promises to administer a drug test on a female he has his eye on, which I can only assume means that he wants to piss on her. The Sly hook is corny, but for a chorus that's all about celebrating the guys who manage to sneak drugs into the club, it could have been much worse.
4. MARTIANS VS. GOBLINS (FEAT. LIL' WAYNE & TYLER, THE CREATOR)
The 1500 or Nothin' instrumental isn't terrible: it at least fits Jayceon's vocals well. This song is a conceptual mess, though. In theory, this probably should have been a battle between the team of Lil' Wayne and Game versus Odd Future frontman Tyler, The Creator, but Weezy, who has identified himself as both a Martian and as a goblin in the past, only registers on the hook (and doesn't even bother using entire words, referring to himself as a “motherfucking marsh”), causing The Game to railroad his other invited guest. This isn't a bad thing: Tyler sounds uncomfortable, resorting to his old homophobic tricks so quickly that I couldn't wait for his verse to be over. Jayceon fares much better on his own shit, anyway, with two ridiculous verses filled with random name-drops (and a quick potshot at blogger favorite Lil' B) that will probably anger comic book nerds toward the very end (as he pairs up a certain costumed superhero with the incorrect publishing company – you'll know what I'm talking about when you hear it). I've also grown disgusted with Tyler's deep, distorted vocals that feature during the hook, as that's all I can remember hearing on the entirety of Goblin.
5. RED NATION (FEAT. LIL' WAYNE)
The first single on The R.E.D. Album that actually somewhat clicked with an audience. The Game's proclamation of dominance by the Bloods hilariously samples Zombie Nation's “Kernkraft 400”, which turns this shit into the most gangsta third period in a hockey game ever. Game's verses aren't memorable, but he sounds as confident as ever, and Lil' Tunechi provides his second hook of the evening, which is too wordy for its own good. The novelty wears off fairly quickly. I understand the official video was banned by MTV because of all of the gang imagery, but I'd like to think that Viacom suddenly developed decent taste and simply refused to air a clip for such a crappy song.
6. DR. DRE 1 (FEAT. DR. DRE)
7. GOOD GIRLS GO BAD (FEAT. DRAKE)
Jayceon brings a good message to the forefront (basically, he feels that you should respect women and never mistreat them), but his constant name-drops dilute the potion: the man even references Natalee Holloway, which should be proof that he has crossed a line, and yet the man continues to work. Aubrey abandons the concept entirely, which was expected (Drake isn't what we would call a “team player”), but to be fair, Game also has a short attention span, so whatever. Cool & Dre's beat sounds far more experimental than anything else they have ever produced, and I mean that as a compliment. This wasn't awful.
The seemingly tacked-on final verse on “Good Girls Go Bad” leads directly into the extended sound bite from Boyz N The Hood that opens this track: the use of the clip is so egregious that I'm half surprised that The Game didn't use this as an excuse to claim that he has Ice Cube and Cuba Gooding Jr. guest-starring on The R.E.D. Album. Jayceon kicks off the DJ Khalil beat (when it eventually starts) completely off topic, talking about Dr. Dre and his tenure at Aftermath, but quickly changes course and delivers a single verse that actually lines up with the sound bite. Sort of. Some of it is a bit of a stretch, admittedly. But this wasn't awful.
9. THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY
Jayceon adopts a Biggie-esque flow (or at least his version of Shyne's impersonation of The Notorious B.I.G.) for an interesting storytelling attempt (one where he gives multiple versions of the same tale, each one more vague than the last) that proves The Game is capable of focusing on the task at hand if absolutely needed. His subdued flow fits producer Hit-Boy's “I Got A Story To Tell”-type instrumental like a glove, so even though there is actually very little to his story, it's a fascinating listen. His final bar also leads directly into the next track, so it's obvious that there was some degree of planning going in to the recording of The R.E.D. Album.
10. HEAVY ARTILLERY (FEAT. RICK ROSS & BEANIE SIGEL)
I didn't care for the Streetrunner beat and the vocal sample used as a hook at first, but it eventually grew on me in a “this was entirely serviceable” kind of way. Game manages to drop references to the two previous tracks, which would have been hilariously meta had I any inclination that he actually did that shit on purpose and didn't simply repeat himself by accident. Officer Ricky Ross handles the first verse and doesn't entirely suck (I fear his overexposure on rap radio has now convinced me that he isn't that bad of a rapper – I need to stop listening to hip hop in the car and stick with my New Wave station instead), and Game solidifies his anti-Jay-Z task force by providing the troubled Beanie Sigel with a paycheck. This wasn't terrible, but I can't imagine listening to this ever again.
11. PARAMEDICS (FEAT. YOUNG JEEZY)
So. Fucking. Boring.
12. SPEAKERS ON BLAST (FEAT. BIG BOI & E-40)
I couldn't get into this track, either. Mars's beat felt too basic for me, and it was hardly representative of anything the South could conjure up if given half a chance. The Game's first two verses were merely alright, but his hook was meh. The only decent contributions on this track come from the two guest stars, although Big Boi fares better than E-40, as he happens to actually be from the South. Methinks Keanu Reeves should bash Jayceon in the face with another phone book as punishment for creating a song that is so goddamn condescending.
13. HELLO (FEAT. LLOYD)
I've never liked R&B crooner Lloyd's voice: it never seems to fit the music he chooses to perform over, such as this generic beat on what is, sadly, not a cover of the Lionel Richie classic, nor is it one of that goofy Poe song from the late 1990s. Even though Lloyd drops ad-libs throughout, it's impossible to hide the fact that his hook has fuck-all to do with Game's love rap, which either contains a dig at Kreayshawn or confirms that his lady is Kreayshawn (“All her friends wearing Gucci so she don't rock it no more”). Hmm. Anyway, “Hello” seems to be Game's way of telling his favorite bitch that he will spoil the shit out of her, almost as though this is what he thinks a radio-friendly Jay-Z single sounds like. Fairly execrable, and the reason the 'skip' button was invented.
14. ALL THE WAY GONE (FEAT. MARIO & WALE)
So apparently the second half of The R.E.D. Album is where Game is hiding all of his forced, unnatural R&B collaborations. This Don Cannon/Mars-produced piffle is Jayceon's ode to a lady friend whose vagina he is particularly fond of, and it sounds pretty bad, given that the underlying music is dull as shit. R&B crooner Mario also sounds bland. The only saving grace on here is Rick Ross's newest employee Wale, who attempts to insert some cleverness into a track that won't accommodate it.
15. POT OF GOLD (FEAT. CHRIS BROWN)
Chris Brown is a fucking clown who doesn't deserve all of the attention he's been receiving as of late. His striking (and biting) a fellow artist (one who was his then-girlfriend, at that) shouldn't lead to renewed interest in his career (I blame the media for this turnaround), and every single motherfucking rapper who chooses to work alongside him today is helping to validate this immature cocksucker's life choices. Everyone may deserve a second chance, but fuck that guy. His chorus on here sucks, too: it's all about, “Boo hoo, I'm so famous, I wish my life was the way it used to be, but then I wouldn't be so famous”, which makes it hard for anyone except for The Game's celebrity friends to actually relate. Jayceon's radio-friendly performance isn't bad, though, and The Futuristics's sweeping production seems destined to be played in either a young-adult romance movie trailer or a commercial for a new show on the CW.
16. DR. DRE 2 (FEAT. DR. DRE)
17. ALL I KNOW
And this is what The Game thinks an introspective Jay-Z song (like, say, something from The Blueprint – the original, not the inferior sequels) sounds like. Boi-1da's instrumental isn't bad, but the hook certainly doesn't help ease the comparison. Jayceon goes on one of his typical rants, one which involves a metric ton of name-dropping and passing the blame around, but to be fair, he does sound in his wheelhouse whenever he does that. Unfortunately, our host has never been able to convert his references into anything resembling substance.
18. BORN IN THE TRAP
Since Dr. Dre refused to really produce anything on The R.E.D. Album, and since Pharrell Williams working by himself (which happens later in the program) doesn't count as a Neptunes production, hip hop legend DJ Premier is, by default, the most important producer on this project, and he doesn't disappoint, delivering a healthy dose of boom bap to an album already on life support as it is. Game steps up to the challenge, as well: the name drops are a bit much, and I was surprised that he elected to handle his own chorus instead of going with one of Primo's trademarked hooks made up of scratched-in vocal samples, but “Born In The Trap” is still easily the best song on this project. By far. And I acknowledge that I'm not even done listening to the full album yet.
19. MAMA KNOWS (FEAT. NELLY FURTADO)
I have no problem with Nelly Furtado. I like The Neptunes as a production team (Pharrell by himself, not so much). And if I absolutely hated The Game, I wouldn't have focused on his career for this long on the blog. But this shit? What did I do to deserve this shit? Because I'm sorry. I really am.
20. CALIFORNIA DREAM
Jayceon ends his contribution to The R.E.D. Album with a song dedicated to his newborn daughter, and the last couple of minutes are used to play what I think is supposed to be actual audio from the delivery room. Either that, or The Game has mastered the art of the Prince Paul-esque skit. An interesting way to end things, I guess. It also helps that, as a song, this isn't terrible, since Game is capable of spinning quite a compelling tale when he focuses on what he's doing, which, unfortunately, doesn't happen very often.
21. DR. DRE OUTRO (FEAT. DR. DRE)
And we're (finally) done.
Depending on where you picked up The R.E.D. Album, your copy may include one or two bonus tracks. My library apparently doesn't shop at f.y.e., so the write-up ends here.
THE LAST WORD: Game's The R.E.D. Album may have been highly anticipated, but what Jayceon Taylor delivers is a muddled, overlong mess. Production-wise, this shit is all over the map, with most of it not really sticking to your bones. Lyrically, however, it's rather consistent, and by “consistent”, I mean that Jayceon's penchant for dropping more names than Joseph McCarthy hasn't lost a step. Unfortunately for the man, nothing on The R.E.D. Album stands out as anything remotely “classic”, regardless of what all of Game's stans are claiming on the Interweb. (Not even the Primo-produced “Born In The Trap” qualifies, as it ends up sounding more like an anomaly than anything Jayceon put actual effort into.) The Game is actually pretty good behind the mic, and when given something great to work with, he transcends his pop culture-spouting gangsta rapper roots to become something more, but The R.E.D. Album is boring as fuck. It's little wonder why this baby was pushed back so many times: nothing on here will have any kind of shelf life after this sentence. However, “Born In The Trap” has convinced me that Jayceon needs to pony up the big bucks to get all A-list backing the next time around: at least that way he may succeed in wooing the hip hop heads back. You should skip this shit and listen to the first half of The Documentary again.