April 25, 2013

My Gut Reaction: The Game - Jesus Piece (December 11, 2012) + Extra Tracks

Today, because I feel like it and because I should have done this a while ago, I present a write-up for The Game's fifth studio album, Jesus Piece.  It's labeled as a concept album that explores the duality of man, where the spiritual side constantly battles the materialistic void, but the first mistake was to call it a "concept album": unless you're Prince Paul (or, I guess, Ghostface Killah), rappers tend not to take concept albums very seriously.  And, as expected, Jayceon veers off course more often than not, because that is his way.

Jesus Piece represents the quickest turnaround of any Game project since the year-and-a-half gap between his freshman and sophomore releases.  After the success of album number four, The R.E.D. Album, Jayceon Taylor expected to record a final project to fulfill his contract with Interscope Records and retire from the, um, game entirely, but while recording songs for what was originally supposed to be called Soundtrack For Chaos (which is a terrible title), he became inspired by a song he made with his close friends Kanye West and Common, one which eventually turned into the title track for what would become Jesus Piece.  This one song caused him to scrap everything else he had and start over from scratch.

As this is a Game album and he's The Game, Game filled his album with as many popular artists as would have him in their studios.  Jayceon is no dummy: he actively courts radio and video airplay as though he was Charlie Chaplin and success was the blind girl from City Lights.  So it's understandable that he would try to stack the deck in his favor; as such, big names such as Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Wiz Khalifa, Lil Wayne, and Meek Mill all share in some of the spotlight, while our host tries his best to not be overshadowed on his own shit.  He also went out of his way to feature production that sounds like he's built his own radio station, one that directly competes for the attention of the average rap fan: whether or not he is successful at this depends on how often and how favorably you view that kind of thing.

I know, I know: these opening paragraphs suck.  Sue me.

Full disclosure: I actually wrote this review several months ago, back when the album actually dropped.  I just couldn't bring myself to actually publish the post, as I was still trying to figure out just how I felt about the project.  (I'm also not fond of how this post was formatted, specifically toward the end, but I'll have to let it slide in order to finally get this off of my plate.)  I believe I've since reconciled that in my mind, and as a bonus for your patience in waiting for a write-up that you didn't actually ask for, I've also written up the extra songs that Game released as part of his promotion for Jesus Piece.  I guess what I'm saying is: this is a long fucking review.  Get a goddamn snack.

Somehow Jayceon figured that this disjointed horseshit masquerading as a rap song would serve as a sufficient introduction to Jesus Piece. Instead of at least pretending to be interested in religion, “Scared Now” runs toward its polar opposite, being that it's a violent outburst that features one hilarious bit of imagery from our host (the idea of Game dressing up as a pizza delivery guy in order to infiltrate his enemy's organization is funny to me; the implication that he's actually talking about spraying his enemy's family at what sounds like a school athletic function is a matter of poor timing) and one ridiculous anti-50 Cent rant that surely isn't true in the least bit and only proves that Game is unable to simply let shit go already, which isn't a very good reason for a song to be written in the first place. Rick Ross's past and future weed carrier Meek Mill shows up to contribute a terrible performance over Black Metaphor's crappy instrumental. This is not a good sign.

Well, talk about turning on a dime, folks. That song title lends itself to an inherently silly chorus and additional references to Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, but, and I'm shocked to be writing this down, this shit was really fucking good. I credit Black Metaphor's Florence + The Machine “Seven Devils”-sampling instrumental, which both bangs and modifies itself just enough to keep my interest, all while maintaining its massive sound, with elevating the performances of our host and two guests who I normally wouldn't give two fucks (or 2 Fuckz?) about. Officer Ricky only contributes a short verse about halfway through and leaves the scene (making this only the second most useless Rick Ross cameo in hip hop history, falling behind his useless opening four bars on Kanye West's “Monster”), but the artist formerly known as Tity Boi plays well with Jayceon, delivering two verses around Game's energetic performance, and that energy causes him to butt in whenever he feels the holy ghost. Not that I'm complaining: even though this shit's far removed from The Documentary's West Coast sound, it's actually pretty goddamn entertaining: I didn't even mind that the song runs on for far too long. The skit at the end was silly, and actually makes sense within the overall theme of the album, too. So I'm not mad at this song. (Obviously, this means Hell is freezing over and the end of days is upon us, but sue me, I like this song.)

The beat is pretty boring: I suppose it would have been too much of a hassle to simply ask Kanye to also produce this bad boy. Or for him to provide a verse, apparently: 'Ye's guest appearance is limited to only part of a chorus. It was kind of funny to hear Game claim that he never intended to record a verse for “Crack Music” (from 'Ye's Late Registration), considering the fact that your cat could crawl all over your keyboard while chasing the cursor and could inadvertently Google Game's deleted verse from that particular track in all of two seconds. Common is entirely miscast on this shit, not unlike in Smokin' Aces, unless you think that Lonnie Lynn should only exclusively rhyme over crappy beats, in which case you may feel differently about “Jesus Piece”. Anyway, I have nothing good to say about this shit: I'm kind of surprised that I wrote this much, to be honest.

Having failed after bringing out the G.O.O.D. Music ringers, Jayceon runs in the opposite direction, quietly requesting the presence of blogger favorite J. Cole and JMSN for "Pray", a Cool & Dre-produced trifle whose musical backing wouldn't have even been considered had it not been for the success of Drake and his emotional antics.  And just like Aubrey's work, Cool & Dre's instrumental makes "Pray" sound much more thoughtful than it really is, a fact proven by Cole's verse, which was alright but struggles to actually fit the reason the song allegedly exists.  JMSN's hook was inconsequential, too.  Still, I liked this better than the godawful title track.

Some hip hop heads believe Jayceon to be fairly malleable, able to conform to the needs of whatever type pf beat he's been provided.  I, however, think of him as more of a mimic, and that tactic only works part of the time.  "Church", with its K. Roosevelt beat that sounds like a lot of shit on the radio today, is, as such, pretty meh.  Game loses his identity thanks to his need to be all things to all rap fans, and he'll probably lose more of those fans as a result.  Overexposed R&B crooner Trey Songz appears on here because of course he would, and guest star King Chip actually kind of sounds like how The Game would have if he had recorded his verse five years prior.  So that happened.

Yet another generically shitty rap song that pretends to praise the ladies while the artists involved are all just talking about fucking them in the most excessive manner possible.  Jayceon, Weezy, and Big Sean all manage to turn off the female audience while trying to breathe on this Cool & Dre contraption, while Jeremih croons the chorus because, well, what else is he doing right now?  Bizarrely, Fabolous, an artist who specializes in rap songs for the ladies, is left reciting ad-libs while the track attempts to fade out around him.  What a waste of time for everyone involved.  And, apparently, Dr. Dre loves this song: proof positive that the hip hop legend is so far out of touch that Detox will neverFuckingHappen.  At least not in the form we were all hoping for.

I like how Game quickly surmises the intelligence of his female companion by noting that she has some Jay Electronica songs on her iPod.  I'm sure he appreciated the shout-out, since who the fuck knows when his actual album is ever coming out.  Anyway, this song did nothing for me.  Jayceon's lyrics have nothing to do with the pseudo-religious angle the hook (and song title) appear to be striving for, and Cool & Dre's beat is a repetitive loop that reminded me of Tangerine Dream's score for Risky Business, had Tangerine Dream done a shitty job.  Moving on...

Now, I like Pusha T.  I think that's pretty obvious to you two by now: I've made that fact abundantly clear on the blog.  But the man is only as hood as his collaborators, and on "Name Me King", both The Game and producer SAP (not the best name, mind you) fail him at every turn.  Not that he complains or anything: Pusha Thornton plays well with others, after all.  But with that song title and the lyrics informed by said title, Jayceon tries to infuse this song with a sense of entitlement, and none of this is ever truly earned, not even by the guest.  In short, because this paragraph is too long already, this song sucked.

One of Kendrick Lamar's first appearances on a major label release was on Game's "The City" (from The R.E.D. Album), so it makes sense that Jayceon would keep those lines of communication open, even though K-Dot is a much hotter commodity now (dude has a gold record under his belt now, so good for him).  Over a low-key Boi-1da beat that's a better fit for the guest, Game and Kendrick deliver engaging verses in between R&B stalwart Tank's Auto-Tuned vocals, which aren't annoying enough to grate on your nerves.  As expected, Hayceon turns "See No Evil" into yet another travelogue for California (Compton specifically), but Kendrick's performance rates with the high points from good kidd, m.A.A.D. city.  Not terrible: I just wish this wasn't Game's song to fuck up.

The inclusion of guest crooner K. Roosevelt's hook underscores the general theme of this track, on which Jayceon admits he isn't perfect and that he will continue to fuck up in the future even though he can see his past mistakes with the clarity that hindsight offers.  The second verse is actually very fucking interesting, mainly because, after "See No Evil", I was wondering how Game felt about Kendrick Lamar becoming Dr. Dre's prize pig after Jayceon's fallout with the good Doctor.  Whoever sequenced "Can't Get Enough" immediately after "See No Evil" is a fucking prophet or something.

Threw me off at the beginning, because Game shouts out a fictional character, but once I realized that he was just setting up a joke and isn't quite that out of the loop (listen to the song and you'll see what I mean), I settles in for more mixed messages and numerous name-drops from a man who is, essentially, the sum total of his contradictory parts.  Jake One's beat was plain, and the gospel-lite chorus from Django was appropriate but annoying, but Jayceon's actual performance wasn't terrible, even though I have no plans to listen to this shit ever again.

Not so much a song (even with Elijah Blake's hook) as it is a string of punchlines, threats, and celebrity name-drops that never truly add up.  The Amadeus beat was boring as shit, but Jayceon tries his best to keep the audience awake, switching up his flow and referencing a collaboration with Scarface that was supposed to be the previous track (but was cut due to sample clearance issues).  The skit at the end wasn't required listening, but it serves the album's overall arc well.

For Jesus Piece's first single, Jayceon recruits a who's who of what's wrong with hip hop today to celebrate over a SAP beat that rips off Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's "1st Of Tha Month" so blatantly that Game had no choice but to include the actual group on the remix, or else suffer the wrath of everyone who was in high school when E. 1999 Eternal hit store shelves.  Now this isn't much of a surprise, but I pretty much hated this shit, mainly because I wholeheartedly believe that every single artist that continues to employ Chris Brown's bitch ass, post-Rihanna, post-Frank Ocean, post-hey everybody, look at how much of a dick he is, needs to be kicked out of the music industry, and I include Rihanna on that list, for the record.  (She still has some catchy songs, but she wouldn't really be missed.)  Game sounded okay, but the entire song smacks of what a lazy critic would call an "homage" when they should be calling it "armed robbery".  Bleh.

The following two tracks are available only on the deluxe edition of Jesus Piece.

Game's Auto-Tuned vocals on the hook (which he shares with guest star Future, who has somehow parlayed his hook on Y.C.'s "Racks" into an actual musical career, although I'm sure the Dungeon Family ties helped him a little) make it sound like he's just now entering puberty.  Thinking of Jayceon as a twelve-year-old jackass who takes the wrong lessons away from rap songs made this horseshit much easier to digest, since "I Remember", with its Yung Ladd beat, sounds like everything else on the radio today, which is good for Game and bad for people who refer to themselves as "actual hip hop heads".  Oh, and Young Jeezy is on here.

Jayceon's take on the same material Kanye West mined (no pun intended) for his "Diamonds From Sierra Leone" predictably meanders all over the place in Game's traditional stream-of-consciousness, short-attention-span manner, so, as such, he quickly loses the plot.  Oh well, at least some of "Blood Diamonds" touched on societal ills.  S1's beat wasn't bad, but this song could have benefited from focus on our host's part.  Sigh.

The following is available only on the iTunes deluxe edition of Jesus Piece.

Weirdly, the lone Dr. Dre-produced track for Jesus Piece has been designated as an iTunes bonus track. Well, actually, I guess it isn't all that weird: “Dead People” features The Game going on a killing spree that is rivaled only by Eminem in its level of alleged insanity, by which I mean the rationalization of the actions from the artist and not the quality of the track. I imagine this song could be seen as polarizing, but for what it's worth, I didn't find it all that objectionable. Dre's prescription is simple but decent, and Game's actual verses are highly detailed and pretty impressive. His hook, on the other hand...

The following song is available as a bonus track on some other retail versions of Jesus Piece.  God, how many versions of this shit are there?


The other iTunes bonus track harkens back to Game's mixtape persona, the guy who would attack pretty much any-goddamn-body in our chosen genre without a second thought. While it's disappointing to hear that he still has issues with 50 Cent and G-Unit, especially since Game is actually much more relevant to hip hop than, say, Tony Yayo, at least he's consistent with his hatred. His new target, Shyne, gets it the worst, though, as Jayceon has, apparently, taken Shyne Po's disdain for Kendrick Lamar's good kidd, m.A.A.d. city personally, and he takes issue with Puff Daddy's lack of a presence when The Notorious B.I.G. was murdered in Los Angeles. (Actually, Biggie's untimely death seems to pop up on every other track on Jesus Piece, possibly proving that Game ran out of shit to talk about long ago.) Dawaun Parker's beat was passable, but this is a glorified mixtape freestyle, not a song people should spend actual money on.

THE LAST WORD:  Jesus Piece is a fucking mess that still manages to produce exactly one banger, "Ali Bomaye", that transcends everything else that happens on the album.  By featuring guests on damn near every track (typically more than one) and only barely sticking with his own self-imposed theme, The Game tries to be all things to all people, and he loses himself on more than one occasion, succumbing to the pressure of being only as hot as your last album, which makes him a real pain in the ass.  The Game is most certainly capable of writing good songs: the best work on his preceding four projects came about when he stopped caring about what people would think of him and wrote shit that he would want to listen to.  But on Jesus Piece, he hides behind the conceit of a half-assed concept album that fails on every level.  The beats are generic for the most part, the selection of guest artists are uninspired, and the entire goddamn thing sounds very much like an album drafted by committee in a conference room at Interscope, created in order to maximize profit, Game's participation be damned.  This might be why it took me so long to finally post this piece: Jesus Piece made me angry, and then completely indifferent, as though I could give a shit about where Game's career takes him now.  I'll still pay attention to the albums and the occasional mixtape track, but I know he's better than this material, and I have to think that he believes the same thing, too.  Within this context, "Ali Bomaye" comes across as a mere happy accident, but I'll take it just so this wasn't a complete waste of my valuable time.  And so Jesus Piece gets thrown into the pile of shit I'll never give a damn about again.

 The cover of the standard edition.

Game promoted Jesus Piece by releasing free songs to the Interweb every Sunday leading up to the project's release.  He called the series Sunday Service (shades of Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Fridays), and the tracks he unleashed were, for the most part, incomplete thoughts and songs that ultimately died in the sample clearance wars that he still insisted on releasing.  For about two months, Game posted a new track like clockwork, and, as is what tends to happen when artists are able to control their own output without label interference, some of the tracks leaked fare much better than most of the actual album.


Blows the original abomination out of the water because Jayceon was smart enough to defer to the authors of the song that “Celebration” liberally borrowed from in the first place. Although the beat is the same, this remix excels because, after spitting the first verse, Game largely vanishes, allowing all five members of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony to shine. I'm surprised this remake wasn't more successful: the original already sampled heavily from "1st Of Tha Month", a song that the fans of the guests on the original version (Tyga, Wiz, Weezy, and the ridiculous Chris Brown, whose hook still appears on here anyway) would all be waaaay too young to know, so this remix had the power of nostalgia going for it. That, and the fact that it's far more enjoyable as a song. Yeah, I said it.


This second volley in the Sunday Service series was included as a bonus track on some retail versions of Jesus Piece: it also received minimal airplay on the radio, which isn't typical of a freebie unless it was released by Kanye West. Anyway, “Holy Water” isn't much of a song, but it is fairly catchy, due to SAP's production, which would, admittedly, grow increasingly more annoying had the track continued beyond its two verses. For his part, Jayceon's contributions are controlled and confident, and “Holy Water” actually fits into the alleged concept of Jesus Piece more so than many of the tracks that made the final cut. This doesn't seem like something I should like, but hey, I have layers.


This is the same as the song that ended up on Jesus Piece. I understand there's a version that inexplicably replaces Young Jeezy with Tyga, but I haven't heard that one yet. Moving on...


SAP's instrumental wasn't terrible, although it was a bit repetitive, and having Game refer to himself as Jesus Christ and then mention that he never would have made it had it not been for Jesus Christ is more confusing than thought-provoking. (Then again, most organized religions are more confusing than thought-provoking.) The hook is performed by Dre (from Cool & Dre) in a lazy drawl that helps tone down the alleged seriousness of the track, which was a nice touch, even if “Black Jesus” ultimately proves why it was not chosen for the album because it's too short and sounds incomplete. Ah well, could have been worse.


It could have sounded like this shit, for instance. This remake of Master P's 1997 hit "Is There A Heaven 4 A Gangsta?" (from the Rhyme & Reason soundtrack), which also features Dancing With The Stars' Master P, was allegedly produced by DJ Premier in the least DJ Premier-sounding way, as his trademarked-and-patent-pending boom bap has been replaced with Folgers crystals, with Primo allowing a sample to play out for longer than three seconds, causing the beat to crawl by like a drunken infant with no motor skills. In short, it's boring as fuck, but hey, Primo was trying something new, so I'll give him a pass today. Master Percy proves himself to be one of the most misguided choices of artist to ever appear on a DJ Premier production, which is no small feat, given that the likes of Fred Durst and Jermaine Dupri have graced his beats, and I'm sure he regrets sticking up for Chief Keef, as he does at the end of his verse. An interesting failure is still a failure, folks.


A bluesy-sounding take on the concept of strippers isn't a bad idea, but the execution of “Stripper” is poor enough for everyone listening to feel bad for all of the women degraded within the track. Also, Wale chimes in from an entirely different galaxy. What was this shit supposed to be?


Timbaland's pseudo-return to producing actual rap songs (as this predates Jay-Z's “Open Letter” but comes after Missy Elliott's new singles “Triple Threat” and “9th Inning”) is marked by...a track that Jayceon released for free because it wasn't good enough to be included on any album project. That must be a kick in the nuts, right, Timbo? For what it's worth, the beat wasn't all that bad: vintage Tim Mosely will be impossible to come by these days, but, just like his best work, “Judas Closet” doesn't really sound like anything else out right now. However, the track tanks because of the contributions of West Coast stalwart Nipsey Hussle, who sounds so bland and unconvincing that it's far too easy to imagine his defeat at the hands of the robots that this song was clearly designed to entertain. Game also appears.


This slow roll through Houston, Texas purports to have a Kanye West feature, but he's barely behind the mic: his contribution sounds like a sample from an older song I can't place.  However, he did contribute the instrumental, so that's something.  Now I have no fucking clue how Jayceon could write and release a Texas posse cut without asking Bun B for input (Scarface appears on the next track, so he's excused for now), but for what it's worth, this could have been awful, and it isn't. Game himself is the odd man out: the 'Ye beat is a much better fit for all of the guests, whose respective speedy flows clash directly with their well-documented affinity for driving around while high as fuck on codeine-laced cough syrup. So, basically, I need to stay off the roads the next time I visit Houston, lest I get into a fender-bender with a rapper under the influence. Got it.


The final freebie was actually on Jesus Piece until the very last minute, when Jayceon was forced to pull it due to an unlicensed sample. (Astute readers, and those of you who know how to scroll up on your computer screens, will notice that Game actually makes a reference to this song (by mentioning Scarface's verse) on the album, as though it had just played.) Mark Henry's beat sounds absolutely nothing like the generic bullshit instrumentals that clouded most of the project: as such, there's no way that this would have ever fit on the album anyway. Jayceon launches into an exploration on how the deaths of many famous figures should actually be considered homicides, using their big names to make his own verses sound important and deep, which actually made me hate our host's contributions to his own fucking song. K-Dot only provides the hook, which is immaterial to me, but Game is correct about one thing: Mr. Scarface kills this shit, even though he actually leans into the same conspiracy theories as our host. Maybe his authoritative voice carries more heft than someone who calls himself “The Game”. Ah, well.




  1. So much hatred for an album that actually intrigued me. I give it a 7/10 tbh because the few songs that did test his religion were fascinating and very honest. The skits tied the album together and provided an understated commentary on african american devotion to religion and I think you underrate the production for the most part. Yes, the beats don't kill it or bump, but they provide the appropriate backdrop and are serviceable.

  2. A the risk of beating a dead horse, do you think Game picked up on the irony of placing a skit that says "I'm not saying hit your lady in the face" before the album's Chris Brown feature?

    More or less agree this album is the pinnacle of "rap-by-committee." The fact that there are about 30 fucking versions pisses me off, too. Didn't hate the title track as much as you did though.

  3. Max can you review XXX, Blue Chips or Mista Thug Isolation?

  4. holy crackers Max, i again give you credit for putting detail in a review for an album that sucks. I'll also say i didnt find this engaging at all, but yes, Game has potential, and he has shown it before. (still havent gotten to Ghostface btw, wanna hear it SO BAD)

  5. Hasn't Game rapped himself into a household joke by now? Dude is pathetic.

  6. The lack of people giving even half a shit for this review, including myself proves, Max, that you should not review them. Or do as you want, its your blog.

  7. Game is a perfect example of one of those rappers who has the potential to be great. If he had been around earlier in the nineties and had been able to jump on some of that great west coast production form the likes of Dre, Quik, Ant Banks, Mike Mosely and Studio Ton, Sir Jinx, Battlecat, Daz Dillinger, Muggs, LT Hutton etc, he could have been great.

    Sometimes it frustrates me to think of all the great music we miss out on due to poor production choices. Nas is arguably the best but has suffered this fate throughout his whole post illmatic career. Nastradamus was one of his best albums lyricaly, but beat wise he was seriously lacking. Think of all the people he could have worked with, Pete Rock, Diamond D, Buckwild, Lord Finesse, more Primo Beats, MF Doom, RZA and so on.

    After seeing what EL-P did for Killer Mike on R.A.P. Music, Nas, a similarly minded polictical gangster should jump at the chance to work exculsivly with one producer, amybe even EL-P. He wont though, because he is forever chasing radio play. God i make my self sick caring about this so much, its only hip hop music at the end of the day, theres enough good shit to go around.

    1. Nas with El-P would be godlike. I finally heard RAP Music and i cant stop playing it. Now you know just how it go...

    2. There was supposed to be a Nas album with only DJ Premier producing it, but it's only a myth like Dr. Dre's Detox album....

    3. I certainly hope nobody's sitting around holding their breath for a Primo/Nas project. We're lucky we got that Bumpy Knuckles one, to be honest. Which reminds me, I have to get to that one soon.

  8. Tile GroutApril 29, 2013

    I'm glad you chose to post this; The Game isn't the most interesting rapper these days but this album deserved to be looked at simply because he obviously considered it to be a masterpiece.

    Excellent job! This was enjoyable and informative. Have you ever considered a second career writing for textbook companies? Think of what you could do with a nice chapter on The Mayflower Compact...or the Post-World War II Birth of the Cold War!!

  9. Max can you review either Danny Brown or Action Bronson next

    1. I have plans on getting back to both, but neither one will be next.

  10. I quit listening to Game after LAX. Thanks for confirming I haven't been missing anything.

    1. Glad I could be of service.

  11. AnonymousMay 02, 2013

    Before you hit Danny Brown and Bronsolino, Tyler the Creator's Wolf needs a review. That way you'll be on top of most of his catalog since he only dropped 3 real albums.

    1. I personally have no plans on revisiting Tyler anytime soon. He's not on the list of artists I plan on working through for now. Doesn't mean that I wouldn't accept a Reader Review for Wolf, though.

  12. AnonymousMay 05, 2013

    I'd like to see how you'd handle Death Grips

  13. AnonymousMay 22, 2013

    Haha Max sounds like a white guy