November 3, 2017

My Gut Reaction: The Game - The Documentary 2 (October 9, 2015)

Before the hiatus that ended up getting away from me (and threatens to continue doing so, if I'm being real), I received the most requests to write about The Game, who had just released The Documentary 2 in an effort to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of his major label debut, The Documentary. And I mean by far: the sheer volume of requests for an artist I figured most of you two didn't really follow anymore was deafening, and I'm still not convinced that as many people will actually comment about the project now that a review exists. But I present this lost write-up as evidence that I was, in fact, working on a review for The Documentary 2, so I wasn't lying when I told you that two years ago, and what follows represents how far I got into it.

I believe I was trying to write about both that album and its immediate follow-up, or sequel, or second half, depending on what school of thought you attend, The Documentary 2.5, all within the same post, as I sometimes do, but I only managed to get about five songs into that one before the world started burning, so for obvious reasons, there's going to be a delay on The Documentary 2.5. But there is at least this, so enjoy!

Oh, and as always, I need to see comments, likes, mentions, retweets, whatever in order to gauge further interest in the site, and purchasing The Documentary 2, or literally anything else, by clicking through the Amazon links will help keep the blog sustainable. I hate that I have to write that now, as it should be obvious, but you two want this to continue, right?

What follows is my virtually untouched writing from 2015, save for some editorial changes.


The Documentary 2 was Compton rapper Jayceon “The Game” Taylor's sixth major label album, if one considers eOne Music (which distributes his vanity label, Blood Money Entertainment, which he co-founded with ex-Shady Records affiliate Stat Quo) to be in the same league as Interscope or Geffen, two labels Game formerly called home. At this point in his career, Jayceon had formed a lot of alliances, burned surprisingly few bridges, and managed to sell quite a few records along the way, so the announcement of The Documentary 2 was seen by many in music media as an event of sorts, a culmination of the man's body of work, which, as a reminder, contains rhymes which consist almost exclusively of the names of famous figures in hip hop and popular culture being dropped over instrumentals that bang approximately ten to fifteen percent of the time (listen to all of his albums and tell me I'm wrong, I dare you) and jumping onto every single trend that ever existed, including treating albums as “sequels” to favorably-received projects even though the years that have passed between release dates have affected the artist's subject matter, style, and relevance, so as to cause the expectations of any alleged audience to artifically inflate.

The Documentary 2 stacks the deck by including guest spots from artists from all over the cultural map (well, the United States and Canada, anyway), so as to appeal to the broadest possible audience. Are you in your mid-to-late twenties and think Drake is everything? Good news for you, then: he pops up on the lead single, “100”. Are you, like me, an older hip hop head who is in constant danger of aging out of the genre entirely? Well looky here, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre make appearances for some reason, as does the all-he-does-is-slum-these-days DJ Premier. Are your listening habits trash? Future's on here, too. I'm certain Game programmed The Documentary 2 to carefully reach every possible demographic that could accidentally stumble across his songs on the radio based on the strength of the guest, as there isn't anyone I know of that consciously seeks out a Game song from the current era.

Jayceon recorded so much material for The Documentary 2 that it was initially announced to be a double-disc effort. For some reason (read: to game Billboard's album sales charts), this idea was abandoned in favor of chopping the project in half, Kill Bill-style, with the follow-up, The Documentary 2.5, dropping a week after the first part hit store and Interweb shelves. Game has never been an artist known for quality control, so I'm sure the reason he released all of these songs almost at once was a form of showing off, whether we were talking about his work ethic (which is impressive, once you count everything else he's ever dropped, including those lengthy-as-fuck mixtapes with songs that featured him rapping nine million bars in a row or something) or just how wide his social circle actually is.

Releasing both projects within a week of one another certainly would have gifted Game twice as many store facings in displays... if such stores still existed in real life. Instead, he may have done better to have just dropped the double album: given the relatively low sale numbers for both halves, he may have at least earned a gold plaque had he not gotten... well, “greedy” isn't the right word. I don't know how to describe it, really. Not like it really matters, though: aside from some minor story threads, Game isn't known for thematic consistency, so it isn't like every single song from both halves needed to see the light of day, I'm sure.

*deep breath*

1. INTRO
I'm thrilled that The Game felt the need to waste everyone's time with this useless intro.

2. ON ME (FEAT. KENDRICK LAMAR)
Producers Bongo (a frequent collaborator of our host's) and Pops use an Erykah Badu sample (from her “On and On”) throughout the evolving instrumental to evoke a sense of consistency: without it, listeners would most likely believe that the second half of the track, on which Jayceon spits a verse exactly like how his guest K-Dot would, was an entirely different song. If nothing else, Game has proven to be a master mimic (I feel as though I've made this point before), and he doesn't sound bad copping Kendrick's flow, but it's increasingly harder to pin an identity onto someone who has transitioned into somewhat of a rap chameleon. “On Me” wasn't bad, although the only thing I remember is how both Game and K-Dot continually reference their shared family physician, Dr. Dre, even though he didn't have anything to do with song (officially). Allegedly, Dre has some vocals on here, too, but I don't recall hearing him. The beat for the next track comes in early, giving The Documentary 2 a mixtape vibe that also wasn't necessary, what with the rather large guest roster and all.

3. STEP UP (FEAT. DEJ LOAF & SHA SHA)
That sample (read the song title again: you can guess which one I'm talking about, even without playing the track) plays throughout the entirety of Bongo's production, and it's distracting as hell, as an older hip hop head's mind can't help but to wander to both Gang Starr's “Step In The Arena” and 2Pac's “I Get Around”. Jayceon also adopts an odd Biggie-esque flow for some reason, which, while not a bad impersonation, feels hollow. “Step Up” ultimately seems to be an amalgamation of terrible ideas all put together on one track, including guest vocalist Sha Sha's interpolation (of sorts) of Brandy's “I Wanna Be Down” during her hook, which made no sense within or without context, and Game literally brings in Detroit's Dej Loaf (Seriously, we're still going with that name?) to mumble some random shit at the end. What the fuck did I just listen to?

4. DON'T TRIP (FEAT. ICE CUBE, DR. DRE, & WILL.I.AM)
The instrumental, provided by will.i.am and not the obvious choice present in the guest list (I assume Game was in a rush to make his fourth quarter 2015 release date, and a Dre prescription just wouldn't work for his schedule), isn't as hard or “street” as is promised during the song's intro, on which Andre shatters all of your illusions by revealing that he's friends with the leader of the Black Eyed Peas, but it still wasn't horrible. Game and the good Doctor both put in pretty decent performances, though Ice Cube sounds fucking terrible, and the producer is reserved solely for ad-libs and the outro, including his bizarre take on the Digable Planets classic “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” toward the very end. Hey, at least this doesn't sound like a Black Eyed Peas song.

5. STANDING ON FERRARIS (FEAT. DIDDY)
The Jahlil Beats, um, beat sounds like someone played the Screaming Jay Hawkins-sampled instrumental from The Notorious B.I.G.'s “Kick In The Door” (one of DJ Premier's finest non-Gang Starr productions, hands down, fight me) and Juvenile's “Ha” at the same damn time. Puff Daddy shouldn't have allowed this shit to happen in the first place, as “Standing On Ferraris” sullies my memory of one of my favorite Biggie joints, but nope, there he is, ad-libbing, laughing at Game's Craig Mack joke, and delivering a long-ass rant at the very end in which he immediately forgets what he just fucking said. Did Game buy you a Ferrari for your birthday, or just because it was Tuesday? Get your lies straightened out, Sean. Also, Game should probably pay closer attention to his money: he isn't selling that well these days. Anyway, other than the gag of Game being too tall to fit in a Bugatti, there isn't anything good I can say about this horseshit. Biggie's ghost is going to haunt Puffy for this blasphemy.

6. DOLLAR AND A DREAM (FEAT. AB-SOUL)
I could have done without the opening forty-five seconds of “Dollar and a Dream”, during which Jayceon shouts out as many sets and cliques he can think of for absolutely no goddamn reason. (He ends the track in the same fashion.) Game isn't one to adhere to themes, for the most part, so while he may have started with “a dollar, a dream, and a pistol”, as is claimed during the chorus, his verses are generic shit-talk that seem decent (I've never really had a problem with his actual rhymes) but feel empty. The second Black Hippy representative of the evening, Ab-Soul, delivers the second verse, and he sounds alright, at least a lot better than my admittedly limited exposure to the dude would have led me to believe prior to this review. The instrumental, credited primarily to the duo Cool & Dre, is instantly forgettable.

7. MADE IN AMERICA (FEAT. MVRCUS BLVCK)
Guest rapper Mvrcus Blvck (a moratorium on spelling your name by swapping vowels for other letters, please: I give CHVRCHES a pass, but everyone else needs to cut that shit out) opens the track with a seamless transition from the previous song, but Jayceon handles the rest of Bongo's instrumental with more boasts 'n bullshit. Not bad, though: Game has been in our chosen genre long enough to have earned the cockiness he exhibits throughout The Documentary 2, which serves him well enough.

8. HASHTAG (FEAT. JELLY ROLL)
A pretty useless track, one on which Jayceon seems to be an afterthought, delivering a brief verse as though he were coerced into doing so at gunpoint the night before the album was set to be sent in for mastering. Crooner-slash-producer Jelly Roll (who handles the beat alongside Bongo) dominates this motherfucker, with his raspy off-pitch vocals polarizing audiences for years to come. “Hashtag”, which is exactly as stupid as its title, should have been left as an afterthought in Game's rhyme notebook, or at least should have been chopped down into a skit. Ugh.

9. CIRCLES (FEAT. Q-TIP, ERIC BELLINGER, & SHA SHA)
What in the fuck of all that is holy is Q-Tip doing on an album from The Game? Cashing a motherfucking check, son! “Circles” is essentially a recorded argument between Jayceon and returning guest Sha Sha, playing the role of his wifey who is being stepped out on, because The Game is all about that thug life. Bongo's instrumental is bland, but serviceable. All of that changes, however, when Sha Sha reveals that she's also been getting some on the side, which knocks our host for such a loop that the beat switches into a jazzy affair that sounds much better, and over which Tip chimes in as a conscience of sorts, dropping a quickie verse before making room for a, um, tip of the hat to the excellent De La Soul song “Breakadawn”. All in all, a strange listen, but not without value. Singer Eric Bellinger also does something.

10. UNCLE (SKIT)
An interlude on which Game appears to be schooled in how to properly treat a woman. An interesting aside, although I'm sure the lessons won't take.

11. DEDICATED (FEAT. FUTURE & SONYAE)
Thanks to his extended performance at the very beginning, the Bongo and Hit-Boy-produced “Dedicated" comes across as a Future song featuring our host, which isn't that far off, since Game hardly discriminates when it comes to who he works alongside (unless that person is Young Thug, which, I have to say, I kind of commend him on that point). As with most Future tracks, “Dedicated” is low-key, druggy trap shit that is more likely to rock your newborn to sleep than it is to help the club get lit. Guest crooner Sonyae only pops up at the end, probably due to Game's tendency to defy general songwriting logic throughout much of The Documentary 2.

12. BITCH YOU AIN'T SHIT
Is it bad that I was hoping “Bitch You Ain't Shit” would have had the balls to borrow Dr. Dre's “Bitches Ain't Shit” instrumental? That probably would have been preferable to this misogynistic exercise in pure unadulterated hatred toward the opposite sex. This Caviar production follows the thin narrative thread present during the last few tracks, but it's not like you ever need to listen to this shit, even if you're invested in the storyline for some reason. And yes, I fully realize that “Bitches Ain't Shit” is itself problematic, with it treating women horribly (and also Eazy-E). This track sucks of its own accord, though. And why did I have to sit through eleven tracks in order to finally hear our host perform all by himself?

13. SUMMERTIME (FEAT. JELLY ROLL)
Unlike the other Jellly Roll-featured song on The Documentary 2, “Summertime” minimizes his contribution to light crooning only (Mike WILL Made It handles the production end of things). Also unlike “Hashtag”, I actually liked this song. “Summertime” ends up being a stealth banger, punctuated by Jayceon's confident, elastic flow and repetitive chorus that doesn't annoy me, weirdly. I can't really explain it either, but sometimes you just don't need to.

14. MULA (FEAT. KANYE WEST)
The Game and Yeezucristo have a history, so this collaboration isn't surprising in the least. However, 'Ye's singing during the hook is so bad that you'll miss Auto-Tune. Game seems to believe that merely attaching Kanye West's name to his song is automatically enough to make the shit bang. (At least 'Ye's sense of humor makes a brief comeback during a tossed-off bar, unlike the humorless Yeezus.) The instrumental, credited to Sevn Thomas, is pretty trash as well: it sounds like he never finished his original work and decided to fill in the gaps by playing a measure from Phantogram's “Fall In Love” underneath it as is. I like Phantogram, so that just seems lazy as fuck to me: at least work the sample, dick. At least it's short. “Mula” ends with an overlong skit that leads into...

15. THE DOCUMENTARY 2
Let's get this out of the way real quick: the title “The Documentary 2” may or may not work for the album, but for an individual song, it's fucking stupid. Said stupidity is underlined when producer DJ Premier combines two chopped-up vocal samples (as he does) to repeat that title during the intro and outro. However, Primo's boom bap (as filtered through Dr. Dre's guidance, at least according to Game's hook) is actually pretty good, and an inspired Jayceon tackles the opportunity with a glee that his work no longer contains for the most part. His bars aren't memorable in the least, but this title track was an entertaining effort, one custom-built for your playlist of random rap tracks for the road, even with all of those deejay drops toward the end. Feel free to rename it on your iTunes, though: be creative, people.

16. NEW YORK, NEW YORK
This song isn't actually about New York. I suppose Game thought it made for a better title than "New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago", the three cities actually referenced during the chorus. However, the track itself features some of our host's more conscious bars, and by “conscious”, I mean that he's informing the listener of the hypocrisy he's witnessed when it comes to violent crimes committed by black and white people, so at least his bars are worth listening to, even if the Streetrunner beat is ass. “New York, New York” ends with a somber eulogy for a former labelmate that will catch you off guard with its sincerity.

17. 100 (FEAT. DRAKE)
The first single from The Documentary 2 aims for mood over everything (with Cardo and Juliano manning the boards), but reaches mediocrity instead. This is most likely due to the most lethargic guest spot from Drake that I've ever fucking heard: Aubrey sounds so depressed that Nicki ended up with Meek that he recites his chorus and verse as though he couldn't be bothered to get out of bed that day, as though he were so anxious that he recorded his vocals while hiding from the world underneath the covers. (It reads like I'm fucking around, but mental illness is no joke, you two.) If there is anyone out there who knows someone that uses the phrase “keep it eight more than ninety-two” instead of just saying “keep it 100”, you have my green light to smack them the next time you see them: why use seven words when three will suffice? I won't even bother talking about Game's performance, except to say that he mimics Drake's lack of energy. So of course this horseshit is popular. Bleh.

18. JUST ANOTHER DAY
Confusingly, this “Just Another Day” isn't the same Game song that appeared on Dr. Dre's recent Compton: A Soundtrack. Which sucks, because that song was fire. (Has any other rapper released two songs with the same title within three months of one another before?) The Documentary 2's version of “Just Another Day”, produced by Bongo, is decidedly weaker, with our host utilizing the gimmick of repeating the word “I” until it's the last thing you hear before the bullet tears its way through the side of your brain. Moving on...

19. LA (FEAT. SNOOP DOGG, WILL.I.AM., & FERGIE)
I want to just say “meh”, but I have to warn the reader: will.i.am both produces and has an actual verse on here. There, I did my part. Meh.

THE LAST WORD: The Documentary 2 is an overstuffed mess, but you knew that already. Every single Game album is, so why would this one suddenly be the departure? What truly matters is if Jayceon somehow managed to stumble over a few gems, and in that respect, The Documentary 2 is a failure, as nothing on here will stick to your ribs, even if it catches your ear initially. I absolutely buy that Dr. Dre and Ice Cube would pop up, because of Game's previous working relationship with the good Doctor and the fact that, most likely, a lot of this project was recorded at least adjacent to the sessions Dre himself used to record Compton: A Soundtrack (a fact that becomes much more apparent in taking a cursory glance at the guest list for The Documentary 2.5), and yes, Game has a previously-established connection with Kanye West. But Puffy? Q-Tip? Future? Nah. Game just wanted to reach every single type of hip hop head, and that doesn't make for very good music. The large guest roster (which is even longer on the follow-up, so I'm not really looking forward to that) gives this album the feel of a label sampler or a poorly-planned mixtape that just so happens to have one guy appear consistently across all of the tracks, and the beats don't have a cohesive sound even with producer Bongo sticking around for several tracks. At seventeen tracks (and two skits), The Documentary 2 is just another generic rap album from a dude who does have skill with the pen (and, as I've noted, his ability to mimic other artists is quite entertaining and I definitely see a second career for him in a Las Vegas residency at one of the smaller hotels), but needs to learn how to believe in himself as a rapper and not just as the Kevin Bacon of hip hop, and also, it would be nice if he secured better beats for himself. And so.

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Catch up with Jayceon's catalog (at least the shit I've written about so far) by clicking here.

26 comments:

  1. Not a huge fan of this project, but I like Dollar and a Dream and On Me well enough. I will say that 2.5 is quite a bit better (at least for me), because it's thematically and sonically more consistent. And it has some awesome guest verses.

    Game's albums always get overrated, and I'm not really sure why. They're just so long and have way too much filler.

    Great review though

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    1. I think Game's albums (at least the ones I've written about, in the interest of fairness) are rated properly: they all mostly suck because of the reasons you gave. He needs to work on his editing. But you all already know that.

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  2. Maybe Game is actually the dude from Split, what with all his different flows, ears for bears, guest choices etc. Never really bought an album of his since the documentary but there's a great Game playlist out there somewhere as the dude has hits for sure.

    Keep 'gwarn, Max. Good show

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    1. Keeping up the tradition of bringing up films on a hip hop blog. Love it.

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  3. In my opinion, as far as this trap shit goes today ''100'' is actually one of the best examples of it.

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    1. If that's truly the case, then I'm happy that I'm too old to appreciate trap music.

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  4. "Are your listening habits trash? Future's on here, too." Haha! You've still got it Max. Keep the reviews coming!

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  5. You want people to keep this site alive, you gotta try at least, give us that wu tang joint or something new, nobody wants the review from 2 years ago, i wanna see how 2017 Max is holding up

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    Replies
    1. You SAY that, but I don't think you really want to know how I'm feeling about things today.

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    2. Typical oldhead 'I hate everything' sentiment.

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    3. Try me. There's new content up for something I just listened to right now.

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  6. It’s been a long ass time since I last gave a fuck about you, Jayceon Terrell. And if you’ve spent TEN damn years in this without really delivering on the initial promise you showed, I’d be VERY pressed to believe you’re not part of the problem. Fuck this album and the vast majority of its predecessors.

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    Replies
    1. What do you think counts toward "the initial promise [he] showed"?

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  7. Waaaay too bloated with guests, imo. Way too many songs too. I agree with mostly everything you said. It does have it's entertaining moments, though.

    Btw: I remember you saying how boring "Breakadawn" was in your De La Soul "Buhloone Mindstate" review [Which I thoroughly disagree with as a whole], but now it's "excellent"? Hmmm.....

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    Replies
    1. Tastes are allowed to evolve.

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  8. Some say Max started his hiatus in 2001, round about the same time Dre dropped 2001

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    Replies
    1. That line always annoyed me since 2001 dropped in 1999...

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    2. that's.. the point...

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  9. Great review as always Max had me laughing out loud!

    To be honest, 2.5 is much better.

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  10. Glad to see these 'new' reviews. I couldn't care less if they are actually new or not, since I can only say that you are the only source for hiphop reviews that are generally balanced as well as entertaining (even if I find myself disagreeing regularly). As with so many of its fans, too many other online reviewers seem too lenient on nonsense and too supportive of overhyped music and artists.
    My hope is that there will be some more old school westcoast albums among your list of thus far shelved reviews, but I would be happy with anything you feel like posting online. I hope you will find the will, energy and interest to continue with this website for a long time to come even if it has to survive on whatever finished reviews you feel like sharing after all. Best of luck with whatever troubles you face.

    As for Game, well, he has always been uninteresting and overrated to me, but he certainly makes for entertaining reviews on HHID.

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    1. Thanks. I appreciate that.

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  11. out of interest, did you bother listening to documentary 2.5, or even 1992, Max?

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  12. how has Game managed to maintain a degree of relevancy this long?

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  13. He has a lot of famous friends?

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