November 8, 2017

My Gut Reaction: The Game - The Documentary 2.5 (October 16, 2015)

I may never complete the tenuous project that I've tied this blog into (at least not without laying down some parameters that will undoubtedly piss both of you off), but when it comes to finishing something that I've started, I can at least do that with The Game's The Documentary 2. You see, Jayceon Taylor recorded so many tracks for what was ostensibly a project celebrating the ten-year anniversary of his major label debut that he opted to compile a double album, and then ridiculously chose to release each disc as its own separate entity. That's how we ended up with the subject of today's post, The Documentary 2.5, released exactly one week after its partner.



Click through to read more about what Game now refers to as his seventh solo album, and as always, purchasing anything by clicking the prevalent Amazon links helps support the site and keeps it going a little bit longer. Christmas is coming up very soon, and you know you'll be buying shit off of Amazon, so why not click through HHID first? I'm just saying.




The Documentary 2.5, as did its “predecessor”, consists of The Game dragging all of the contacts on his phone onto audio tracks and calling it a day. Okay, not really, but I can't be that far off. It still exists to mark an important milestone in the man's rap career, although, save for three acts (producers Cool & Dre, rapper Busta Rhymes, and crooner Deion), it doesn't invite anyone who actually contributed to The Documentary to the party (at least Dr. Dre popped up on The Documentary 2, but still), instead opting to release a glorified mixtape with a mixture of hip hop veterans and newbies, all the while ignoring all of the criticism that has been aimed at him throughout his entire career (namely that his lyrics consist of too much name-dropping and general mimicry, his albums are too long, he needs to stop settling for third-rate beats, why are there so many people on your tracks, etc.).



I don't have much more to say about a project that is virtually the same as what I wrote about last week, so have at it.



1. NEW YORK SKIT

Entirely unnecessary, but I, for one, still enjoy hearing The Game addressing the whole beef with 50 Cent. I'm weird, I know.



2. MAGNUS CARLSEN (FEAT. ANDERSON .PAAK)

Suffers from the same problem as some of Dr. Dre's Compton: A Soundtrack: too much reliance on Anderson .Paak. His flow is still polarizing, and I'm not one hundred percent behind him, but I will admit that he sounds a little bit better on “Magnus Carlsen” than he did on anything else I've sampled. Still, this Bongo production seems more like a .Paak track than a Game song, as there is a really long goddamn delay between our host's two verses on here. Pretty boring overall. Yeah, I said it.



3. CRENSHAW / 80S AND COCAINE (FEAT. ANDERSON .PAAK & SONYAE)

.Paak seems to ho out of his way to fuck with this song, too, with a lame-ass chorus that sounds so inauthentic that it may as well have been recited by the child indentured servants of Kidz Bop. As the young'ns like to do these days, this track is actually two separate songs, “Crenshaw” and “80s and Cocaine”, although both are essentially the same fucking thing, aside from .Paak being swapped out for Sonyae during the second half. Your life would be so much more complete if you skipped past this shit.



4. GANG BANG ANYWAY (FEAT. JAY ROCK & SCHOOLBOY Q)

The Game efficiently invites the other half of the Black Hippy collective to the party, as the members most likely to drop that gangsta shit, Jay Rock and ScHoolboy Quincy, join our host on “Gang Bang Anyway”, which, thankfully, is not about treating some poor woman as a sperm receptacle. Instead, the trio discuss the inherent fallacy of their violent lifestyle, and yet admit they'd still do it regardless. Bongo's instrumental continually morphs throughout, resulting in a sound that doesn't really bang, but otherwise wasn't entirely awful, with Jay Rock, who comes across as the Sheek Louch of his crew, impressing simply because he tries that much harder to keep up with Kendrick and company.



5. THE GHETTO (FEAT. NAS & WILL.I.AM)

If you weren't paying attention, “The Ghetto” would sound like a(nother) Nas song featuring will.i.am (why oh why does that name keep popping up on Game projects?), since our host mimics Esco so well that he could probably record as Nas without anyone batting an eye while Nasir goes and gets his ear for beats checked out. Anyway, God's Son does alright, but spouting off observations gleamed from growing up in the hood is entirely in his wheelhouse. Jayceon isn't bad, but you still won't need to hear “The Ghetto” again anytime soon. The short skit-slash-whatever you want to call it at the end was amusing, but unnecessary.



EDITOR'S NOTE: Hi, it's Max from 2017. You may recall that I previously mentioned not making it through The Documentary 2.5 before my hiatus started: “The Ghetto” was the last track I wrote about before I hit that brick wall and life washed over me. As such, the rest of this write-up will consist of the first review (of sorts) I've written in two years. Have fun, you two.



6. FROM ADAM (FEAT. LIL WAYNE)

I know Jameson and pickle juice is a thing, but it sounds disgusting, so right off the bat “From Adam” is stuck in an uphill battle against my better judgment. Jayceon uses the Cool & Dre beat to kind of ramble about how his violent lifestyle is exhausting and heartbreaking (not for nothing, but there are other subjects one could write about, Game), at least until he gives a tiny bit more info about his shooting (our host mentions that listeners already know that he was shot, but he still provides the details for “n----s that forgot”, which, whatever, I thought was both mightily pretentious of him to think that people care that much and hilariously meta). He finishes off “From Adam” by promoting two of his ride-or-die friends. Game technically sounds alright (he uses a three-rhyming-bar scheme at the beginning of the first verse, which helps push the “Huh, maybe he is actually drinking in the booth right now” concept across), but the song itself evaporates from the mind. Lil Weezy only provides a (sung) hook, which was a pretty egregious waste of am A-list guest star, I have to say.



7. GANG RELATED (FEAT. ASIA)

Another track on which Game both chastises and embraces his violent gang-related lifestyle. We get it: you're conflicted. The thing is, you really aren't, though: you wouldn't have the career you're enjoying (at least I assume you're enjoying it: maybe Jayceon sits alone every night staring at the walls, waiting for the emptiness to fully consume him so that he can finally feel free?) without everything you experienced while growing up, so you can't really be that upset at how everything turned out for you. “Gang Related” has a decent Bongo beat and guest vocals from Asia Bryant that sound alright, but our host squanders the opportunity with extreme repetition (and I mean extreme: if you've heard this in the preceding two years prior to this post's publication, you know exactly what I'm saying) and his most flagrant promotion of his Blood affiliation yet. Oh well.



8. LAST TIME YOU SEEN (FEAT. SCARFACE & STACY BARTHE)

Game's hero worship of Tupac Shakur, as heard throughout “Last Time You Seen” (an awkward title to both write out and say aloud), a curio notable for our host utilizing his verse to entertain a conspiracy theory regarding the late rapper's passing (and, briefly, that of The Notorious B.I.G., although Game doesn't seem to be quite as invested in him, as he was still dodging Biggie's menacing howls from the afterlife regarding “Standing on Ferraris” that reached him every time he looked at a mirror or similar reflective surface), and then pinning the blame squarely on Death Row Records co-founder Suge Knight (a fellow Blood, it should be said, and a dude Jayceon admits to being terrified by), not because he pulled the trigger or paid the hitman himself, but because he fucked over his former business partner, the drug trafficker Harry-O, and his bad karma ended up taking Pac's life. And then the motherfucker includes audio of fucking Harry-O himself (obliquely) speaking on the situation with Suge in the middle of the goddamn song. The balls on this guy, right? Jayceon clearly doesn't give a fuck, which I find admirable: if he had pulled this shit ten years ago he would have been written off as a nutcase looking for trouble: inserting this onto The Documentary 2.5, ten-plus years into his career, helps him come across as an investigative reporter, someone who is only interested in the truth. And you know what, good for him. Scarface, who had actually worked alongside Pac, contributes a retelling of the last time he spoke with the man, which was a nice touch. As a song, “Last Time You Seen” doesn't work, as Jayceon tosses proper structure out the window, but as an audio thinkpiece, well...



9. INTOXICATED (FEAT. DEION)

Is it strange that I'm actually offended by The Game's repurposing of Snoop Dogg's fake radio station WBALLS for his own use on “Intoxication”? I mean, Game and Snoop are cool, so I realize he received the proper blessings and such, but it just seems wrong somehow, artificially connecting this garbage to Snoop's classic work (and his not-so-classic shit, admittedly). The fact that Jayceon wastes this association on a glorified interlude that he doesn't even appear on (the only vocals come from crooner Deion, who may or may not have ever existed on this mortal coil) is also puzzling as fuck. Groan.



10. QUIK'S GROOVE (THE ONE) (FEAT. DJ QUIK, SEVYN STREETER, & MICAH)

Continuing the theme of swiping concepts from bigger artists drawing inspiration from his favorite rappers, Jayceon somehow convinces producer-slash-rapper DJ Quik to provide the tenth entry in his own “Quik's Groove” series to The Documentary 2.5 and not save it for a project of his own. Our host does allow his guest equal screen time (Game's been consistently great with that throughout his career: the man's not afraid of ceding the spotlight when appropriate), but this overlong sex rap (on which Game boasts about waking up every morning mid-fellatio) is boring on nearly every front. The music was pleasant and throwback-y, if not actually “good”, and the hook (shared by Sevyn Streeter and Micah) is okay, I suppose, but this song ends up just kind of lying there. Like Game does every morning, I have to assume.



11. OUTSIDE (FEAT. E-40, MVRCUS BLVCK, & LIL' E)

Produced by Travis Barker and Kevin Bivona, “Outside” sounds like a loving homage to the Cali gangsta scene: not exactly G-Funk, but something adjacent to it. Jayceon can't help but namedrop Dr. Dre when rhyming alongside the late Eazy-E's son Lil' E, which actively caused me to look at this song sideways, but whatever. “Outside” has an interesting idea, at least, following our host through an average day in which he interacts with friends who also conveniently provide bars, but don't get too excited by that guest list: E-40 delivers exactly one-and-a-half lines and bounces the fuck out. Also, the hook is trash. Anyway...



12. UP ON THE WALL (FEAT. PROBLEM, TY DOLLA $IGN, & YG)

“Outside” keeps up the WBALLS conceit, so this portion of The Documentary 2.5 is sequenced to sound like a radio program where every song presented just so happens to feature Game in some fashion. It segues into “Up On The Wall”, a Battlecat-produced concoction that sounds like G-Funk as filtered through the neon lights on the dank and gritty side of town in a 1980s movie, and I just realized that description makes it sound more appealing than it actually is. Game teams up with fellow Compton rep Problem and his Bompton neighbor YG for a collaboration on an album made up almost exclusively of them, and the result is a track that doesn't do enough to separate itself from the pack, even though I like Problem and YG alright. Ty Dolla $ign also sings a hook that rips off Kool & The Gang's “Get Down On It”, which goes exactly as well as that lack of inspiration would imply.



13. SEX SKIT

Yep, rappers still record these. Notable for the musical selections playing in the background, including Game's own “Ryda”, a collaboration with Dej Loaf that I remember hearing on the radio; while it's strange that it didn't make the album proper, I found it amusing that he found a way to sneak it on. I also hope TLC received a royalty check for their brief appearance on this shit.



14. MY FLAG / DA HOMIES (FEAT. TY DOLLA $IGN, JAY305, AD, MITCHY SLICK, JOE MOSES, RJ, & SKEME)

A two-part track that features different DJ Mustard beats for each half, and they both sound far more interesting than Game deserves at this juncture. “My Flag” is a Cali posse cut where you've most likely never heard of anyone else in said posse, but as I wrote above, Jayceon has always been generous when it comes to sharing the microphone with his friends, and this ode to gang affiliation and state pride is no different, with everyone involved taking full advantage of the opportunity to deliver decent-to-good verses, even if I couldn't pick any of these guys out of a lineup even if you had abducted my kids. “Da Homies” kicks off after a lengthy (and corny) setup laid smack in the middle of the track, building to an intriguing number on which Game carries over RJ, Ty Dolla $ign, and AD, who delivers the only actual (rapped) verse and sounds appropriately aggressive doing so. A weird experiment, but one that mostly works because nearly everyone commits, even if Game seems to have very little to do with the second half and its trap-John Carpenter-esque sound.



15. MOMENT OF VIOLENCE (FEAT. KING MEZ, JT, & JON CONNOR)

I present exhibit A in my allegation that Game recorded this project, or at least this one song, during Dr. Dre's Compton: A Soundtrack sessions, as the guest list features three then-unknown (and, let's be real, still unknown today, as none of them are Anderson .Paak: so much for that co-sign) artists who helped influence and mold what was being pushed as Dre's “final” album. Mike & Keys (a production team formerly known as The Futuristiks) deliver a pounding instrumental that would have worked better behind ScHoolboy Q, and Game, King Mez, Jon Connor, and crooner Justus (who, confusingly, is credited as JT on here, which draws a comparison to Cali stalwart JT the Bigga Figga, a man, who, interestingly enough, supported and funded Game's early independent albums) all lend performances that, you got it, both celebrate and decry the violence surrounding them all on a daily basis. The song title is among the corniest I've seen in quite a while, but “Moment of Violence” actually clicks (and doubles as proof that Dre's ear for talent is still in good working condition). The singing at the very end lost me, though: it's too heavy-handed and stops the program in its tracks.



16. LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON 2 (FEAT. BUSTA RHYMES)

Unlike The Documentary 2's, um, “The Documentary 2”, which was pushed as a sequel to the title track from The Game's major label debut The Documentary but, in reality, had fuck-all to do with anything, “Like Father, Like Son 2”, another sequel to a track from that first project, is a natural continuation of that previous Game and Busta Rhymes collaboration, as the original was about the birth of our host's son Harlem, and this follow-up actually features Harlem, now ten years older, and his younger brother King Justice. Harlem is now old enough to speak (and spit) for himself, and he gets help on the hook from his “uncle” Bussa Bus. Jayceon uses the off-brand (to me) Alchemist instrumental to talk about both of his sons, and while as an actual piece of music this shit bored me to death, as a sentiment I found it sweet and Harlem's bit at the end where he expresses pride in his father for hustling hard and providing his family with a better life was unequivocally touching. I wouldn't ever listen to this shit again, but I'm happy it exists, as it helps flesh out the “Game” character, even though it's kind of late in the evening to do so.



17. LIFE

Jayceon is good with the pen, but he doesn't have a wealth of experience to draw from, so his subject matter is limited in scope. So a lot of his songs, especially the ones that tend to cap off his projects, all seem to tackle the same theme: I worked hard to get to where I am, and also fuck you. Tone Mason's beat sounds incomplete, as though Game chose to rhyme over what was playing on the radio at the time, and his bars don't hold any new insight on why we should continue to root for our host's continued success. A shrug of a way to end an album, but Game typically sucks at sticking the landing.



There is a bonus track available on digital versions of The Documentary 2.5, but I'm skipping past that for reasons that will become obvious in a bit.



THE LAST WORD: Listening to The Documentary 2.5 in two parts, separated by two years, makes for an unique experiment in musical criticism, but not so much that it affected how I seemed to be feeling back in 2015: this shit mostly sucked. There are a handful of interesting ideas and songs littered throughout, and one of these days we'll all get together to help craft the “perfect” Game album, but if we're to speak about the matter at hand, The Documentary 2.5 is almost entirely made up of filler, with hints of a half-assed theme thrown in as an attempt to temper critics who firmly believe that The Game has nothing to say. Well, he really doesn't. In and of itself, that isn't a bad quality. But had he spent more time in the editing bay, there's a good chance that The Documentary 2 could have been a worthy successor to his major label debut, a project which, if you'll recall, I believe falls apart in its second half, even though everyone else labels it as a classic for some goddamn reason. This is like an entire album made up of those bonus tracks that are only available at Target, and I just don't have the patience for this kind of shit anymore. Maybe you two do, but this clearly wasn't made for me, even though I'm much closer to being Game's target demographic than the kids who dominate hip hop today (seriously, if there's anyone out there that champions The Game and Lil Uzi Vert equally and they're not some bullshit music critic paid off by the labels, I'd be very surprised).

My Gut Reaction: The Game - The Documentary 2 / 2.5 (Collector's Edition) (January 22, 2016)


A few months after both halves of Game's ten-year anniversary party hit store shelves, his label, Blood Money / eOne (formerly the Koch graveyard), went the deluxe edition route, packaging both projects together as the double album they were originally birthed to be, and tacking on an additional disc made up of leftover tracks, all in a failed attempt at replacing the Webster's dictionary definition of the word “overkill”. This was called The Documentary 2 / 2.5 (Collector's Edition), an overly-wordy title that could have been condensed to The Documentary 2: The Rogue Cut, and you'd still know what they were going for. 

Anywho...



1. RIDE SOLO

Pretty easy to see why this didn't make the final cut of either album. A piano-driven instrumental is certainly not what I would expect from producers Cool & Dre (and their associate Kent James), though, so that was different, at least.



2. DO IT TO YOU (FEAT. TREY SONGZ)

Meh.



3. THE SOUNDTRACK (FEAT. MEEK MILL)

Game's proclamations that anyone who fucks with guest star Meek Mill will have to answer to him is a threat that rings hollow, since Meek's sworn enemy Drake not only appears on The Documentary 2, he guest stars on that project's single. And also, Game offers a similar sentiment to anyone that dares to mess with Aubrey on “100”, so it must be asked: whose side is Jayceon on, anyway? The one that cuts the check, of course. And yes, I realize I haven't said a word about “The Soundtrack”.



4. EL CHAPO (THE GAME & SKRILLEX)

This digital bonus track from The Documentary 2.5 caps off the evening, and its status as a leftover confounds me to this day, as “El Chapo” was released as a single after the album hit store shelves, so. It is a bit gimmicky, what with Game's hyperactive vocal distortion throughout and his Spanish bars, but he sounds refreshed, at least, and that has to be due to the catchy, anthemic instrumental, credited to Mr. Bangladesh (who, hopefully, has made some money off of Lil Wayne's “A Milli” by now), Nastradomas (I don't know, either), and co-star Skrillex. For what it's worth, this shit holds up two years later, and would have made for a much better ending than “Life”. Le sigh.



THE LAST WORD: You can find “El Chapo” easily online, which absolutely diffuses any argument made for purchasing The Documentary 2 / 2.5 (Collector's Edition). Avoid the repackaging at all costs. Hell, just skip out on the entire enterprise: it's not like there isn't better music to be found. And with that, I bid you goodnight.



-Max



RELATED POSTS:

There's more Game shit to be read here, but for the completists, you can discuss The Documentary 2 here.

14 comments:

  1. it is slightly ridiculous just how overkill these projects became. defines 'quantity over quality'. interesting to hear how you listened in roughly two halves though, I'm not sure I cba to return this project so fair play, sir. great review as ever

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  2. I think if you take the better tracks from each project, you at least end up with a decent EP...

    Game continues to frustrate me, arguably one of my favourite artists but his output is very inconsistent.

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    1. When he's on, he can be pretty great, I will say.

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    2. Now, that I agree with. However, it’s hard to continuously check for dude when he just keeps spewing forth such shameless trend-hopping garbage throughout the majority of his entire career.

      Sorry Game, but jury’s been out for a long time.

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  3. Like everything Game does, it's just too long. I like a few more tracks on this than you, but it's still only 6-7. And making El Chapo the bonus track when it's the best song on here is super questionable

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  4. Given the pointed out consistent reliance on guest features, i think it's funny my favourite two Game songs are solo cuts (that would be Higher and Put you On The Game, from the documentary)

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    1. I also love both of those songs, but I feel it's telling that both are from his major label debut, which is now twelve years old. However, I must note that even THOSE songs found Game chasing then-hot trends (the Dr. Dre-produced club banger and the Timbaland production, respectively).

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  5. Is it me or does Game feel like he's been around literally for forever, even tho the documentary only dropped 12 years ago. He's managed to make himself feel old so much quicker than anyone else, so fair enough for maintaining his degree of relevancy. Cough 50 cough

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    1. That tends to happen when you release as much material as Game has in a twelve-year period (especially if you include all of his mixtapes). 50 did the exact same thing, so I don't know that I'd argue that Game is more relevant than 50 Cent: they're pretty equal in my eyes, I just happen to like Game a bit more.

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    2. Honestly, I don't have a clue who actually listens to Fiddy's new stuff anymore. As for Game, the guest appearances held on here clearly shows he still holds clout within the music industry, something Curtis could not do I don't believe ie. no way could 50 have enough backing to score guest appearances from Drake, Dre, Kendrick, Eminem etc. all on the same album. Some kids out there would've bought this for sure; who bought Animal Ambition?

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    3. Game couldn't get them all on the same album, either; pretty sure any working relationship he had with Eminem was shot once he and 50 started beefing. And 50's worked with all of the names you listed, aside from Drake. I think the reasoning runs deeper than "Game has clout and nobody listens to 50".

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  6. I remember before this album came out, Game was bragging that Dr. Dre told him this was the best rap album of the past 5 years. Doesn't sound like you concur Max? Think Dre's ears are maybe shot?

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    1. What's important there is the fact that "Game was bragging that Dr. Dre told him", as opposed to Dre telling people himself. As with everything Game says, take it with a grain of salt.

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  7. as one of the two, I had fun!

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