July 3, 2018

My Gut Reaction: The Game - Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf (October 14, 2014)


When I started this dumbass blog project, one of my many ideas was to review the catalogs of whatever artists I deemed worthy enough of following (a whole other conversation that I won’t be getting in to) in chronological order. This might have made more sense if I focused on one rapper or group at a time (which is why the very first posts featured a lot of Jay-Z), but as more and more characters were introduced into the narrative, the plot started to suffer, and even worse for me, I started to get really fucking bored. So I began doing some ridiculous stuff to maintain my own level of interest, such as talking about the discography of certain artists in reverse chronological order (*cough* Fat Joe, LL Cool J *cough*), pulling random projects for one-off write-ups (Lil’ Wayne, and I’m sure there are other examples), walking away from album reviews to try out different formats, and even abandoning the site completely for a couple of years. (I’m joking: that’s not the reason I walked away.) Obviously, the scattershot nature of my posts, my schedule, and also my attention span, caused some of the artists I had previously aimed the spotlight at to suffer a bit: Jay-Z’s 4:44 wasn’t reviewed until this past February, and as you’ve no doubt noticed, I still haven’t written about Everything Is Love. And don’t even get me started on how far behind I am with Aubrey Graham’s shit. But at least neither is in the same boat as Jayceon “The Game” Taylor, the Compton rapper whose work I’m so apathetic about that I can’t even be bothered to listen to his shit when it drops.



Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf is a Game album that isn’t really “his”, even though he appears on nearly every track. Instead, it was intended to serve as a label sampler for his then-newly formed vanity imprint, Blood Money Entertainment, a company he formed with former Shady/Aftermath Records prisoner Stat Quo. Not unlike his old boss Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, which introduced the world to the Death Row Records label roster, Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf was set to act as a platform for Game’s artists to prove themselves. As that didn’t quite happen, Jayceon inserted himself into the proceedings, accepting the responsibility of ensuring his label survived past the one project, which is something an actual boss would do, so kudos to him. Blood Money Entertainment still exists to this day: every Game album since has been released through the imprint, including the last Game project I wrote about, the double-disc effort The Documentary 2 / The Documentary 2.5 (both of which were released one year after Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf).

Even though Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf is considered to be more of a compilation than a coherent album, it still adheres to the Jayceon Taylor checklist: there are songs about the gang lifestyle in Compton, tracks about casual sexual intercourse, boasts that don’t make a lick of sense, and, of course, a myriad of name-drops, enough to satisfy and aggravate even the most jaded hip hop head. The guest list is also stacked, because Jayceon loves to show off how good he is at networking. To his credit, some of the cameos are from artists who are still pretty huge deals four years removed from this compilation’s original release date: if nothing else, Game is definitely a fan of our chosen genre. The production also skews toward the “sure, why not” side of the meter more often than not: while he may not always be the best choice for them, Jayceon isn’t that bad at selecting beats.

Okay then.

1. BIGGER THAN ME
On what was allegedly the first single from this here project, the Jordan Mosley production, built around a loop of Poli├ža’s “Warrior Lord”, isn’t bad (as I present a heap of praise for the sample source). But Game’s frequent pop culture references in search of a verse to call home (a trait the man is fully aware he carries: he even taunts the hip hop magazine and website Complex to “count [his] name drops” at one point) fail to deliver him to the level of the rappers mentioned during the hook. “Bigger Than Me” is really shit: Jayceon is more delusional than usual, referring to himself as “the black Marshall Mathers” immediately after dropping a homophobic slur, which may actually make his case, now that I think about it, and I’m not even referring to the two Frank Ocean comments that also pop up on here, which should offend not just the LGBTQ community, but fucking Frank Ocean, too. Our host also names 50 Cent as an example of an artist in the upper echelon: he will never stop talking about Curtis, will he?  An inauspicious beginning to the evening, and I haven’t even mentioned how our host’s impression of a chainsaw permeates the track.

2. F.U.N.
Game plays around with several different flows on “F.U.N.” (an acronym of sorts, standing for “fuck you n----s”), not unlike his work on “Just Another Day” from Oingo Boingo Dr. Dre’s 2015 project Compton: A Soundtrack, except he’s far less effective here than he was on that standout track. And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to hate this song. Jayceon’s bars certainly didn’t help the cause: he’s saying absolutely nothing of importance. Matthew Burnett’s instrumental is really really good, though. Far better than this project deserved: Game really needs to utilize melodic boom bap much more often. I don’t know, I’d probably throw it on my Game playlist, but I won’t be thrilled to do so.

3. REALLY (FEAT. YO GOTTI, 2 CHAINZ, SOULJA BOY, & T.I.)
Never one to shy away from a networking opportunity, The Game takes a trip down South for the Mekanics-and-OZ-produced “Really”, recruiting Yo Gotti (I have zero opinion on the dude), 2 Chainz (I like him, if not every one of his songs), Soulja Boy (no), and reality television star-slash-newly-conscious rapper T.I. for a song that is, regretfully, not a musical adaptation of the Amy Poehler/Seth Meyers bit from SNL. “Really” is one of those tracks filled with rappers that isn’t really a posse cut, as none of the artists involved are connected in any way aside from all appearing on this one song and everyone has their own agenda, so it’s no surprise that this shit is as disjointed as it is. Soulja Boy only contributes what passes for the hook, Yo Gotti’s opening stanza is fucking awful, and the artist formerly known as Tity Boi sounds okay, if not memorable. Jayceon gives himself the final verse as some sort of grandiose statement (one where he references Eminem for the third time in three tracks), but only Tip manages a decent performance on this overlong ensemble piece.

4. FUCK YO FEELINGS (FEAT. LIL WAYNE & CHRIS BROWN)
That’s a pretty meta song title, as “Fuck Yo Feelings” seems to represent how The Game truly feels about his fanbase, at least if this wack-ass track is what I’m going by. Our host tries to be boastful but ends up just sounding like an asshole, although not as dickish as guest and violent misogynist Chris Brown, who raps a terrible verse (I had forgotten he does that now) that alludes to him beating women as a “pimp” and seriously, does that dumbass not have a PR person on his team, or does he really not understand how he was in the wrong and continues to be in the wrong? You think that was the very first time he had ever hit a woman? That’s not how this shit works. Lil Wayne appears only to repeat the song title as the hook, which is a waste of time for multiple reasons. Fuck this song.

5. ON ONE (FEAT. KING MARIE & TY DOLLA $IGN)
Rightfully so, “On One” is more of a showcase for (now former) Blood Money artist King Marie, who dominates the track with an unimpressive performance that could have been recorded by literally anybody, up to and including Siri and the Magic School Bus. The actual goddamn bus. Jayceon and Ty Dolla $ign check in with quick bars, but are of no consequence otherwise. The only interesting aspect of “On One” is its production, which is more subtle than most club joints tend to be: it was handled by Isabella Summers, who spends her days as a member of Florence + The Machine, a fact that will make you wonder just how she became involved with a Game project in the first place. If I had to guess, it may have something to do with my favorite song off of Jayceon’s Jesus Piece, “Ali Bomaye”, with its “Seven Devils”-sampling beat, but I really don’t know.

6. MARRIED TO THE GAME (FEAT. FRENCH MONTANA, DUBB, & SAM HOOK)
“If ‘gay’ is ‘happy’, I’m Tyler Perry in this motherfucker.” That is a direct quote from Game’s verse on “Married To Me The Game”, which is delivered in such a brazen, reckless manner that one can’t help but chuckle, and then hate themselves for doing so. This Boi-1da production, which sounds nothing like what you two probably want to hear from him, features three verses that all attempt to portray the rap game as a metaphorical spouse (although Jayceon maybe really just wants to stick his dick into an actual song, I can never tell with him), with Game, French Montana, and Blood Money artist Dubb (whose cadence and flow on here resemble that of his label boss so much that I’m certain our host wrote his contribution) all at least sound like they were trying to craft a cohesive collaboration, albeit one where every goddamn bar ends on the word “motherfucker”. Could have been worse, shrug?

7. THE PURGE (FEAT. STACY BARTHE)
One of those serious tracks Jayceon tries to include on every one of his projects,, the Cozmo-produced “The Purge” features our host waxing, well, not poetically, but conversationally, or probably drunkenly?, about how much better the world would be of evil were eradicated, drawing from, among other examples, the late Michael Brown and the Ferguson protests. So he’s just talking about killing the bad cops, right? Not entirely: Jerry Sandusky and George Zimmerman also catch hot ones in our host’s revenge fantasy. And then Game ends the song talking about how he doesn’t understand death (as an abstract concept, perhaps?) after dreaming of murdering a bunch of people. He tries to be sweet toward the end, dedicating the track to his engineer’s late wife who passed away from cancer, but that sentiment doesn’t fit the rest of the song, so. But the man tried, at least.

8. TROUBLE ON MY MIND (DUBB & JAKE&PAPA)
As one of the remnants from the original thought process behind Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf: “Trouble On My Mind” does not feature the Game at all, with the focus shifting to Dubb instead. So when I tell you that it’s fucking boring, just know that this time, it isn’t Jayceon’s fault.

9. CELLPHONE (FEAT. DUBB)
Jayceon returns to the program, but doesn’t let Dubb go anywhere for lunch. Game’s verse on the Mekanics-produced “Cellphone” is predictably name-droppy, and the hook even more so, rendering the entire exercise ridiculous as shit. It’s clear The Game thought the future of his label hinged on the success of Dubb, though, as he’s already given him a not-insignificant number of opportunities on Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf, and let’s be real, Game’s no Dr. Dre, no matter how many times he speaks the good Doctor’s name aloud. For his part, Dubb sounded okay, but I wouldn’t push him as an artist to further my own brand. But that’s just me. (And the rest of the industry. Probably.)

10. BEST HEAD EVER (FEAT. TYGA & ERIC BELLINGER)
“Cellphone” ends with a truly awful, misogynistic skit where Game and co-label head Stat Quo provide commentary while a woman gives a wolf (a “blood wolf”, we assume) a blowjob to completion. Defying all logic, our host believed this to be a great way to transition into “Best Head Ever”, a Dupri-produced pile of hot, wet garbage with visible stink lines emanating out of your earbuds (the instrumental isn’t terrible, but still) that features Tyga, which classifies this shit as a war crime. Rappers record appalling songs about fucking all the goddamn time: that isn’t why this sucks. It’s the overall quality of the track. Well, that, and the aforementioned skit, which really could be one of the worst I’ve ever heard on any album ever in my fucking life. Which is quite impressive, in its own way.

11. OR NAH (FEAT. TOO $HORT, PROBLEM, AV, & ERIC BELLINGER)
Like I just said, rappers record appalling songs about fucking all the goddamn time. At least “Or Nah” (also a single, inexplicably) tries to upgrade its station in life by inviting guest stars Problem and Too motherfucking $hort to the party, even though $hort Dog only lends the song its intro and outro. (Not Dr.) Dre’s production places “Or Nah” squarely in the West Coast-inspired wheelhouse, which doesn’t mean it’s any good, it just sounds very much a product of its environment. Jayceon spits the first verse and then vanishes completely, letting his guests figure out how to escape the room all by themselves, which speaks to how little even he thought of this shit. Let’s move on.

12. TAKE THAT (TYGA & PHAROAH PROPHET)
It’s admirable that Jayceon (who does not appear on here) was trying to reach a broader audience by signing R&B talk-singer Pharoah Prophet, but “Take That” doesn’t deserve any sort of following, and not just because he decided to cut another check to Tyga, although that certainly is a reason. (I feel the need to add that Jereme Jay’s beat wasn’t bad, but it won’t change your opinion now, will it, Max?)

13. FOOD FOR MY STOMACH (DUBB & SKEME)
Jayceon was clearly trying to make Dubb the Snoop Doggy Dogg to his non-producing Dr. Dre with all of these cameos. Dubb and Skeme are the only artists still signed to Game’s label as of this writing (at least according to Wikipedia, which we all know is always the most accurate font of knowledge), but maybe they’re the only two who still believe in their heart of hearts that The Game has the kind of pull within the industry today to still signal boost them, because talent-wise, “Food For My Stomach” (my God, what a stupid song title) would have a Soundcloud rapper laughed off of the Interweb.

14. HIT EM HARD (FEAT. BOBBY SHMURDA, FREDDIE GIBBS, & SKEME)
Somehow Jayceon managed to snag a Bobby Shmurda verse very shortly after he captured lightning in a bottle with “Hot N---a” but before dude was handed a prison sentence for conspiracy and felony weapons possession, but all that proves is that The Game isn’t a dummy, not that he’s a prophet of any sort. He only performs an overly-wordy chorus, though, leaving the heavy lifting to our host, his artist Skeme, and Gary, Indiana’s own Fredward Gibbs, who makes the most of his time on this Earth by spazzing out during his verse, which isn’t exactly what I’d call “good”, but at least matches the energy of both Game and Skeme, which is more than his own work tends to do. “Hit Em Hard” isn’t a song anyone would ever recommend, but hey, maybe Gibbs completists want to hear his contribution, or people wishing to compile every single Shmurda appearance before his career abruptly ended almost instantaneously will care enough to want to hear this.

15. BLACK ON BLACK (FEAT. YOUNG JEEZY & KEVIN GATES)
Game may not be a dummy, but he does come across as a trend-chasing fanboy on, well, nearly every one of his goddamn albums. That’s the only reason he would secure a Kevin Gates guest spot on “Black On Black”: Gates was just about to score a hit song with “I Don’t Get Tired (#IDGT)”, the only Kevin Gates song I kind of like, before he literally kicked a woman off of the stage during a live show and was sent to prison on an unrelated weapons charge. Jayceon isn’t very skilled at getting compelling performances from most of his collaborators, though: the only one of the three that walks away from this shit unscathed is (Young) Jeezy, who sounds right at home over this Mekanics’s production. So this is how you choose to end the project, Jayceon?

The rest of this write-up will focus on the bonus tracks made available for the deluxe edition of Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf, although your point of purchase will determine whether you’ll recognize some of these.

16. MAD FLOWS (SKEME)
One has to look to the deluxe to get a solo showcase for Skeme. This means that not only did Game not think “Mad Flows” was good enough for the regular program, he also felt that his fans, who were all tricked into thinking that Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf was a Game project anyway, deserved to pay extra for the luxury of owning “Mad Flows”. I’ve already wasted too many words and brain cells on what is ultimately a shitty track, so I’m going to stop here.

17. BLOODY MOON (FEAT. SHATEISH)
Has there ever been an extra song, exclusive to the deluxe version of any album, that deserved an upgrade to the regular tracklist and would fit seamlessly? These bonus tracks tend to be throwaways that end up on projects sans context just to fulfill an exclusivity contract with the likes of Target or…well, Best Buy doesn’t sell CDs anymore, so just Target, I guess, or as a blatant cash grab otherwise. That isn’t the case for “Bloody Moon”, though: Game uses the extended edition as a way to hide some pretty deep, dark, and depressing thoughts, so the listening audience has to work to hear these, sort of. And this shit is bleak: “Bloody Moon” features Jayceon talking about his father molesting his half-sister. I don’t feel comfortable calling this “good” or “decent” because of the subject matter, but it is worth at least the one listen.

I JUST WANNA BE (FEAT. STAT QUO, SAP, & KING MARIE)
Co-label head Stat Quo makes his only (rapping) appearance of Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf on the iTunes version of the project, lending the middle verse to “I Just Wanna Be”, on which he, along with Jayceon and SAP all fight back against the odds to follow their dreams. This actually wasn’t terrible: SAP’s production is more upbeat that one would expect, and all three artists bring at least their B-minus game. The hook, provided by King Marie, is fair-to-middling, but it isn’t hurting anybody, so what’s the problem, right?

BE NOBODY ELSE (FEAT. AV, STACY BARTHE, & ULIE)
The final bonus track I’m aware of is a Best Buy exclusive for a good reason: it isn’t very interesting. Well, aside from the fact that The Game only provides the hook: that was an incredible show of restraint on our host’s part. But you two won’t ever listen to this, because there is absolutely no need to track this one down, even if you want to review Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf for your own website. Sorry, folks.

THE LAST WORD: Whew! That sure was a lot of words for such an empty project. I wasn’t expecting there to be much in the way of cohesion on Blood Money: Year of the Wolf, given the label sampler nature of it all, but don’t be fooled: this was a showcase for The Game and The Game only, and as such, it kind of blows. There were some very interesting choices made behind the boards, and I will admit that some of the ideas on here worked much better than expected. But overall, this was kind of shit. Game’s performances are all over the place: a man as prolific as he has been throughout his entire career shouldn’t be expected to still have something to say, I suppose. He does still manage to surprise: “Bloody Moon” was out of left field, and I’d like to hear the man tackle much more serious topics, as he’s exhausted his well of fucking, drinking, and gangbanging bars. As for his guests, the name-brand artists are all middling-to-okay, and his own artists don’t receive much of an opportunity to shine, although they are all over Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf, so at least Game never lost the plot, I guess. None of this is essential listening, just like this particular write-up isn’t essential reading, but hopefully you still enjoyed parts of this post, as I'd like to think it conveys my general attitude of “meh”: I found it very difficult to give much of a shit about the vast majority of this album, which may be why I forgot all about its existence. Until now, clearly.

-Max

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The Game has popped up quite frequently on the blog. I have proof.



10 comments:

  1. AnonymousJuly 04, 2018

    Game is one of those guys who's a technically sound (even pretty good) rapper who just can't make good projects for the life of him. It's been over a decade now.

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    1. I agree. Even when Dre was behind him fully, it still didn't turn out well for him.

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  2. Game has always echoed Busta in the fact that he has real talent with this rap shit, despite his incessant trendhopping. I’d even argue that their solo album trajectory is pretty similar.

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    1. Hard disagree, but only because Game was hyper-prolific in his early days. If we count the mixtapes, the paths of Busta and Game don't follow the same trajectory. Content-wise, I can see your point.

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    2. Of course I meant content wise, as I very VERY rarely give a shit about mixtapes in general.

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  3. AnonymousJuly 05, 2018

    Hi Maxx maybe it me but did ever wrote about the games Doctots Advocate album (his best work to date in my opinion) when ever u get time please look to it by the way your review is way better than the album it's self

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    1. Thanks! And that review does exist - just click on Game's name in the sidebar and scroll.

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  4. AnonymousJuly 09, 2018

    Kids See Ghosts please !

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  5. I can't remember the last Game album that was actually good, but it never stops me from actually being excited about his releases.

    I guess if you made a compilation of all the best tracks he's done over the years it would make for a pretty good double CD as he does have some classics, and he usually has a great ear for production (much unlike one of his besties in hip-hop, Nas).

    That's got me thinking about what would go on a Game compilation...

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    1. It's a thought I've been playing around with as well...

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