It’s often given and seldom deserved.
For every LeBron James, there’s a Kwame Brown or a Michael Olowokandi.
Precisely my point.
So when a rapper who just began rapping a year and half ago is expected to resurrect an entire coast with his debut album, even the shorties giving the G-Unit that “groupie luv” can become skeptical.
Backed by the greatest producer of all time, Dr. Dre, and the biggest star in all of music, Eminem, The Game has been set up. He’s been set up to either sink like the seemingly thousands of gas-station gangstas before him or sail the stream to superstardom like his mentor in the game, 50 Cent.
“The Documentary” is scored by an all-star list of A-list producers, including the aforementioned Dre, Kanye West, Just Blaze, Havoc and Hi-Tek.
So it would seem like all The Game would have to do is fill in the rhymes, right? Right.
And he does, for the most part.
But don’t expect any introspective, thought-provoking prose about the plight of the black community. The Game delivers romance for the streets, sex, murder and mayhem. Love it. Or, leave it alone.
The album jumps off with the mixtape heater “Westside Story” featuring 50 Cent, and produced by Dre and Scott Storch. In “Westside Story,” The Game lets everyone know exactly how he gets down: “Homie, I’m bringing C-A back/And we don’t wear button-up shirts or drive Maybachs.”
Throughout the 18 tracks on the album, The Game chronicles both his life and his evolution as an emcee.
The Dre-crafted first single “How We Do” will make your head nod, almost to the point of putting your face in your lap.
The Game comes back with “Don’t Need Your Love” where he sows the wisdom and experience he gained by surviving several gunshot wounds to the chest to his seed, Harlem Caron: “Karma come quicka for a n***a on the other side of the gun/That’s something I gotta teach my son.”
Even the obligatory Timbaland track and sure-shot second single “Put You on the Game” doesn’t seem contrived. On “Start from Scratch,” featuring an unexpected hook from Floetry’s Marsha, The Game reflects on his past and present.
The Game best exhibits his wit and wordplay on the album’s title track where he weaves several of rap’s classic albums into the chorus: “I’m Ready to Die without a Reasonable Doubt/Smoke Chronic and hit it Doggystyle before I go out/Until they sign my Death Certificate All Eyes on Me/I’m still at Illmatic and that’s the Documentary.
In “Runnin,” The Game allows a completely out of order verse by Tony Yayo to put a damper on yet another banger. But doesn’t everyone in G-Unit do that?
Thankfully, The Game comes back to save it in the end.
The Game and Just Blaze take it back to ’88 with the old school flavored “No More Fun and Games.” On this track, The Game journals his rap career through coinciding occurrences in pop culture.
The only drawback of “The Documentary” is that he does just that a little too much. The incessant references to classic rap lines and utilization of other rapper’s styles is usually reserved for those like Jay-Z, who have firmly established their originality over the course of a career. He also big ups 50, Dre and Em so much you’d think they gave birth to him.
The latter half of “The Documentary” gets a bit formulaic. There’s the laid back ode to his hood with Nate Dogg “Where I’m From,” something for the homies “Special” and the song with Mary J. Blige, “Don’t Worry.”
But don’t let any of that mess you up, it still sounds good.
While “The Documentary” may not guarantee The Game a spot in the industry for the next 10 years as he so proudly proclaims, it will keep heads checking for his next joint. By by studying rap’s classic albums to teach himself to rhyme and to construct songs, The Game’s debut undoubtedly proves that doing your homework pays off.
Contact Nick Birdsong at firstname.lastname@example.org.