Embracing the street life, which involved selling drugs and gang culture, after being expelled from college, it was a near-fatal night in 2001 that planted the seed in The Game's head to become a rapper. The victim of a home invasion spanning from a drug deal gone wrong, The Game was shot five times and left in a three-day coma. Whilst recovering in hospital, he asked his brother, Big Fase, to go out and buy as many classic rap albums as he could find. Studying albums like Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle and Jay Z's Reasonable Doubt, over the course of five months The Game developed a strategy to turn himself into a rapper. Dropping his first tape, You Know What It Is Vol.1, in 2001, he inked a deal with JT The Bigga Figga's Get Low Recordz.
After hearing the tape, along with a few freestyles and radio appearances, Dr. Dre signed The Game to Aftermath Entertainment in 2003 - apparently Dre beat off some stiff competition from an interested Diddy to have The Game sign on the dotted line. Appearing a good fit being that The Game was obviously inspired by N.W.A - his debut album was originally set to be titled Nigga Wit' An Attitude Volume 1 but was changed at the request of Eazy E's widow - The Game didn't blow up as quickly as perhaps he'd like to have done. Not really garnering the buzz the label had expected from him, Dr. Dre, along with Interscope head Jimmy Iovine, decided to have The Game work with 50 Cent, who at the time was rapidly becoming the biggest rapper on the planet.
Watching and learning the movements of a rapper on the rise, The Game made his first commercial appearance in the video for 50 Cent's smash hit single 'In Da Club'. Going on to appear in videos by Lloyd Banks and Young Buck, as well as featuring on cuts such as 'When The Chips Are Down', taken from Banks' Hunger For More album, and 'Stomp', taken from Young Buck's Straight Outta Cashville, The Game spent the next two years creating a buzz and prepping the release of his debut album The Documentary.
Released in January of 2005, the Dr. Dre and 50 Cent executive produced album hit the streets hard. Introducing fans to his namedropping intricacies, something he would later be criticised for, and his simplistic yet relatable lyrical content that educated listeners on everyday life in the hood, The Game became an overnight success story. Featuring the likes of Faith Evans, Marsha Ambrosius, Nate Dogg, Busta Rhymes, and Mary J. Blige, the album covered many different sounds, styles, and genres. One minute you were thrust into a mid-tempo and very haunting banger like the Eminem featured 'We Ain't', and the next you were witness to smooth offerings like the Kanye West produced 'Dreams' and the underdog tale of rags to riches 'Hate It Or Love It', which heard producers Cool & Dre team with Dr. Dre to create a commercially slick record featuring 50 Cent that the streets were happy to endorse. Unleashing the hits 'How We Do', 'Put You On The Game' and 'Westside Story', and selling over five million copies worldwide, The Game, riding the success of the G-Unit wave, proved he had the metal to be a star on his own.
Not since Snoop Dogg had the west coast had a rapper that they could call their own on such a mainstream platform. Screaming west side at every opportunity and constantly referencing gang culture - The Game was a member of the Bloods - he reintroduced the gritty bass-heavy type of rap that told stories of corner store stick ups and drive-by shootings. Channeling a new-age N.W.A, The Game further validated the street credibility of G-Unit thanks to his audio tales that depicted the struggle of where he came from. However, friends were to become enemies, and a nasty break up with 50 and the Unit would leave The Game riding solo. With his back against the wall, his survival instincts took over and he found strengths he didn't think he had.
Booted out of the G-Unit clique due to his reluctance to beef with any and every enemy of the G-Unit general's, freestyles and mixtapes were spawned in amazing amounts from both sides, and every time a truce seemed possible, things fell apart at the last minute. With The Game starting a "G-Unot" campaign, which included t-shirts being sold with his former mentor's label logo crossed out, lyrical exchanges were not pretty. Dr. Dre appeared to be stuck in the middle of it all, and while he never publicly denounced The Game, he seemed to take sides with 50 and passed on working with the rapper for his next effort.
50 wasn't the only rapper that The Game had a problem with. Making a career out of bullying rappers on wax - and later in the flesh when he not only knocked out rapper Rass Kass, he fought, filmed and humiliated former G-Unit affiliate 40 Glocc - The Game's most prolific altercations on record include an ongoing feud with Jay Z, which the Brooklyn rapper didn't ever really entertain, and Slaughterhouse's Joe Budden. The Game and Budden would go back and forth like a yo-yo. Starting after a line Joe Budden spat on a DJ Clue freestyle - "He should be in the G-Unit video with all the gangster actors." - like a dog with a bone, The Game couldn't let it go. After various shots and a few years, allowing it all to be swept under the carpet, eventually the two settled their differences.
Despite Dre's absence and leaving Aftermath, The Game's sophomore release kept its original title of Doctor's Advocate when it was dropped in late 2006. Released on Geffen Records, it featured the hits 'It's Okay (One Blood)' - a reggae-tinged smash with a City Of God feel to it - and the key-happy Scott Storch produced 'Let's Ride'. Proving he could do it alone, the album sold three million copies worldwide. His follow-up release, 2008's L.A.X., was The Game's least successful album sales-wise. However, critically not falling off the album received favourable reviews, thanks in part to both the tracks 'My Life', with Lil Wayne, and 'Game's Pain', with Keyshia Cole.
After periods of retirement talk, The Game had a change of heart and began recording The R.E.D. Album. After several delays and the release of numerous promotional singles, the album hit stores in August 2011. Still namedropping, his fan base proved loyal and his career continued strongly.
With that said, probably his finest work since his debut dropped in 2005, Jesus Piece (2012) landed with a long guest list including Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, and Kendrick Lamar, and it stunned fans of hardcore rap thanks to its stellar verses, crisp production that ventured all over the sound scale, and the lack of commercially watered down singles. A conceptual album that explored both the divine and the devilish, and how the rapper attended church as often as strip clubs, The Game's fifth album played like Michael Jordan in the fourth quarter of a championship game; he delivered... and then some.
Words: Will "ill Will" Lavin
Once the Game surfaced as a force in Hip Hop, a big deal was made of his dance with death. Apparently he was shot five times. If you're scoring at home, that's four times less than label mate and executive producer 50 Cent. After the altercation that nearly took his life, the Game took a crash course in Hip Hop and studied up on the master MCs from both coasts. Within a year of rapping for the first time, Dr. Dre took notice and was compelled to offer an Aftermath contract. the Game is also from Compton, just like his mentor, so guess where the allegiances fall? An N.W.A medallion hangs from his neck, an N.W.A logo is inked across his chest, and an image of the late Eazy-E is on his right forearm. If none of this makes it clear enough, the Game name drops beloved heroes -- including just about everyone ever connected to N.W.A, save for CPO -- with great frequency. The stage name, coined by his mother while he was an athletic youngster, is entirely fitting: verses are constructed with album titles, label heads are mentioned as if scholarly attention is paid to the industry's inner workings. And yet, this is hardly another Guerilla Black, an MC lacking originality. the Game's scope is obviously much wider, and he's no mimic; though he's still finding his feet as a lyricist, isn't as distinct vocally as 50 or Lloyd Banks, and nearly allows the gimmicks to overwhelm the skills, The Documentary is an excellent debut that also hints at a lot of potential. Dr. Dre and an all-star cast of fellow producers are in top form, Just Blaze, Timbaland, Kanye West, and Hi-Tek included, and none of the features steal any thunder from the star. The most remarkable aspect of the Game is how he can be such a blatant product of gangsta rap (okay, let's say fanboy) and leave a mark so fast. But, as he says in "Dreams," "Anything is possible if 50 f*cked Vivica."
Words: Andy Kellman
While his big rival and former employer, 50 Cent, squandered his success by spreading himself too thin with video games, films, and a whole lot of time devoted to the G-Unit empire, the Game spent his time working the streets with beef-minded, sometimes-epic freestyles landing on mixtapes. Every time the G-Unit versus Game beef was just about to be settled, the Game showed up late to sign the treaty, and then, when he was called out on it, he would retaliate as hard as before, bringing everything back to square one. His mentor, Dr. Dre, told him to lie low, but give the Game good advice and he'll do the opposite, as if he were compelled to do so by some unseen force (probably his mile-high ego). As the release date of his heavily anticipated Doctor's Advocate approached, things got weird. Because of the G-Unit contract, nobody was sure if the album would say Aftermath or Insterscope on the back. In the final moments, it was revealed that the cover art shamelessly references his debut, and then -- towering above it all -- there was Dre's absence from the final product, and yet the album's original, Dre-boasting title sticks like a final "screw you"/"bring it on" pointed right at the haters. As all this drama spills into the actual album and feeds the cocksure rapper's craving for chaos, it becomes obvious the "sophomore slump" wasn't enough of a challenge for the Game, and even more obvious that he's following a career path of his own. Just like The Documentary, Doctor's Advocate is obsessed with the West Coast, especially Dre. The Doctor's name is dropped incessantly, to the point it will drive haters and anyone unfamiliar with the Game's history crazy. The ghost of Dre is there in every instantly grabbing club-banger and fierce street track that arcs up to the key title track, where the Game lays it all on the table with an open letter to the producer. He uses words like "family" and "father" to pay tribute to their relationship before Aftermath and Dre associate Busta Rhymes is brought in as a guest just to amp up the desperation question. On paper, Doctor's Advocate sounds like the blueprint for the most desperate follow-up ever, with the Game treating the universe as his fanboy while constantly referencing people who aren't here and an era of which he's not a part, the golden age of the West Coast. On the crip-walkin' "Da S***" there's talk of bringing back Doggystyle and The Chronic; on "California Vacation," with Snoop by his side, he claims to be previewing Dre's so-far unreleased Detox album; and "Compton"'s old-school bounce is firmly 1993 and produced by will.i.am, who returns to his hood sound after years with the polished Black Eyed Peas. will's transformation back is just one of the magical things that happens around and in spite of the Game's flippant attitude and decidedly one-track mind. Other beat-makers like Kanye West, Just Blaze, Scott Storch, and Swizz Beatz are all on fire, and guests like Tha Dogg Pound, Nas, and Xzibit give their all to an album that doesn't even bother to mention them on the back cover. Course, toying with expectations and respect is the dangerous tightrope the Game walks brilliantly, and while this is nothing new, the fact remains that every track here is as good as or better than those on his debut. There's no precedent for an album that worships a no-show so hard on one hand, flips the bird to Hip Hop protocol with the other, and knowingly refuses to push things forward, even flaunts it. What's fascinating is how the Game sets up all these obstacles for himself, just to prove he's unstoppable, and offers a decided placeholder album when most would have gone a different route. The place he's holding is on top, and even without Dre, Doctor's Advocate suggests he shouldn't budge.
Words: David Jeffries
The cuts that truly matter on LAX aren't the ones where the rapper's hardcore, unswayable definition of loyalty comes into play but the ones that go outside the usual topics and explore both the profound (the African-American struggle) and, more surprisingly, the profane (rump shaking). Most rappers are allowed only one shoutout track every couple albums, but here the name-dropping initial single "Game's Pain" is only the tip of the iceberg. Common and Lil Wayne not only guest star, but get mentioned repeatedly on an album that replaces the heavy shadow of Dre by dropping names from all over the place (Kanye West, Erick Sermon, Rakim, LL Cool J, Luther Campbell, Kurt Cobain, just to name a few). It's nowhere near as compelling as his previous Dre obsession, and with the Game having avoided the sophomore slump while becoming commonly accepted as in it for the long haul, the "everyone is out to get me" lines all seem like leftovers. In this ponderous for ponderousness' sake atmosphere, the mention of Chili Cheese Fritos in "House of Pain" brings sweet relief, and when the rapper refers to his woman as "beautiful as an Eli Manning pass," it's just one of the reasons the feel-good "Touchdown" is a highlight. Excuse the vocoder and Lil Wayne's appearance on "My Life" is big time, but the bar is raised high on the closing "Letter to the King." Exploring how the legacy of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King affected his own life, the Game pulls out the "ghetto grammar" on the track and offers both moving words of reverence and unapologetic controversy ("I wonder why Jesse Jackson ain't catch 'em before his body drop/Would he give me that answer, probably not"). Add the "Jam on It" sample producer Nottz lays on "Ya Heard," the sultry backing track Scott Storch designed for "Let Us Live," and a superstar guest list that's a mile long, and this scattershot album is easy to recommend despite its flaws.
Words: David Jeffries
With names like 2 Chainz, Rick Ross, and Chris Brown on the guest list, Game's 2012 effort Jesus Piece was feared to be a combination cash-in and kiss-off to his contract with the Interscope label, at least by those who always looked to the West Coast rapper to keep it real and entirely underground. Dress it all up in controversy -- with some editions of the album having cover art featuring Jesus wearing a gangster rag over his face -- and it's the Game's most shameful ploy to date, but his covering the face was because "nobody's ever seen Jesus," and with the truest of intentions, the loosely conceptual Jesus Piece begins to explore the divine and the devilish, and how they both feed the soul. The hypnotic and hooky highlight "Church" drives to the strip club with this duality on its mind, and as the rapper gets a high mileage table dance, the sexy talk he offers his stripper is "You ain't 'bout that life, you ain't 'bout that life/You don't bounce that ass like 'Oh Lord!' then climb back up the pole to meet Christ." T-Pain and 2 Chainz both get a shout-out just two lyrics later in one of those name-dropping swerves the rapper adores, while the title track drops references to John Coltrane and Kurt Cobain, two troubled souls whose work was divine, something the Game relates to Hip Hop by bringing Common and Kanye West onto the cut. On the other hand, the flashy duo of Rick Ross and 2 Chainz are employed for the 10 Commandment-busting anthem "Ali Bomaye," which makes selling your soul to the devil sound swanky and sweet. Then it’s the talented and fitting Kendrick Lamar for "See No Evil," an ambitious, cinematic, and cursed cut that could have been dispatched from limbo. The breezy and nostalgic closer "Celebration" feels more like a Sunday picnic than a Sunday sermon, and since this artist seems determined to baffle, killer and conceptually fitting cuts like "Blood Diamonds," "Blood of Christ," plus the Dr. Dre feature "Dead People," are strewn about various editions of the album, appearing as bonus tracks and challenging fans to round them all up. Still, this feature-filled, somewhat messy effort is a welcome surprise, focusing in on its topic and then freeing it with the greatest of ease and making the previously maverick Game sound like a natural born ringleader.
Words: David Jeffries
It turns out Game doesn’t need strife in his life to create an excellent album, but for the sake of a thrilling cut, he’ll still seek it out. His fourth official full-length finds the West Coast veteran taking potshots at young folks like Lil B, and he does so alongside Tyler, the Creator, the equally love-him-or-hate-him head of the Odd Future crew. His threat to send Lil B up in flames seems much more pleasingly metaphorical than any of his previous threats toward the G-Unit crew, and when you add Lil Wayne to the cut, you’ve got the brilliant and oddball “Martians vs Goblins.” On the varied yet sharp R.E.D. Album -- and that means "re-dedicated” -- the track follows a true West Coast anthem, “Drug Test,” featuring Snoop Dogg and the reason Game ever went in a studio, Dr. Dre. Back up one more cut and you’ve got the dramatic success “The City,” which is a Game-paced catharsis and history lesson, slowly recounting the rapper’s estrangement from his mentor Dre and their renewed relationship. Here, that means one guest appearance from Dre, some narration during the interludes, and Dre’s Aftermath imprint on the label. It’s not much, but for Game, it’s enough, enough to make him sound content and comfortable with all his beefs and boasts coming from home base rather than on the run. Wayne returns to help Game smash haters on the “Zombie Nation”-sampling monster “Red Nation,” while elsewhere R.E.D. plays hard for the radio and invites Rick Ross and Beanie Sigel to help show off the “Heavy Artillery.” “Speakers on Blast” is the wonderfully off-kilter kind of trunk rumbler you’d expect when Big Boi and E-40 are on the cut, “Good Girls Go Bad” with Drake slows things down without going soft, and with Chris Brown delivering the chorus, “Pot of Gold” is B.o.B.’s “Airplanes” with more wisdom, but these spectrum-broadening highlights aren’t the real meat of this album. For that, there’s the familiar, tortured soul cut “Ricky,” the near-perfect “Mama Knows,” and the groundbreaking “California Dream,” a “Dr. Carter”-styled number that gives a thug's-eye view of childbirth, going from “And I just got a text from your mama/Saying her water burst, I guess it’s time for my karma” to an actual recording of the event. Dre’s short, spoken bits end up the only speed bumps during all these twists and turns, and when you’re complaining about interludes instead of the overall attitude of a Game album, you’ve got an obsession-free, almost relatable success that sacrifices none of the man’s fire or skill.
Words: David Jeffries