The Game

It doesn’t sound like The Game has been having such a great time in the two years since The Doctors Advocate. To be cruel for a moment, that’s hardly a surprise. To be harsher still you could say that he invites it, perhaps even needs it to feed his persona. Not the most commonly noted side of The Game’s personality, his devotion to hip-hop is so strong that it has led him to model himself not a rapper but a personification of the rap industry. It’s a side of the persona that comes over anhedonic to the full – incapable of enjoying anything, let alone having straight up simple uninhibited fun.

Not that The Game doesn’t do fun. Here ‘Cali Sunshine’ is the most notable attempt at it, a west coast driving bumper with Bilal in the Nate Dogg roll crooning, "California sunshine/In the summertime". The first verse is relatively upbeat, with The Game talking about a life of barbecues, summer jams and big asses. But the second makes clear it’s sunshine shadowed by psychological murk, the accumulated weight of a lifetime of violent disappointments, the heritage of coming from "a boulevard that taught you all how to shoot out of moving cars".

It’s the same struggle that dominated his previous two albums, with one major difference. Where before the music tasted cooked into brilliance by heavy, career threatening pressure, here he’s nothing much to prove. Recent interviews have played up the gravity of various situations – earlier this year he spent a week in gaol for carrying a gun, but the overwhelming sense is of a man caught up not in current dramas but aged demons. Such as complaining on the turgid ‘My Life’ how "I needed my father, but he needed a needle", making yet another tired shot at 50 Cent on ‘Money’, "I’m about a dollar/ 50 Cent ain’t real", and the rather wonderful claim, again on ‘My Life’, that he’s "hated on so much Passion Of Christ need a sequel’.

Not that it doesn’t work sometimes. The Game is nothing if not palpably sincere as standard, and when he hits the mark only the most hardhearted bastard would be unmoved. Opener ‘LAX Files’ is a suitably grand tourist guide where he warns his audience "This gangbanging shit ain’t nothing to fuck with, me and Snoop Dogg just made it look easy". Best of all ‘House Of Pain’ sees The Game riding a snarling beat cousined with NWA’s ‘Real Niggaz Don’t Die’, crucially blessing it with energy and humour, saying of his parole officer, "she’s cool/ She a leo /She ain’t tripping on the weed smoke".

The Game’s problem is he’s the exact opposite of his old mentor 50. Where 50’s detachment and superficiality seems to come easy, The Game is one of those performers who’s still learning how to perform. He has to live through the pain each time. If there isn’t enough drama in his life he’s got to either generate some, or at least create the illusion. And that’s got to wear a man down. Listening to LAX you can hear him trying to plot a survival plan. On the one hand you’re rooting for him, you want everything to work out. On the other you have to admit the art gelled better when his pain was fresh, and this is The Game’s first mainstream album that’s less than essential.

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