California rapper sounds restless on his fourth album.
Marcus J. Moore 2011
On previous LP LAX, Jayceon Taylor aka Game seemed assured in his approach, as he saturated deep instrumentals with gruff tales of survival and perseverance in California’s gang territory. Three years later, and he’s still emotional on The R.E.D. Album, if not downright frustrated with multiple setbacks. And who could blame him? The aforementioned LAX received mixed reviews from critics, a fact not forgotten by the brash Compton-raised MC. "I was stressed the f*** out, torn between Aftermath and Geffen," Game raps on the opener here, referencing the tug-of-war he endured with the two record labels.
Then there were the delays. It took Game (no ‘The’ these days) nearly three years to complete this project, a 21-track deluge of passionate wordplay and sullen reflection, set against a glossy backdrop of polished West Coast soul and thumping drums. The artist has never shied away from his chequered past, often celebrating his gang affiliation and glorifying his police record, and it’s more of the same on The R.E.D. Album. "Yeah, I got two gun charges, three felonies, just got off probation," he proudly states on Heavy Artillery. It’s not entirely heavy, though. Martians vs. Goblins, featuring Lil Wayne and Odd Future leader Tyler, the Creator, is rooted in offbeat funk and heavy on the eye-popping punch lines. "I suck? Where’s the f***ing Ring Pops / You got a better chance of getting a copy of Detox," Tyler raps, referencing the much-delayed Dr. Dre album.
Overall, The R.E.D. Album stands as a solid return for its maker, as long-time listeners will connect with his no-frills lyrics and unsettling artistic demeanour. He’s at his best when he mangles the instrumentals with menacing abandon; less so when he’s dangerously drifting into mainstream RnB music. While Pot of Gold works as an efficient coming-of-age tale, Hello and All the Way Gone sound somewhat forced. Game also seems influenced by the rappers he features, often emulating their voices and cadences: on the jazzy Mama Knows, for instance, he sounds eerily similar to Nas. When left on his own, however, Game proves he’s still as magnetic as ever, whether he’s carrying the torch for the West Coast or proclaiming himself one of the industry’s best rappers. The game doesn’t change, just the players.