The decade long sequel to The Game’s breakthrough 2003 album The Documentary has been well appreciated by many critics but is it all it’s cracked up to be? Is it on the same level as his previous works such as the original Documentary album or even the 2012 tape Jesus Piece? With a whole host of features from Compton icons such Kendrick Lamar and Dr. Dre to hip-hop’s trendier figures such as Drake and Future, The Game really strives to try and remain at the top of the rap game with this tape.
The album’s intro tells you exactly what type of vibe this tape has. The Game is another artist who, like many in hip-hop, relies heavily on gritty past experiences and allows it to shape their music. As such, the intro track is a little skit which opens an idea of gang culture and crime in Compton. This continues into track two, ‘On Me’, with the first feature from Kendrick Lamar. This track is a continuation of the same culture teased in the intro, but to the backing of some incredible production from ‘Bongo’ using an Erykah Badu inspired sample. The husky tone of The Game juxtaposed against Kendrick’s softer tone acts as a good opening to the album and serves to lay out what to expect from the remainder of the tape – a combination of flows and styles to revolving around some of hip-hop’s usual subject matter.
The next track on the album is another standout, ‘Step Up’ featuring DeJ Loaf and Sha Sha. Prior to this album, I hadn’t heard of the latter, but in the first of her two features on this album she stands out above her co-collaborators in her remixing of a sample of Brandy’s ‘I Wanna Be Down’, and really adds an emotional gravitas to this particular track. The Game however goes back to one of his idols in the late Notorious B.I.G. and borrows his iconic flow in sending shots at his idols.
“The Game really strives to try and remain at the top of the rap game with The Documentary 2”
However, while he does this extremely well, there is a fine line before this develops into the criticism that The Game can be a little too good at leaning onto other people’s flow, especially those who feature on his track, and there are 19 featured artists on this album, with only 4 tracks exempt from features minus the skits. As such, it can get a little hazy when isolating when The Game is running off of his own flow, or borrowing from his collaborators. In the sense that artists such as Drake, Big Sean and many others have a signature flow that you associate with a range of lyrics, The Game has signature lyrics that you can associate with a range of flows. That there are so many features on this album is also another criticism that can be levied at this album, as while it is good to hear so many different sounds coming together, when there are albums in 2015 that hold a maximum of 2 features of even none at all such as Future’s DS2 or J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive respectively, when there are so many features it gets to a point when one questions whether The Game has been superseded by all these features on his own album.
In spite of this, this is not to say that he doesn’t make good use of these features, as ‘Dollar and a Dream’ feat. AB-Soul, ‘Circles’ ft. Q-Tip and Sha-Sha, ‘Dedicated’ ft. Future and Sonyae, and ‘Mula’ feat. Kanye West himself, all provide a range of sounds, emotions and vibes which goes to showcase the versatility of the album. ‘Circles’ in particular demonstrates The Game’s ability to make very good novelty songs also. The song itself revolves around a love affair, something that you wouldn’t usually associate with The Game, but is done in such a way that it is kind of a message on the ills of fame, riches and the life that he lives.
All in all, while this is a solid album from The Game, with solid production, lyrics and features – the aforementioned elements of so many features and flows on this work is what holds it back from joining the other hip-hop albums of 2015 in this humble writer’s opinion.
Shaun is currently listening to ‘Hotline Bling’ (Remix) by Justin Bieber