We think of greatness as being made up of great moments, but greatness is forged in the mundane...
DJBooth Album Review
Game has always wanted to be the greatest rapper alive, and he’s often thought of himself as the greatest, but he isn’t. Not because he hasn’t made a classic album (he has) and not because he can’t rhyme with the best (he can), but because he’s been more enormously inconsistent. After starting his career as strong as anyone’s ever started, Jayceon’s career has slowly but surely become as shaky as the fault lines of his hometown. Between the day he dropped LAX three years ago and now Game has retired, unretired, started his Dairy of Compton album, cancelled the album, declared he was changing labels, didn’t change labels, been silent for weeks then delivered 500 Bar freestyles, changed the release date on his R.E.D. Album an astounding ten times and released multiple singles that later didn’t even make the album. Years of watching Game’s constant flux means that the expectations for R.E.D. are significantly lower than they were for LAX. It also means that R.E.D. will most likely exceed your expectations. It’s no Documentary, but if you can put aside all the twists and turns I mentioned above and simply listen, you’ll find the work of an emcee dead set on clawing his way back into rap’s elite ranks.
Game has somewhat disingenuously claimed that R.E.D.’s title isn’t a gang reference - he may have to play down the Blood link to get the album stocked in Walmart but we all know the truth – but instead about his “ReDedication” to hip-hop, and at times he sounds as dedicated as ever to being a truly great emcee. The album opens with The City, a darkly epic cut that not only gives Kendrick Lamar his most high profile guest verse ever but is a powerful reminder of what an intensely passionate rapper Game can be. It’s the same story on Ricky, which finds Game both celebrating his successes and admitting his weaknesses, the slowly soulful California Dreams and Born in the Trap, a DJ Premier produced cut that’s one of the better blends of east coast-west coast styles you’re going to hear. He’s built up no shortage of detractors over the years, and frankly I’ve often been one of those detractors, but there’s just no way to listen to these tracks and call Game a wack emcee.
While Game could certainly use a smash hit to help put him back on top at no point does the R.E.D. Album pander to radio Bringing on Chris Brown for Pot of Gold screams commercial appeal, but instead he takes a much more serious slant and aims for inspiration. Good Girls Gone Bad is almost a carbon copy of Pot of Gold, only better, bringing Drake on board for a sincere ode to women. That’s right, women. Not their booties, not their pu**sies, women. As people. Raise your hand if you saw that coming. And while (actual) lead single Red Nation may not have taken off as Game intended, in no small part due to those aforementioned gang references, it’s still a perfectly decent effort. I don’t think there’s the huge hit on R.E.D. that’s going to put Game back on regular radio rotation, I’m not 100% sold on obvious next single choices Hello or All the Way Gone, but that’s a good thing. Unlike the vast majority of his rap peers Game is too serious about his music to throw away even one track on some will.i.am party anthem.
R.E.D.’s biggest problem is one of volume, the album’s packed with selections that should have been cut in the name of “less is more.” I like the concept behind Lil Wayne and Tyler, The Creator on Martians vs. Goblins (get it?) but it’s the definition of a mixtape cut. The same holds true for The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and a handful more, but if my biggest complaint is that Game failed to separate his good music from his really good music that’s not much of a complaint. There’s no doubt about it, there’s greatness lurking in Game, and in R.E.D. Album. Let’s just hope that from here on out he’ll find the consistency he needs to truly claim that greatness.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 08/23/11
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