Somehow I had convinced myself The Game would be the one to deliver the classic album Los Angeles has been waiting for. The album that will resurrect the days when Dre’s beats and Pac’s rhymes were bumping out of every car in the city, from the Bentleys of Beverly Hills to the Impalas of Inglewood. True, Game was far from a great rapper (sometimes very far) but against all odds he had already released two dope albums – his shattering debut The Documentary and the surprisingly ill Doctor’s Advocate – and it wasn’t crazy to …
DJBooth Album Review
Now before Game supporters start plotting to smash my car when they see it, let me explain. If for no other reason than the brute force of Game’s musical strength, L.A.X. is damn good, but it’s not the album the west coast’s been waiting for. Not that he had to be all Cali all the time, the man does have a worldwide audience, but consider this: while his heroes N.W.A. named their classic album Straight Outta Compton, Game named his after the city’s biggest airport, a place full of arrivals and departures. Or did I just blow your f**king mind?
In order to understand L.A.X., you have to understand Game as an MC. Though his lyricism has improved, his wordplay is still elementary compared to rap’s best (see his track with Luda, Ya Heard, for proof), and the man switches tempo about as often as Fat Joe exercises. Finesse is not his thing. Instead, Game has two modes, hard and harder, and his blunt force style is in full effect during State of Emergency, his historic collaboration with Ice Cube. Disappointingly, Cube only appears on the chorus, but Game more than gets the job done on his own. How do you know when someone’s a truly hard rapper? When they rhyme “motherf**ker” with “motherf**ker” - as Game does - and it still sounds good. By far the hardest song of the album is Dope Boys, a jackhammer of a track that brings in punk-rock drummer turned hip-hop infiltrator Travis Barker. On Dope Boys Game unleashes his adrenaline-soaked voice in all its fury. This is warrior music, and at times L.A.X. is as strapped for war as a marine driving a tank through Baghdad.
If L.A.X. is remembered for anything, it probably won’t be the bangers, it will be for the plethora of r&b singers. Nowhere does this balance strike more perfectly than on Game’s Pain, the album’s lead single. Keyshia Cole’s convincingly taken over as the best street singer in the game, and she does another stellar job on Pain. For his part Game takes his usual name-dropping tendencies to a whole new level, but he also manages to relax his style just enough to make a truly feel-good joint. As strange as it may seem, I would even include My Life, Game’s track with Weezy, in this category, with Wayne playing the role of the heartbroken singer (thanks to the vocal assistance of ol’ autotuner). This is the Game that first got everyone’s attention, the Game who dropped Dreams, the Game who’s not afraid to wonder why he’s still alive while his friends died.
Now that I mention it, go back and listen to Dreams and then tell me L.A.X. isn’t Game’s weakest album to date. You can’t. The underdog storyline that made The Documentary so compelling is gone, largely replaced with constant references to his Phantom. Instead of Dreams we get Gentlemen’s Affair, an unfortunately misguided track with Ne-Yo, and instead of One Blood we get Cali Sunshine, a track that could have been a great summertime jam if Game hadn’t insisted on constant gun references. The closest L.A.X. comes to such hip-hop granduer is Angel, his track with Kanye and Common, and Letter to the King, a MLK tribute with Nas, but more than anything these tracks prove that despite his constant insistence, he’s not one of top three rappers in the game, he’s not even one of the top three rappers on his own album. He is, however, one of the biggest rappers in the game, and the day Game realizes the difference between those two things is the day he makes a classic album.
Listen to More: Game Written by Nathan S.
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"On Bail ft. Game, Daz & T-Pain" (2006)
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