Friday, August 29, 2008

Attention West Coastans: Snoop Dogg put out a better album this year


Feel the realness

For a while now, I've found The Game's ascent to official "popular rapper it's OK to like" status irritating on a lot of levels. Normally I try to be a live and let live guy as much as I can, but it's a little annoying when by far the most mediocre, humorless rapper in the mainstream seems to get let off the hook for completely specious reasons (awww, he's obsessed with Dre, how cute!) Especially when actually innovative, exciting rappers like Kanye West and Lil Wayne, who are basically singlehandedly keeping creativity in popular hip hop alive right now, still can't seem to escape the same tired half-assed criticisms. Actually, as far as stale by-the-numbers gangsta rap goes you can look at 50 Cent and Game as Dr. Dre's twin shit late-career proteges. 50 being the heartless, artistically devoid villain 'course, and Game being what would happen if you had a wannabe suburban thug, hip hop-obsessed little brother who decided to rap. And as far as big-budget rap formula goes, 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin' is better than The Documentary.

Of course, the easy excuse for Game is hot beats, duude. And don't get me wrong, I'm sympathetic. I've been known to enjoy my share of albums from non-rappin'-ass producers that have great production. Thing is, The Game's beats just aren't that good people. Documentary is a slightly better version of your typical "sounds good the first time you hear it" major-label rap album with shit tons of money dumped into it -- while there's a few highlights, "Hate It or Love It" and "Put You on the Game" are the only songs I really come back to that much. Doctor's Advocate meanwhile just had too many Scott Storch/"J.R." Rotem Dre-lite piano knockoffs and lame over-the-top bombast to qualify as anywhere near great. Really, the dude just seems to benefit from a general hip-hop mentality that favors "hard" beats over poppier material regardless of their actual quality. Or in the case of his smoother material, enough nostalgia for the West Coast style that I guess makes people go easy on "J.R." Rotem's latest Casio synth masterpiece.

At least the guy's last two albums had a handful of good tracks between 'em though. Game's latest effort LAX, meanwhile, isn't far removed from your usual bargain-bin G-Unit album. You gotta think that the guy's just getting a pass for being The Game and popular hip hop sucking at this point, much like Bun B's lazy II Trill album earlier this year. First off, let me just say that so-called "bangers" and musicality aren't mutually exclusive. Kanye hooks Game up with the album's only real standout beat on "Angel" that proves as much. Too many beats on LAX try to be bangers but end up sounding pointlessly aggressive and generic. The Raekwon collaboration "Bulletproof Diaries" is a good example despite being the best track in that mold here. There's a bunch of synthesized strings and screaming guitars that're supposed to sound menacing, but the ultimate effect is hollow and the beat just lurches around. Of course, the whiny synth G-funk knockoffs are still in effect on the album's first two tracks, and Scott Storch shows up for some of his usual synth noodling on "Let Us Live." And let's not even talk about the chick tracks. Put it this way -- they sound possibly even more pandering, forced and clueless than anything 50 Cent's done recently. No small task. Admittedly, I might like "Touchdown" more for the Curtis Mayfield sample and Raheem DeVaughn's smooth hook if the beat hadn't been buried under a pile of synth shyte. But if these songs are any indication Game just can't do chick tracks. Though maybe if he spent more time comparing girls to his favorite rappers...

Other than the beats generally sucking and Game having the dullest voice and style of any rapper right now -- he still rambles his lines without ever really switching up his flow for different beats, sounding like Nas with half the technique -- the worst part of LAX is still his grating personality. The best rappers talk about how dope they are and then show you that they aren't just talking shit. Game's mentality can be best summed up by his whining on "Ya Heard" that he's getting marginalized by people's praise for Kanye and Wayne. The guy's easily one of the most obnoxiously self-absorbed figures in rap, yet some people seem to find his constant comparisons of himself to other rappers as somehow endearing. Why? Probably because he's the only prominent rapper besides Kanye who overtly references the old school, but the dude still comes off as a nagging little kid desperate for respect. If anyone can explain how exactly this makes him an interesting rapper, let me know. Different ain't always better.

In the end, LAX is only really notable because even more than his last two albums, it vindicates every criticism that's been made about Game since the beginning. He's got a boring monoflow that people mistake for consistency, boring beats that people mistake for bangers, and a boring personality that people mistake for being...so boring it's somehow intriguing? I dunno. In any case it'd be nice if this album flops and we're officially done with everyone involved with the G-Unit era. Clean slate. Maybe Dr. Dre'll make up for it by putting out Detox in the next year (or five) even. And hopefully I won't have to do another one of these once Young Buck puts out a shitty album of his own that people go crazy over thanks to his "brave" split with G-Unit.

10 comments:

JK said...

I actually wasn't really feeling the beat for "Angel". It sounded like Kanye just took something one of his beat making underlings and gave it to The Game. It didn't really sound like a Kanye beat to me.

Marcus said...

I guess I'm one of the people who think The Documentary had banging ass production. Start From Scratch and Church For Thugs go too hard.

LAX was very disappointing mainly because of the lack of focus. The production was still great.

Ego Trippin' is definitely better though. Staxxx in My Jeans even makes my broke ass feel rich.

DocZeus said...

"I actually wasn't really feeling the beat for "Angel". It sounded like Kanye just took something one of his beat making underlings and gave it to The Game."

Basically. Kanye hasn't made given another rapper a beat of value since '04 - '05.

Great post by the way although I disagree with the thesia. I think the basic difference between the recent G-Unit album's and Game's album is the production quality on the G-Unit albums are highly cheap and tossed-off which stems from the fact that 50 believes he can make a hit record by simply having his voice on it (which was true for a little while in '03 - '05 but disappeared after that) and refuses to pay for anything other than G-Unit house producers and virtual unknowns. Game's production has a little bit of subtelty in it (slight changes in shift, brief instrumental flourishes, etc) that highlights his ear for production. And the other difference is that Game is willing to inject a little bit of his personality and personal struggles beyond the generic "street life is hard" stuff that so many modern gangster rappers fall into. The title track from the Doctor's Advocate is probably the best example which is basically the musical equivalent of desperate drunken phone call to a former lover which makes his music much more interesting than your standard fare. He is basically pouring his drunken soul on the track and is willing to make himself look a fool. It's great theatre.

Doctor's Advocate is really, really good by the way. People who prefer Documentary are nuts in my opinion.

Although for the record, your absolutely correct about Get Rich Or Die Tryin'. It's a superior record to anything Game's really done.

Marcus said...

Doc, you on something else.

Ye gave Nas 2 great cuts for HHID and a bunch of heat for Finding Forever.

Doctors Advocate has great production and is more personal than Documentary, but Game sounds uber-boring on the excellent Dre impersonations. The 1st half of DA is boring as hell sans It's Okay and Wouldn't Get Far.

And I really prefer The Documentary over GRODT. Mainly cause Game was just a much better rapper and the name-dropping doesn't bother me.

Trey Stone said...

jk -- actually, i think it kinda sounds like something that could've been on Finding Forever.

marcus -- it's not that Doc's beats are bad or anything, just that they don't have much replay value to me. i thought Just's two beats on there especially sacrificed melody in trying to go for banger status like i talk about here. the whole album is a lot of high-budget gloss that leaves me kinda empty at the end, can't listen to the whole thing, and there are definitely some straight-up wack tracks toward the end ("Runnin'," "Special")

don't like "Staxxx in My Jeans" but Snoop's album definitely has some keepers on it, first half or so is pretty strong. and "Sensual Seduction" is still one of the best recent rap singles

Doc -- i agree that Game injects more of his personality into his music than 50 these days, i guess it comes down to me not liking his personality at all. like at the beginning of the album where he goes on about how he's more gangsta/whatever than other rappers, it's like c'mon now man. and all the drama in his tracks comes off as too forced for my tastes, "My Life" being the worst example yet (Weezy too, see i make token criticisms of the guy when he deserves it!)

Trey Stone said...

forgot to add, i agree with marcus that 'Ye's had some good shit in the last couple years, even though he saves the best shit for himself. and "Brand New" is still my jam, even if it really was just an old beat he had layin' around

Marcus said...

it's not that Doc's beats are bad or anything, just that they don't have much replay value to me. i thought Just's two beats on there especially sacrificed melody in trying to go for banger status like i talk about here. the whole album is a lot of high-budget gloss that leaves me kinda empty at the end, can't listen to the whole thing, and there are definitely some straight-up wack tracks toward the end ("Runnin'," "Special")

don't like "Staxxx in My Jeans" but Snoop's album definitely has some keepers on it, first half or so is pretty strong. and "Sensual Seduction" is still one of the best recent rap singles"

Runnin and Special are both damn good. Runnin would be great if not for Yayo's verse. Its just pretty good. And Just Blaze has perfected the are of the banger, Church for Thugs is the 2nd best track on the album behind Start from Scratch.

tray said...

The Documentary has some good beats, though I agree with the empty high-budget gloss critique. The thing is, at least it's good high-budget gloss, whereas something like American Gangster... like what the fuck did he even get for all the money he paid? Or The Big Bang, another great example of high-budget beats that weren't particularly good. Compared to those, The Documentary's great. One beat that hasn't been mentioned here is Like Father Like Son. Nice little neo-Golden Age beat. Styles did an amazing freestyle over it on some Clue mixtape. Look it up; it's called Last Days.

Also, Pay Tray(.blogspot.com) is up.

Marcus said...

the production on American Gangster was gorgeous

Christopher said...

"he still rambles his lines without ever really switching up his flow for different beats/sounding like Nas with half the technique"

And that's line 6 of your dis track about Game.

I don't remember the last time I've read so many darts thrown at someone.