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.