Compton, California. You hear the name and automatically think of a place thats rich in history. Two of the more immediate things that likely come to mind are the citys much-storied legacy of gang conflict and the musical relevance it has had on hip-hop dating back to 1988, the year that N.W.A shocked the world with their landmark Straight Outta Compton album. Gang culture and hip-hop music have walked hand in hand since then, serving as a prime example of life providing the flammable fuel to create dynamic art. This phenomenon is clearly evident across the ambitious, expertly crafted new double-album by The Game. Indeed, together, The Documentary 2 and its companion piece The Documentary 2.5 represent an unapologetically vivid ride through a Piru Bloods life in Compton.
Within the contextual backdrop of gang-banging and the complexities of that lifestyle, the albums pick up right where his breakthrough 2005 debut LP The Documentary left off a decade ago. Only this time round, The Game has ascended to greater, more expansive musical heights, as the albums addictive soundscapes come courtesy of legendary producers like DJ Premier, DJ Quik, Alchemist, and will.i.am, to name a few. Lyrically, he rhymes with his signature potency and aggression that seldom leave much to the imagination. The album fuses an old-school West coast bounce with a very new-school class of emcees, including fellow Compton native Kendrick Lamar on the Bongo The Drum Gahd produced On Me, in which Erykah Badus sultry voice and memorable beat from her 1996 debut single On & On is sampled for to moody, jazzy effect. Other rhymeslayers featured include Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, YG, Q-Tip, Drake, Future, and Kanye West who also produced the track Mula.
A standout cut for me is the will.i.am produced Dont Trip featuring the Black Eyed Peas frontman trading verses with fellow vets Ice Cube and Dr. Dre. The track glides over the same Fred Wesley & The J.B.s bassline sample that Showbiz & A.G. lifted for their classic single Soul Clap and The Game does his best interpolation of the chorus from Digable Planets Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat), casting a throwback vibe that transports us right back to an early 90s Golden Era house party. In one of his more introspective moments, The Game touches upon how easily he couldve been a Crip, explaining that I couldve been a Crip but I aint really like blue that much, all Crip school, but I aint really go to school that much. The track is a peek into some of the more negative consequences of set-trippin, but The Game takes pride in his red flag and enduring allegiance nevertheless. Will.i.am gets reflective on his verse, posing the question What happens when niggas unite and start making them moves?, which ensures that the song concludes on a more hopeful note.
Theres another great sample flip by Bongo The Drum Gahd where he touches up the Gang Starr classic Step In The Arena for an adequately titled Step Up, which features Detroits own Dej Loaf and Sha Sha. Now keep in mind that flipping such classics to re-present them as your own can be risky business. Being able to deliver these recycled classics and avoid the copycat syndrome that many fall victim to can be a lot of added pressure, especially if you tread on work by such legendary figures as The Notorious B.I.G.. The Game takes a stab at Biggies infamous Kick in the Door for his Standing on Ferraris featuring Diddy, and he switches up his flow and rhyme pattern to mirror Bigs. It’s presumably The Game’s ode or tip of the hat to the late great emcee, and despite the challenge, he handles it quite well.
Keeping the New York connection intact and released just a week after Documentary 2, the 2.5 disc starts off with The Games reflections on the infamous 2005 shootout in front of New York City radio station Hot 97s studio, which was allegedly prompted by former labelmate 50 Cent taking to the air to announce that The Game was being dropped from G-Unit. At the time, 50 Cent was in the midst of confrontations with artists like Fat Joe, The Lox and Nas. However, the Compton emcee did not want to be involved in 50s beefs because he grew up listening to those guys. Unaware of being dropped from G-Unit for his disloyalty and also being in New York City to promote his debut album, The Game and his 70 Bloods crew made their way to the studio where the inevitable shooting took place. A decade later, one of those guys he grew up listening to, Nas, makes a guest-spot on the second discs will.i.am produced track The Ghetto.
The second disc packs just as much of a punch as the first one, as The Game continues to represent his city in the same spirit as his fellow Compton rhymeslayers that came before him. On the G Koop produced Last Time You Seen featuring the legendary Scarface and Stacy Barthe, the group voices their frustrations about the cloud of mystery that still surrounds 2Pacs death to this day. The Game takes a certain pride in honoring and embodying Pacs legacy, when he confesses The last time I seen him was when I looked in the mirror this morning!
Quiks Groove produced by DJ Quik is a quintessential Quik track, with its smooth G-Funk beat reminiscent of hanging out at Skate City on a Saturday night. The track is a perfect example of OG Compton artists coming together with the new school to make something beautiful. Quik keeps the bounce in tune as he usually does with melodic strings and a crisp snare to match. Sevyn Streeter and Micah lace the chorus with amazing back-and-forth vocals, which makes for an all-around solid production.
The Games double album is well worth checking out, after all who doesnt love a star-studded LA affair? The album is out now via the Blood Money/eOne label.
The Documentary 2 | Grade: A
Notable Songs: On Me | Dont Trip | “Mula” | Step Up| Summertime
The Documentary 2.5 | Grade: B+
Notable Songs: Crenshaw/80s and Cocaine | Last Time You Seen | Magnes Carlsen| Quiks Groove
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