Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Game -- L.A.X.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Pros: Game's commanding mic presence along with A-list producers and guests make L.A.X. feel like a big album.

Cons: He still struggles to rap about things outside of his favorite rappers.

Bottom Line: Game hasn't yet found niche in rap outside of his relationships with 50 and Dre.

Recommended Tracks:

My Life

Game's Pain

The Game’s debut “The Documentary” could have been a 50 Cent album. 50 was its biggest star - the co-executive producer featured on the first three singles. Game name-dropped G Unit incessantly, while bragging about a past (Compton gang-banger, five bullet holes) suspiciously 50-like.

His second album “Doctor’s Advocate” revolved around Dr. Dre, who had chosen 50 over him after a feud between the two Dre proteges. It was a conflicted album, both defiant (full of Dre-sounding beats that screamed “I don’t need you”) and plaintive (with lyrics that begged for forgiveness).

So who exactly is he without 50 and Dre? That’s the question he faces on his third album “L.A.X.”

Even without his mentors, the record doesn’t lack in star-power. The endless guest-list (Nas, Lil’ Wayne, Ne-Yo, Ludacris, Ice Cube and Common, just to name a few) leaves room for only three solo tracks. An equally impressive group of producers keep the G-Unit meets West Coast sound of his first two albums.

Game isn’t overshadowed, thanks to his commanding and self-assured baritone straight out of gangsta rap central casting. But for someone from Compton, the birthplace of gangsta rap, his ghetto tales are so unimaginative they could be a parody: “Come to my hood / Look at my block / That’s my project building / Yea, that’s where I got shot.”

He’s interested not in gangsta rap but gangsta rappers; he’s more fan than rapper. He incorporates other musicians into every subject imaginable - from civil rights to sex. They’re signposts in both time (“Everybody’s first bootleg was Boyz ‘n the Hood”) and place (“I’m from a block close to where Biggie was crucified”).

On “Never Can Say Goodbye”, the album’s most ambitious track, he raps as Biggie, Tupac and Eazy-E on the eve of their deaths. It’s expert mimicry, but if he wants to join the ranks of his idols, he’ll have to find a voice of his own.

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