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March 9, 2009 | by  | in Music |
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The Game – LAX

The Game was supposed to save hip-hop on the West Coast, the home of Dre, 2Pac, Snoop and Ice Cube. He played his cards well on his first two albums, starting out as Dre’s protégé on The Documentary before turning upon his mentor on Doctor’s Advocate, gaining respect in the process. Released at a time when hip-hop is spreading its wings thanks to an influx of talented female artists (MIA, Santogold), as well as Kanye West’s game-changing moves on 808s and Heartbreaks, LAX has a lot to prove. Hip-hop can be anything in 2009. The obsession with mad skillz MCing is on the wane. Old boundaries are being torn down in favor of a more global sound, melody and lyrical depth. Oh, and there’s an African American President in the White House as well…

Against this backdrop The Game is at risk of becoming as outmoded as 50 Cent, whose attempt to pit his third album, Curtis, against Kanye’s Graduation in a battle of the charts failed spectacularly. The Game’s talent as an MC is undeniable, but that just isn’t enough any more. He tries to compensate with a diamond-dense guest list of high karat MCs. For better or worse, Common, Wayne, Ice Cube, Raekwan and a host of others provide support. Sadly, the 18 tracks on LAX are the aural equivalent of the bullets that were unloaded at Vincent and Jules in Pulp Fiction: lots of high velocity rounds, but they just make a mess of the wall instead of hitting their desired targets. This strikes me as apity, since the scattershot nature of LAX reflects The Game’s persona. He can’t quite decide who he should be, or where he fits into the grand scheme of things. He’s from the West but Biggie and Raekwan are just as significant influences as Pac or Dre. The Game can’t help but make references to his past life as a thug, but at the same time he attempts to transcend this past by discussing religion, King and Obama. This makes for an intriguing mix, but it’s a shame that he can’t spend more time figuring this stuff out without getting distracted by guest stars and a penchant for constant name checking.

Hip-hop greats can be complex individuals, and wracked by self-doubt (Biggie, Kanye, 2Pac, and even Jay-Z, believe it or not). The Game seems to have some of these vulnerabilities as well but is reluctant to explore them fully, and as a result his album lacks personal depth. Before he can gain entry to the pantheon (let alone rescue his home from impending irrelevance), The Game has to stop holding back, cut out the name checking and mix up his, uhhhhh…game. Best of luck to him, but one can’t help but think that he’s already missed that particular flight. First class is already full.

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  1. Todd says:

    This album is fucking sick. Reviewer obviously isn’t a true hip hop fan.

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