Honestly, I’m not sure why The Game exists. If all art should have a purpose of some sort, then I’d love for someone to tell me what The Game’s reason for being is. Why does anyone need this music? Granted, that’s a question that should be asked of many rappers before we volunteer our time listening. And there are loads of rappers who deserve this question much more than Game. But while listening to The Documentary 2, his sequel to his debut, I realized that I still don’t know who and, more importantly, why exactly The Game is.
I question who The Game is because, similar to the original Documentary, this album is very good yet very inconsistent in its identity. While there are less huge-name producers, the instrumentals are just as varied as before, and this time Game varies his flow drastically on the various beats. On Step Up and Standing on Ferraris, he’s channeling The Notorious B.I.G., and he does admirably well with the task. It works extremely well on Ferraris since the beat uses the same sample as B.I.G.’s Kick in the Door and Puff Daddy came along to talk random shit throughout the song. Meanwhile, Step Up sounds super East Coast with its reuse of the “step up” sample from Gangstarr’s Step in the Arena, the hook’s re-imagining of Brandy’s I Wanna Be Down into gangsta threats, and Game’s golden age-tuned rhymes:
The Compton lyricist, you niggas can’t get with this/
Used to tap Dre on his shoulder, like “nigga come hear this shit”/
Be thinkin you slick as shit, nigga sweeter than licorice/
Los Angeles god, we Mobb like Infamous/
Ain’t from Queensbridge or Brook-lan, but we done shook ones/
Bullets, I done took some, crack, I done cooked some/
Elsewhere, Erykah Badu’s On & On is sampled for On Me, featuring fire-hot verses from both Game and Kendrick Lamar. Game even borrows Kendrick’s speed for his second verse, but fails to recreate any meaning, unlike Kendrick, who says,
Don’t we, live by it, die by it, then reincarnate/
And if Game told me, drive by it, I’ll raise AK/
Ain’t no shame on it, cry about it? Fuck that I play/
Like no name on it, blindsided, ain’t no one safe/
Documentary had identities out where I’m from/
Therefore my energy had to make sure the better me won/
It ain’t no better one son, it ain’t no telling me none/
Nigga that’s Chuck, Doc Dre, and K, the legacy’s done/
And with those two quotes, I think I arrive at what I love and dislike most about Documentary 2. There’s plenty of really good songs and rhymes, but they don’t mean anything. I can’t discern any message from The Game, and his rhymes aren’t so dense that I’m confident in the existence of hidden meanings to be gleaned for months or years to come. Even if those meanings were just stealthy punchlines, they would at least add some of the depth that’s sorely lacking here. Top that issue with the numerous missteps, such as the annoying screaming on Hashtag, the juvenile relationship tale Circles (until Q-Tip(!) and a new beat come to the rescue at the end), and the uncreative and misogynistic Bitch You Ain’t Shit, and this album ends up being a catchy let-down.
Without a driving aesthetic or anything to say, Game sounds best when he sounds like someone else. I love that he’s a student of hip-hop and isn’t afraid to ape his influences. And I wish more rappers could talk proudly of their gang history while also being realistic enough to admit to being jumped by Crips and not wearing their red flag on the way to school through Crip territory. There’s definitely some value to those things, but it’s not enough. In that way, Documentary 2 is the opposite of To Pimp a Butterfly. It’s a great and fun, yet ultimately puddle-shallow, West Coast rap album, which, just like Kendrick’s, I doubt I’ll be playing for months to come.
- Standing on Ferraris ft Diddy
- On Me ft Kendrick Lamar
- Step Up ft Dej Loaf and Sha Sha
- 100 ft Drake