Jayceon Taylor, a.k.a., The Game, has a similar story as those of the streets of Compton turned rap Dr. Dre protégés such as Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar. Though growing up in a primarily Crip gang neighborhood, he became a member of the Bloods, their rival gang. Both of his parents were Crips, with crime, heroin, cocaine and guns around him all the time as a child. Placed in foster care around the age of 7, during his time there he met his idol Eazy-E, one of the members and founders of N.W.A. / Ruthless Records.

Going to Compton High School, most of his classmates were Crip associated, but one of his eldest brothers was the leader of the Cedar Block Piru Bloods. Playing basketball in college, he earned a scholarship to play basketball at Washington State University, but after being caught in possession of drugs, he was expelled from the university, and turned to the street gang life of violence and selling drugs. The Game and his brother then had a short-lived monopoly on the drug trade in his neighborhood, until October 1, 2001, when at his apartment, he was attacked by three assailants and was shot 5 times, though somehow survived the attack after a three-day coma at the hospital.

While recovering at the hospital, The Game studied classic hip-hop records with his older brother, and together they started to make music. He chose the name, “The Game,” because his mother was a huge fan of the 1997 film, The Game. Performing at a summit for Russell Simmons, he signed to small label, Get Low Recordz, made a mixtape, and then 5 months later, was discovered by Dr. Dre, and signed to Aftermath. Feuding with 50 Cent and his mentor Dr. Dre, he left Aftermath for Interscope, and then left again to form his own label, Blood Money Entertainment.

The Game’s usual style of album making involves surrounding yourself with an artist and producer dream time like, Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, will.i.am, Diddy, Ab-Soul, Q-Tip, Future, Kanye West, Drake, Hit Boy, Boi-1da, and the god, DJ Premier, that will make the album sound amazing regardless of how or what he raps over them, a lot of rapper name dropping, Compton street name dropping, and stories of feuds he’s had with Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, G-Unit, Suge Knight, or whoever else he’s pissed off or pissed him off over the years.

With their apparent peace now in 2015, at least The Documentary 2 doesn’t include massive amounts of lyrics explaining why Dr. Dre isn’t included, because he actually raps on this one. However naming your new record The Documentary 2, in sequel homage to your most famous record / debut record, by record name alone, The Game had a lot to show for, especially since he’s been a pretty big decline, in my opinion, since Doctor’s Advocate in 2006.

With most of his featuring’s feeling not, per say, forced, it very much felt like, at least for the ones that are considered, “big names,” are there just because they wanted to be included on something as big as something entitled, The Documentary 2. As Pitchfork‘s Ian Cohen points out, “the one contemporary superstar who does sound happy to be here is Kendrick Lamar,” who makes The Documentary 2 sound great right off the bat by having us remember, “what The Game is good at: making West Coast gangsta-rap records.”

The most interesting aspect to The Game for me personally is his gang affiliation, and not only that, but the opening track “On Me,” and it’s Kendrick Lamar association. I know that it might seem crazy for The Game, in his current status as famous rapper, to still rep his Blood affiliation, but I guess once you join a gang, you’re in a gang for life. It just seems so out of place now is all I’m getting at, at least. Maybe it’s that West Coast Gangsta Rap has never been able to hit me on a deep emotional level more than I just enjoy bumpin to it, because regardless if the lyrical content hits home or not, I can still understand the subject matter.

But what’s interesting about “On Me” is that while having similar Compton streets to Dr. Dre protégé rise to fame, Kendrick Lamar and The Game’s experiences were extremely different. While Kendrick had some gang related violence in his past in Compton, he never sold drugs for a living, or got deep in the gang world. Lamar went to the same high school as The Game’s older brother, but was a straight-A student, keeping to his passion for music. After signage, Kendrick deals with his past and trying to remedy the situations and environment of his youth, while The Game proudly represents and boasts his gang and crime/drug-ridden past. This duality between artists somehow comes together and blends well on “On Me,” setting the course and motion for the rest of the record.

Sure, The Game still name drops a hell of a lot, sometimes sounds like he’s, “learning new flows on the fly,” or relies heavily on where he’s from and his Blood affiliation, but to me, The Documentary 2 does something that The Game albums haven’t done in a very long time – surprise me. For one, he double times on “On Me,” something I never thought I’d hear The Game do well, and that DJ Premier title-track beat is 100% classic DJ Premier make-me-faint-style beat making. Though it might be a “old-school, cash-flush, crowd-pleasing, too-big-to-fail hip-hop album,” as Ian Cohen put it, The Game surprised me by making an album I could fully enjoy for once, and a record that actually lived up to its name.

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