Featuring blockbuster singles “How We Do”, “Dreams”, and the impeccable “Hate It or Love It”, Game’s first album, 2005’s The Documentary, was West Coast rap’s Thriller if such a thing could be. Back then, claims that the gruff Compton MC was the new Snoop or Cube or whoever seemed plenty valid, if not validated. But as time went on, Game seemed to lack something vital: motivation. On The Documentary, he eagerly rapped about legends like Eazy-E and 2Pac and fantasized about being as good as them. By 2008’s LAX, he hardly seemed to care anymore. Fortunately, the “R.E.D.” in his new album’s title is an acronym for “rededicated.”
Which is fitting. The R.E.D. Album is a much-needed minor comeback for Game after the disappointing LAX. It bears little sonic resemblance to its predecessors, but then again, it couldn’t: The overall landscape of mainstream rap has changed too much in the last few years. Here, Game spends a lot of time alongside highly sought-after collaborators (Drake, Lil Wayne, and Rick Ross just to name three), but he surprisingly out-raps almost all of them. “Ricky”, the record’s culmination, finds DJ Khalil’s erupting brass flourishes, piano lines, and gunshots coinciding gloriously with some of the slickest rapping of Game’s career. (“Made the Cincinnati fitted more famous than Griffey did/And just to think, several years ago they tried to split his wig,” goes one memorable couplet.) He sounds hungry, impenetrable, and confident all at once, which is something that can’t even be said about many of his verses from The Documentary.
The rest of the album runs almost as smoothly, albeit with a varied sound. Some tracks thump and sputter (“Drug Test”, “Martians vs. Goblins”), while others are sparse to maximize the room for the rappers (“The Good, the Bad, the Ugly”, “The City”). “Good Girls Go Bad”, featuring Drake, might have been a hit if released five or six years ago, as its 33-at-45 soul sample provides a gorgeous backdrop for a trio of simpatico, for-the-ladies verses. And anybody who says Game isn’t versatile should listen to “Speakers on Blast” and then “California Dream”.
Things go south a hair during the latter third of the record when the R&B and soul undertones become a bit overbearing, especially on “All the Way Gone” and “Mama Knows”, abetted by Mario and Nelly Furtado respectively. Still, this record signals that Game is indeed rededicated. On “Pot of Gold”, he says he’s going to “give Interscope two more albums, then [he’s] done for good.” The R.E.D. Album should be enough to have fans’ fingers crossed in hopes that he sticks around for more than that.
Essential Tracks: “Ricky”, “Good Girls Go Bad”, “Speakers on Blast”