The Documentary 2
Features: Kendrick Lamar, Dej Loaf, Sha Sha, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, will.i.am, Diddy, Ab-Soul, Marcus Black, Jelly Roll, Q-Tip, Eric Bellinger, Future, Sonyae, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg,
Production: The Mekanicks, Bongo, will.i.am, Jahlil Beats, Cool & Dre, Mike Will Made It, Dr. Dre, DJ Premier, Cardo, Boi-1da
Before the The Game made his debut in 2005, the future of West Coast hip hop hung in the balance. 50 Cent had just released his groundbreaking debut Get Rich or Die Trying in 2003, the world was brushing the dirt off its shoulders to Jay Z’s Black Album, Kanye West made his debut as an MC on College Dropout and Eminem, T.I. and Ludacris were all buzzing. Not to mention Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz were taking over the airwaves after their Crunk Juice album went double-platinum in less than two weeks. Meanwhile the only thing the west coast had going for it was Xzibit’s lackluster Weapons of Mass Destruction.The best west coast hip hop project in 2004 was Tupac’s posthumous soundtrack to his Resurrection documentary. How fitting that a year later, The Game answered the west’s call with his own Documentary.
The West needed someone to put it back on the map and Jayceon Terrell Taylor did just that with The Documentary LP. The album bled the aggression and rawness of a Compton rapper who had been held hostage by the industry for years. A decade later, The Game is back on The Documentary 2, the highly anticipated followup to his left coast classic. The sequel to his debut could not come at a better time for west coast hip hop. 2015 saw Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly achieve instant classic status while N.W.A.’s genre-defining story was brought back to life in the box office hit Straight Outta Compton. The Documentary 2 will be yet another success on the west coast’s 2015 hip hop resume.
The Game struggled to find a sound that worked for him after his sophomore LP, The Doctor’s Advocate. His scrappy persona catapulted him into countless beefs, Worldstar fights and even a reality television show. His focus on music seemed to take a backseat to the outside influences on his life. On The Documentary 2 we find The Game matured and more focused than he’s ever been. The gritty bars that blared through our speakers ten years ago are there, only this time, his seventh studio album possesses a regionless sound that has led him to his best work in a decade.
The hip hop purists of the world will cringe at a tracklist with 19 songs that contains a feature on almost every one. They’ll go into cardiac arrest once they see the names of hip hop legends Dr. Dre., Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg juxtaposed with the likes of Drake, Future and Dej Loaf. “I grew up to N.W.A. nigga,” Game contends on “Don’t Trip” before his idols Ice Cube and Dre arrive on scene to prove that they haven’t missed a step. The majority of the features help The Game adapt to hip hop’s sonically evolving landscape while taking the listener back to the times that shaped his sound.
The opener “On Me” samples Erykah Badu’s “On and On” and features Kendrick Lamar. The track exudes a natural feel because of the chemistry K Dot and Badu have while The Game sets the tone for the rest of the album by not allowing the TDE frontrunner to outshine him as he paints a vivid picture of the streets he grew up on. The song transitions into the Dej Loaf and Sha Sha featured cut “Step Up” which samples a Pete Rock and InI track that shares the same title. Tupac also sampled the same song on “I Get Around” which is why the track gives off a west coast vibe. The Game’s infatuation with samples make for a unique listening experience because you don’t know what familiar sound you might hear over the course of the 19-track project.
“West side ni**a, never had a problem banging Big,” The Game says on the 12th track “Summertime”. Now we understand why The Game has no problem borrowing Biggie’s “Kick in the Door” and “Things Done Changed” cuts on the fifth track “Standing on Ferraris”. The track even turns Diddy into an honorary Compton Bad Boy — inviting Puffy to kick in the door with his signature ad-libs and a head-scratching but comical monologue. By the end of the track you’ll think that The Game might be Notorious B.I.G.’s accomplice on “Gimme the Loot”. On the seventh track “Made in America” featuring Marcus Black, The Game spits in a cadence similar to Nas in his heyday. He even shouts him out on the soulful track before acknowledging the mistakes he made coming up in the game — “We all make mistakes look what happened to me and 50.” The east coast influence on The Documentary 2 gives the album a regionless sound but it pays off, even for an artist who’s been synonymous with west coast gangster rap his whole career.
It’s no secret that The Game has had his fair share of baby mama problems. He lets us into the harsh realities of his damaged domestic life on The Documentary 2. “Circles” is a chilling track that builds on the ‘late nights spent at the studio’ problem that rappers in relationships often face. “I know you saying you workin, but baby boy this feeling ain’t right,” Sha Sha croons from the perspective of The Game’s spouse. “You ain’t complain when I bought that Maybach/ Put you in Chanel, your friend Chanelle can’t even say that,” The Game counters. The back half of the song dives deeper into The Game’s pained relationship when Sha Sha lets him know that he’s not as irreplaceable as he thinks — “I guess you thought they stopped making real ni**as when they made you.” Future joins the baby mama drama party on the 11th track “Dedicated” which enlists Sonyae to play the role of the women in the two rapper’s lives. The track tackles the volatile situation of having another man around your kids. “Now a nigga feeling like Future, we both dealing with a new nigga around our kids and we ain’t kill ‘em yet/ Nig*a I salute you,” The Game’s personal tracks give The Documentary 2 the same feeling The Documentary gave fans with songs like “Start From Scratch”.
The Documentary 2 starts to feel like an actual Documentary, clocking in at 73 minutes. The length of the album makes it hard to digest and some of the songs don’t quite hit the mark. A slight trim to the album’s 19 songs might give it the classic feeling that The Game’s debut album had. The 12th track “Bitch You Ain’t Sh*t” is a shockingly misogynistic track that doesn’t move the album along. “Hashtag” is a near miss because of Jelly Roll’s raspy cackling but The Game cleans up the track despite Jelly’s incessant ad-libs that dare your thumbs to hit the skip button.
When you look at what The Game has accomplished on The Documentary 2 the album becomes even more impressive. He proved that he refuses to get categorized as a rapper who failed to adapt to hip hop’s changing sound with the lead single “100” featuring Drake. He was still able to stay true to his roots on “Dollar and a Dream” even though he was lyrically tested by Ab-Soul. The production helps The Game create one of the most musically dense albums of his career. Mike WiLL Made It’s “Summertime” is driven by smooth piano keys that complement The Game’s gritty bars. On the title track, The Game simply raps his ass off over some exhilarating piano keys courtesy of DJ Premier and Dr. Dre. The Documentary 2 is The Game’s strongest most focused work since his debut album 10 years ago. Are you ready for The Documentary 2.5?
C.J. Rucker is a freelance journalist from Los Angeles. You can follow him on twitter @Ruckmatic