The Game…wait, my bad, Game, has had nothing short of a roller coaster of a career. Once seen as the savior of the West and releasing an arguably classic debut, he’s since seen his momentum derailed by beef with his former boss (Not to mention a myriad of other rappers) as well as a number of high profile legal issues. While Game seems to be in a better place professionally and personally, (Getting married is always good right?) he now has to contend with not being the most popular kid on the block. Left Coast artists like Kendrick Lamar aren’t only defining the West; they’re being considered the voices of the future. Will Jesus Piece, Game’s fifth album, catapult him back to the top or will he get lost in the shuffle? There’s only one way to find out.
1. Scared Now Featuring Meek Mill; Produced by Black Metaphor
As the title suggests we start the album off on a menacing note. Black Metaphor loops a piano riff and adds some dark sounding synths for Game to spit some gruff tough talk on. I’m of the opinion that intros should be used to make a statement and hook listeners into wanting to hear the rest of the album. This doesn’t happen. Game sounds uninspired and can’t decide whether he wants to make more uninspired threats or ramble on about half-assed conspiracy theories. Also, dude its 2012; nobody cares about your beef with 50 anymore. STOP IT! Meek Mill shows up, and although I’m not the biggest Meek Mill, he definitely sounds at home on this kind of beat. Nevertheless, it’s still a throwaway track for me.
2. Ali Bomaye Featuring 2 Chainz & Rick Ross; Produced by Black Metaphor
Black Metaphor returns on the boards and Game does a complete 180 as he comes with straight fire on this one. I have no idea why this song isn’t a single as I can easily see this tearing up the radio. Game pays homage to “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali and takes the tagline from The Rumble In The Jungle and rips it. 2 Chainz & Rick Ross don’t sound as passionate as the headliner but they both bring solid efforts to a great track.
3. Jesus Piece Featuring Kanye West & Common; Produced by Koz & The Maven Boys
I don’t know if Game gets credit for being able to do so many things with his voice and flow. It keeps him from sounding repetitive or stale and ensures that the tracks don’t blend together. Here he adopts a more throaty, hungry voice for the title track of the album. Game isn’t saying much here again, but it sounds good. Kanye only does hook duty and Common makes a surprise appearance to close out the song. Com’s presence is a little jarring, but it’s still a good verse. Good production and good lyrics make for a solid song.
4. Pray Featuring J. Cole & JSMN; Produced by Cool & Dre
Game’s ear for beats is rarely questioned, and so far his team has not let him down. Cool & Dre craft a spaced out sonic beat for Game and Cole to do their thing on. Game goes a different route instead of the usual “ladies” song by detailing his interaction with a girl he’s fallen for but is struggling with her own demons. It’s also the first time that the CD plays into the religious themes that pop up more throughout the album. Both rappers do a great job with the subject matter and do a good job of telling a story, something that’s definitely missing in a lot of mainstream rap.
5. Church Featuring Trey Songz & King Chip; Produced by K. Roosevelt
After playing this song seven times I still can’t get off the fence about it. I like that it builds on the religious theme that was in the last song. I also think the hook is dope, with Game having a hard time reconciling the carnal with the spiritual. But the Trey Songz bridge and the King Chip verse bring the song down. Plus the beat here, while not bad, isn’t as gripping as the previous ones. At the end we get a pretty funny skit from Kevin Hart heading to the strip club after getting out of service. This isn’t a bad song, but instead of taking a step forward like the last three songs, it’s more of a lateral move.
6. All That (Lady) Featuring Lil’ Wayne, Big Sean, Jeremih, & Fabolous; Produced by Cool & Dre
I LOVE THIS SONG. Ironically, neither Game nor any of the other rappers on this song are the primary reason I do. The main reason is Cool & Dre sample D’Angelo’s “Lady” and make possibly the smoothest song of 2012. Hearing this just brings me back to the late 90/early 2000 Golden Era of Rap. The feeling I got hearing this song is indescribable. This is classic riding music. There’s no way for this song to fail. Even the worst rapper in the world could jump on this track and as long as he could rap on beat you’d call him top five. But don’t think that means that anybody slacked off. Everyone on this song puts in strong bars, with even Weezy sounding rejuvenated. This song is still on repeat and is hands down my favorite track on the CD.
7. Heaven’s Arms Produced by Cool & Dre
It takes six tracks before we get to hear Game rap by his self. Cool & Dre stay on the boards for this one. The song starts with a weird conversation between two men. Although it’s not stated, my knowledge of the Bible tells me it’s Moses talking to God. The voices sound creepy and the beat is different. The song picks back up on the non secular. Game sounds good on this song, but a weak hook keeps this song from being anything but average.
8. Name Me King Featuring Pusha-T; Produced by SAP
We return to the ominous, threatening sound that kicked off the album. Game can talk tough talk with the best of them, which is good because Pusha-T shows up to do the hook and lend a verse. Pusha may be the best self-aggrandizer in the game, but Mr. Taylor shows why the crown is his:
Brick by brick I built my fortress
My queen beautiful, Lamborghini is gorgeous
Phantom in the courtyard, 400 horses
Growl made the towers fall, 911 Porsches
Number 9 Jordans pause the Air Forces
Kush clouds, blunts lit by Olympic torches
Gold bars melted and what returned Rolexes
Niggas got Breitlings to burn
Loyalty to earn
Royalty to who it may concern this is Los Angeles King snapback
Sipping ‘tron out the Stanley cup, I don’t give a fuck
Drown them in the moat and let the bridge up
My son, my heir in Nike Airs, named my little nigga King
Meaning you should bow at his feet before God intervene
Even when I was in front of triple beams
Stack paper to the ceiling, to the fiends I was king
9. See No Evil Featuring Kendrick Lamar & Tank; Produced by Boi-1da
So again Game brings us back with the Jesus talk. At this point it kind of feels like Game picks and chooses when he wants to carry the theme and when he just wants to be regular Game. Boi-1da creates a solemn sounding track for Game to detail the pitfalls of street life. Rookie/Rapper of the Year nominee Kendrick Lamar shows up and sounds much better suited for the song as he raps and croons. Tank doesn’t sound bad here, but with Kendrick singing in parts you wonder why they just didn’t let him do the hook. Again, we get another average track that should’ve been better.
10. Can’t Get Right Featuring K. Roosevelt; Produced by Cool Dre
You know how one of the biggest knocks against is Game was that he constantly named dropped? Well that’s in full effect on this song. And it’s a shame because Cool & Dre put together an epic sounding backdrop for Game to go off on the struggles of trying to live for the streets and the Lord. Instead we get a weird DipSet shout out and more whining about his relationship with Dr. Dre. Instead of giving us a compelling dichotomy of right versus wrong, we get Game saying he wants to get head and smoke weed, but still go to church. This would be a skip but the beat is too good for you not to hear it in full at least once.
11. Hallelujah Featuring Jamie Foxx; Produced by Jake One
This may be the most focused Game we get on the entire, as well as the best representation of the faith theme on the album. Jake One takes us to church with this one, as this sounds like something your pastor wouldn’t mind you getting down to. Lyrically, Game puts in a lot more effort into conveying the image of the repentant sinner:
Nigga I ain’t Pastor Mason y’all, nigga patting rhyme, pee Ciroc acing y’all
And since I got good taste and all, this for all the bad bitches couldn’t wait to get they braces off
I know we in church, and the way that I’m thinking, wrong
But inside the bible is the perfect way to sneak my phone
But I don’t wanna do that, I came to take the service in
And stare at all the women who brought they Louie purses in
Bad bitches in here, forgive me for my sins
I ain’t meant to walk inside the church cursing again
I wanna live righteous and you know I love Jesus
But you can’t catch the holy ghost in the Prius
12. Freedom Featuring Elijah Blake; Produced by Antwan “Amadeus” Thompson
It’s nothing worse than someone shooting themselves in the foot. After such a great and heartfelt song we get “Freedom”. Game may have ADHD because once again his focus is out the door. This song is all over the place. Again we leave the concept, and we get a second rate R&B singer on the hook and a beat that sounds like Kanye left it on TheCollege Dropout cutting room floor back in 2004. Probably worst of all is that Game thinks it’s cool to derail the song halfway through to talk to Birdman. Like really, he calls Birdman and talks to him for 30 seconds. Props to Game for shouting out Frank Ocean and standing against homophobia, but this song is Charles Barkley turrrible.
13. Celebration Featuring Chris Brown, Lil’ Wayne, Tyga, & Wiz Khalifa; Produced by SAP & Cool & Dre
At the beginning of this review I talked about the importance of having a strong intro. Just like an album needs to have a strong introduction, it needs to finish strong. As the last song on the CD, it’s not a bad song, but it’s out of place. You would think that Game would tie up and the loose ends and see the religion concept through to the end. Yet instead he puts together a posse cut and talks about getting high. I get that for some folks weed creates a religious experience, but this was a major let down and comes off really lazy. A rapper of Game’s caliber should have been able to see this through, but he drops the ball. Ironically, the song isn’t bad. It’s actually pretty good, but to put it here as the closer to a religious themed disc is a huge disappointment.
This album was a big disappointment. Not because it’s terrible, but because of how much potential there was for it to be great. There are plenty of elements to a classic album buried in here. The beat selection was stellar; this could easily be a contender for best produced album of the year. None of the guest phone it in and make great contributions to the album. And Game never sounds flat out bad on any of the songs. But too many times he gets lazy and just raps for the sake of rapping. Game is a guy who can get by on sheer talent; the problem is he knows it. The adding of the concept also really hurt Game here. Themed albums are hard as hell to pull off because they force you to be consistent and can force you into a box, hindering your ability to change lanes and switch things up. Most artists can’t carry a theme throughout an entire album, and here Game is no different. The religious theme creates the added difficulty of making an album that’s not too preachy but at the same time connects to some sense of spirituality and soul searching. While Game hits the mark at times, more often than not he’s completely off.
While Game deserves props for trying something different and examining his walk with the Big Guy upstairs, Jesus Piece proves to be too ambitious a project for the Compton rapper to pull off. It’s a shame he couldn’t find a balance between the purp and the pulpit, then his congregation wouldn’t have any choice but catch the spirit.