Review: The Game Drags All of 2015 Rap Down With Him on ‘The Documentary 2′
Release Date: October 15, 2015
Label: Entertainment One / Blood Money
The Game’s stock has been steadily plummeting since he released his highly-acclaimed debut, The Documentary, in 2005 with heavy backing from the biggest rap star on the planet at the time, 50 Cent, and the biggest name in West Coast rap production, Dr. Dre. Game was the perfect placeholder to fill important vacancies in their giant rap conglomerate — capable G-Unit stand-in, Compton-born Dre protege, potential California rap savior, next in line to further the G-Unit/Shady/Aftermath/Interscope rap dynasty. He checked all of the boxes, and when surrounded by the best production team rap money could buy, he was a megastar.
Of course, as those relationships began to unravel, Game’s stardom began to wane. Numbers aside (because numbers are down across the board), there has been a decline in interest with each new album, a decline in reception, too. When you’re fresh out of ideas (or you never actually had any), the logical next step is to return to something old and comfortable. So, after nearly a decade, the Game is releasing the sequel to his massively successful debut album, The Documentary 2.
The problem is Game can’t recreate the particular set of circumstances that helped make his first LP so huge: the rap climate has changed dramatically (the West Coast landscape that was once desperate for a star is now filled with promising talents like Kendrick Lamar, Vince Staples, and YG) and time has exposed his talk as hype. Without the full weight of the ‘05 Aftermath machine behind him, it’s easy to spot the Compton rapper’s fatal flaw: He’s hopelessly boring.
The Documentary 2 takes each of the longstanding criticisms of Game’s work — that it’s too long, has too many features, too much name-dropping, and too much grandstanding — and doubles down on all of them, even going the extra mile and making it a double album. This is a two-disc marathon of bloated, monotonous raps that is overstuffed with content. “I used to want to be Eazy / Then I realized it wasn’t that easy,” he raps on “Made in America,” and irony abounds. Game made this a legacy album the minute he decided it’d be the sequel to his best album, and it’s fitting since his legacy will probably be continuously running good things into the ground.
The rapping is one-note and often charmless. Sometimes, like on the cringe-worthy, slut-shaming “Bitch You Ain’t Shit,” it’s repulsive. On “Standing on Ferraris,” he wastes a charged “Kick in the Door” sample (courtesy of Jahlil Beats), to rap about, well, standing on Ferraris. His inexplicable second 2015 track to bear the title “Just Another Day” isn’t even close to as captivating as the one he graces on Dre’s Compton. Even a sleep-walking Drake sounds exhilarating rapping next to him on “100.”
It takes real hubris to follow a 73-minute first disc with a 77-minute second disc, but Game has never lacked in misplaced self-confidence. It’s a shame too because the second disc is much better than the first, despite many of the songs functioning as Compton: A Soundtrack retreads. Low-riding jam “Moment of Violence” features King Mez, Justus, and Jon Connor, who were all collaborators on the Dre album. “Gang Bang Anyway” takes a haunting piano riff and a ripping snare drum and creates the alley from which Jay Rock and ScHoolboy Q talk gangland politics. “Magnus Carlsen” once again showcases Anderson .Paak.
Still, there isn’t enough good there. “Last Time You Seen” is tinfoil hat rap that posits some crazy conspiracy about the Illuminati being linked to the murders of Tupac Shakur and Yaki Kadafi. Game gathers major DJs – Quik, Khalil, Mustard (and Premier on disc one) – with mixed results: “My Flag” would make a better My Krazy Life bonus cut and “Intoxicated” opens with a radio skit about pulling foreskin back, and “Quik’s Groove” wastes Quik’s infectious production. The best moments on disc two all come courtesy of Quik, .Paak, ScHoolBoy Q, Jay Rock, E-40, and YG, the distinguished West Coast voices you’d be much better off listening to instead of this.
There’s a complete lack of direction on The Documentary 2, except for the Dr. Dre- & will.i.am-produced and Ice Cube-featuring “Don’t Trip” from disc one, which has Apple Music Branded Content written all over it. Some songs feel unfinished, especially on disc one. Much of the production on both halves is terribly derivative and some great samples get mangled (specifically, Erykah Badu’s “On & On” in “On Me”). On the title track, Game turns a classic scene from the movie Friday into a humorless and off-putting skit, which is kind of his modus operandi at this point: He sucks the life out of everything.