In Defense of the Game -- Our Last Honest Gangsta Rapper
The Game performs at Regency Ballroom this week.
Lately, The Game, who performs at the Regency Ballroom on Thursday (Oct. 27), has been psychoanalyzed as some sort of rapping mentalist. Armchair critics are quick to characterize him as an artist constantly putting out desperate cries for attention by taking it upon himself to try and start beefs with -- well, pretty much every rapper currently working. Back in the summer, the Compton-raised MC's "Uncle Otis" dis track took umbrage at an admittedly utterly random lineup that included Jay-Z (for being old), Kreayshawn (for being a "lil' white bitch"), and Odd Future's Tyler the Creator (whom Game claimed to have created). Off the back of that, Game's long-delayed The R.E.D. Album was greeted with lukewarm reviews and shifted only 100,000 copies in its first week. His formerly superstar-level career, the naysayers were glad to report, seemed to be rocking.
Get real: A better view is that we should be celebrating Game for being the last no-gimmicks gangsta rapper still standing on a major label -- and someone prepared to flagrantly name names when it comes to those who irk him.
Since his G-Unit-enabled debut in 2005, The Documentary, Game has kept faithful to a template of making the same sort of classically-cut West Coast gangsta rap, regardless of what else is popular that year. He even managed to make Black Eye Peas oik Will.i.Am sound menacing on "Compton," an ode to his hometown in which he rapped about how "Niggas talking shit get your fuckin' mouth wired/ Walking through Compton, Eazy still alive/ Raider hat to the back, throw your dubs in the sky."
This bond to Compton, the city portrayed as an urban war zone by rappers at the turn of the '90s, is key to Game's determinedly single-minded career path. He anointed himself as "Compton's prodigy" back in his G-Unit days. Around the release of 2008's L.A.X. album, Nu Jerzy Devil, a producer who's worked with Game and his Black Wall Street movement, told me an anecdote about moving to Compton and staying with Game in a house on Brazil Street: That even crossing the block to go to the store involved getting a couple of henchmen-type guys with guns to watch you scurry safely across the street. The life portrayed in Game's songs was at one point his real life -- and he's stayed rooted to that base from album to album. Listening to The Game rap, you get the sense that he really doesn't give a shit what anyone thinks about him -- which is the same sort of ballsy, self-centered attitude that N.W.A. used to exude back in the days when Ice Cube was rocking a t-shirt proclaiming the slogan "I Heart My Attitude."
Game's reckless rap attitude carries over to his portfolio of disses. Sure, at times his propensity for starting disputes with artists can become a little tiresome, but it's also part of the hip-hop tradition. Blame mixtape culture and Internet attention spans for the proliferation of disses out there, but when it's done right, there's little more exhilarating than hearing a rapper rip apart another artist's whole persona. And at the very least, Game should be given some sort of large shiny trophy for being a rap artist not fearful that speaking ill of Jay-Z will see ol' Uncle Shawn putting his career on hold.
So what if Game gets a little schizophrenic with who he disses and who he relentlessly name-drops? (Jay-Z previously got props on the majestic Just Blaze-crafted "Why You Hate The Game.") And he might have some strange complex about Dr. Dre -- which he's copped to on songs like "Doctor's Advocate." But in a rap world cluttered with artists holding their tongues and scrabbling to hop on to new fads, Game is still grabbing his balls and throwing up a middle finger. And that's something to salute.