Nothing is promised in this industry. Your previous accolades, no matter how exceptional, don’t guarantee any artist a place of security. Game experienced that firsthand when he began work in 2009 on The R.E.D. Album, a follow-up to his gold-selling 2008 album LAX. Even with a track record of multi-platinum and gold albums, Interscope doubted this project’s commercial viability and subjected it to 10 delays. After three long years, Game has finally delivered an album that while full of shortcomings, is entertaining enough to satisfy fans who’ve been waiting patiently for Game’s self-proclaimed “rededication to Hip-Hop.”
After a short Dr. Dre intro, R.E.D. opens with Cool & Dre’s dramatic production on “The City.” With a movie-like atmosphere set, Game assails the mic with proclamations of the West Coast’s rebirth and his own pedigree of plaque-certified albums. Kendrick Lamar is the show-stealer, supplying a detailed, spoken word-leaning chorus that leads into a thrilling a capella third verse. The heavy production continues with DJ Khalil on “Drug Test,” a song marked immediately by its West Coast melodies. The club chords are short and stabbing, resulting in Dre, Game and Snoop adjusting their verses accordingly. Although Nate Dogg is gone, Sly does a novel imitation on the chorus.
THE GAME X KENDRICK LAMAR “THE CITY”
Dark humor comes into play on “Martians vs. Goblins.” Game does a respectable Odd Future impersonation. As a serial name-dropper, Game has no issues throwing his peers into surreal bars (“Tie Lil B up to a full tank of propane/Swag/ Now watch him cook…”). Although the beat has the murky feel of the Odd Future variety, Tyler the Creator’s offbeat humor doesn’t go too left that it’s not enjoyable for the uninitiated listener (“Fall back like LeBron’s hairline…”).
Game’s first solo song don’t come until deep into the album. Again, DJ Khalil employs a big sound for “Ricky,” a treat for older Hip-Hop fans as it samples Stanley Clarke’s music from Boyz N the Hood. The jazz elements, Game’s vocal energy, and the movie quotes the punctuate his lyrics make it one of the more enjoyable and engaging songs on the LP.
As the R.E.D. Album progresses, it’s quite easy to forget your listening to a Game project. His identity is lost when he decides to imitate the cadence and flow of his guests, as he does with Jeezy and Big Boi on their featured tracks. While interesting at first, it wears thin quickly and pales against other collab tracks where Game refrains from the imitation flattery like ”Heavy Artillery” and “Good Girls Go Bad.”
The influence of Game’s major label can be felt in the LP’s second half, which is overrun with radio-friendly, commercial singles with singers Lloyd, Mario, Lu Breeze and Chris Brown. Here the sequencing becomes a glaring issue; having four consecutive songs with this style becomes redundant and totally takes you out of the album. Although Game tries to inject introspective content in the last two, the production style and R&B choruses gives you the same feeling as the first two offerings.
Thankfully, DJ Premier comes to the rescue with “Born in the Trap.” Primo’s sample incorporates a beautiful orchestral loop. Game is equally impressive riding the beat and even changes the normal boom bap format we expect by handling the chorus himself and saving Premier’s trademark scratches for the ending sequence. The scenic production continues via Pharrell on “Mama Knows,” arguably the album’s strongest cut. While it was touched on throughout the album, Game saves this track to go in-depth on his mother’s influence on his life. Nelly Furtado’s airy vocals work perfect on these rhythms and will remind you of Janet Jackson’s preferred singing style.
GAME X NELLY FURTADO “MAMA KNOWS”
While Game still has not completely fixed the tendency overstuff his albums with guest appearances at his own expense, The R.E.D. Album has much better production and more highlights than what was heard on 2008′s LAX. If he accepts the benefits of the “less is more” approach, Compton’s native son will have further improvement on his next album.