ftermath's most recent releases (and those of its affiliated subsidiaries) are beginning to make the label look more and more like a platinum production line. So with the recent G-Unit member’s solo albums having been so strong and the latest Eminem being *ahem* lackluster, the hype attached to 50 and Dr. Dre’s recent signing looked like it might be enough to automatically require a backlash. The hype attached to Game, the latest in a extraordinarily long line of Left Coast saviours, has been ferocious and this looks to be one of the biggest readymade hip-hop superstar career launches yet by Interscope Records.
As such, Game had access to a recording budget that must’ve easily exceeded many of his labelmates releases, because the production line-up reads like an MC’s wet dream of the 00’s most respected beatmakers. Not only does Game have Dre backing him behind the boards, but he (or Jimmy Iovine’s [Interscope Records CEO] chequebook) has managed to get Timbaland, Havoc, Scott Storch, Kanye West, Just Blaze and Hi-Tek (with Swizz beats and Lil Jon on the LPs bonus tracks) on board. The better news is that no one disappoints—even Game. Amongst the many gems here, special mention has to go to Cool and Dre’s “Hate It Or Love It.” It’s a great piece of warm soul-fuelled hip-hop, in which guest star 50 Cent manages to steal the show, considerably stepping up his lyrical content to squash together some great but clichéd lines against a level of his infamous smart arsed profundity.
All the great beats and smart cameos (Eminem and Tony Yayo do themselves particularly proud) can’t fully disguise the fact that Game’s gruff vocals and attempts at switching his flows around won’t set him up to be challenging the genre’s legends with this release. Thing is, he’s more than happy to remind us of the fact as well, mentioning the fact that he’s less than two years deep into rhyming and never takes lyrical shots at better MCs early and often—using this potential weakness as proof that he’s realer than your average studio gangsta. Of course it’s hard to find out what kind of gangsta he really is, with the hands of Iovine, Dre and Mr. Marketing Man moulding the final product so much that it’s unlikely to represent Game’s pure vision.
In fact, The Documentary is easily not as lyrically gangstafied as the early mixtape tracks and recent cameos were suggesting. This is a good thing. Game manages to offer an alternate view with a more reflective voice alongside the shout outs to Eazy and his beloved Compton. But with closer “Like Father Like Son” and some moments on “Start from Scratch” he just slips over the line in attempting that brand of schmaltzy ‘I love my kids’ bullshit that Eminem peddles as proof of not being as evil as we want him to be. It’s all well and good to represent the fact that you aren’t a one-dimensional gang-banger, but taking it to the opposite extreme just doesn’t sit well with someone as lyrically inexperienced as Game.
There are already sections of the hip-hop community who will see Game as having success based merely on nepotism and a kind of music business marketing of cross-pollination. But for something so obviously and deeply grounded in marketing, it’s still an outstandingly solid and enjoyable (when was the last time you heard an actually enjoyable commercial hip-hop record?) debut.
Reviewed by: Scott McKeating
Reviewed on: 2005-01-28