L.A.X. | The Game
The biggest disappointment about The Game’s (aka Jayceon Taylor’s) new album, “L.A.X,” is its schizophrenic nature. The Game’s natural rap abilities—he has a distinctively fluid and strong flow—are complemented by his ability to attract some of the top guest rappers and producers in music today. This seems like the perfect equation for a great album amidst the mostly barren popular hip-hop scene. Unfortunately, even with all of the right ingredients, the result is similar to a homemade meatloaf special: When it’s good, it’s great; when it’s not, it leaves you with a disappointing feeling in your stomach.
The Game’s tragic flaw, just like superheroes of old, is his inability to move beyond clichés when he is rapping about gangsters and life in his old neighborhood. Few of his verses on songs like “House of Pain,” “Money,” “Dope Boys” and “State of Emergency” have original lines. His direct references from the Wu-Tang Clan, 2pac, and Notorious B.I.G. repertoire may have been witty if they were used more sparingly. Unfortunately, when many of The Game’s verses seem to mimic those masters verbatim, the songs sound more contrived than referential. This lack of originality, thankfully, isn’t a constant across the album.
On many of the songs The Game rises to the challenge presented to him by his assortment of producers and guest stars. For the most part, The Game’s strongest songs avoid clichés about L.A. gangs and find a way to rap about similar themes with originality. The producers Cool & Dre, who were first propelled to stardom with The Game’s hit, “Hate It or Love It,” produce one of the best songs on the album “My Life.” Featuring a powerful guest spot by Lil Wayne, “My Life” is a thoughtful reflection by The Game about his childhood in Los Angeles. One of The Game’s strongest tracks on the album, in the same reflective vein is, “Letter to the King.” Produced by Hi-Tek and featuring Nas, “Letter to the King” is a provoking song in which Nas and The Game both summon the spirits of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.
The Game’s strength as a rapper is also demonstrated on songs that are not as heavy and reflective as “My Life” and “Letter to the King.” “Cali Sunshine” is a fun homage to his hometown. While it may not become a summertime staple, its vivid imagery of a hot and sweaty summertime should earn it a place on most pool party playlists. “Touchdown” is another song that shows The Game’s dexterity when it comes to song topics.
Even though The Game’s new album “L.A.X” has moments of greatness, it is rife with moments of true mediocrity. If the album were more concise, it might be easier to overlook the weaker songs. But at 19 tracks and pushing 80 minutes, “L.A.X” starts to feel tiresome. This is a shame because when The Game is at his best, he is one of the better rappers on the MTV/Top 40 scene today. Unfortunately “L.A.X” shows only glimpses of this talent and ability.