HNHH sat down with The Game to talk "The Documentary 2" & his eternal quest to keep it 100.
“My nostalgia is one hundred percent Compton and zero percent snitch" - The Game
3:35 PM, HNHH HQ, one Monday in September: the elevator door groaned open. There stood The Game and his entourage. I couldn’t actually see his face, but I could still see him, amid the flood of bodies pouring out of the elevator and into the adjacent room -- a camo snapback floating above the crowd, cocked up and backwards at the jauntiest angle possible.
Six years ago I ironically made his R.E.D. Album alternate cover art my Facebook profile picture. On that cover he wore a puffy red jacket, two red bandanas, one red skull cap, and a murderous glare. Here, as our affable video director Justin introduced me and we shook hands, he wore a green flannel shirt buttoned all the way up, a stylish counterpoint to his scruffy beard, youthful brown eyes, trademark LA Dodger cheekbone tat, and camo snapback.
Twenty feet away, his entourage packed like sardines into the tiny office kitchen to observe the interview, which couldn’t begin in earnest until they stopped muttering. From his reclined position on the big black sofa, The Game silenced them with his raspy growl: “Hey, yo… can you please shut the fuck up!”
He was in New York on a press run to promote his sixth studio album The Documentary 2, the sequel to his 2005 debut album The Documentary -- an absolute smash that sold over 500,000 copies in its first week, and a perfect storm of talents that has come to be regarded as one of the finest specimens of ‘00s hip hop – a savory blend of G-funk, soul-influenced, sample-based production, and hardcore gangster shit.
Discovered by Diddy and signed to Aftermath in 2002, The Game was immediately initiated into the rich Dr. Dre tradition of excellence and installed as the west coast branch of 50 Cent’s G-Unit. Dre & 50 co-executive produced The Documentary and recruited an all-star roster of noted hitmakers that included Scott Storch, Kanye West, Just Blaze & Timbaland to lend their production talents to the project. In this sense, The Game hit the lottery, but it is also true that he was the complete package, a genuine star -- a rugged, charismatic, and lyrical MC with a handsome face, a dyed-in-the-wool Blood from Compton, borne into the traditions of the streets, the traditions of the funk.
The Game’s rap career began the moment his drug dealing career ended, in late 2001, when he was ambushed in his apartment and shot five times. Lucky to be alive, he emerged from a coma and immersed himself in the hip hop canon, listening to classic albums and folding them into his own life experiences to form the basis for his entire rapping style. These albums were clearly at the front of his mind as he recorded TD1, which is heavily peppered with shoutouts to Jay Z, Nas, Biggie, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Snoop Dogg, Tupac, 50 Cent, and Dr. Dre -- his patron saint, mentor, and friend. His reverence for Dre bordered on idol worship. “I’m the second dopest nigga from Compton you’ll ever hear/ the first nigga only puts out albums every 7 years."
The Game’s POV on TD1 was not only historical, but geographic – to say he repped Los Angeles would be an understatement. He did not simply represent LA, he was LA incarnate. Compton was not his divine muse so much as the lifeblood that coursed through his veins. He was a champion of the streets and a mouthpiece for the streets, an uncommon combination of hubris and humility. It didn’t take much but a quick tow from Dr. Dre for The Game to spread his wings and take flight.
Not long after releasing TD1, Game left Aftermath and submerged himself in a turbulent, heavily publicized beef with 50 Cent. His 2006 sophomore album Doctor’s Advocate was a commercial and critical success, and his reputation on the mic or in the streets has never wavered over the course of his four albums since. But TD1 is still generally seen as his defining album, the magic of which he has never fully replicated. The cynical view would attribute this to his falling out with 50 Cent and the lack of Dr. Dre production on subsequent albums. A more generous onlooker would point to the chronic label drama that has plagued his career. “Fuck Interscope” has long been the motto, even still in 2015, three years after he got out of that deal and founded his own label Blood Money Entertainment. The Documentary 2 is his first independent album.
The Game seemed irritated when I asked him if he had attacked TD2 with a different “mindset” and immediately dismissed the notion that his approach to music has ever been anything more than that of a humble reporter, “just letting everybody know what’s going on the streets.”
“When I created the first Documentary, I was just telling my story,” he said, “and this time, 10 years later, it’s the same thing. [I’m] just adding to my legacy."
Maybe it’s recency bias, maybe it’s the fact that he’s been liberated from the tyranny of Interscope, but it’s hard not to feel that the stakes, and expectations, surrounding TD2 are significantly higher than they were for his last album, Jesus Piece. Beyond the obvious symbolic importance of naming the project The Documentary 2, it is a 38-track colossus that features by far the most stacked ensemble of rappers, singers, and producers of any Game album to date, and Dr. Dre's presence is greater than on any Game album since TD1.
The Game is swinging for the fences, and the consensus out of his camp is that The Documentary 2 is a grand slam. Dre said it’s the best rap album in 5 years. Diddy said it’s his best album yet. And even though the Game insists that his mindset is the same as ever, he agrees.
“The Documentary 2 doesn’t compare to any of my albums because it’s my best body of work,” he told me matter-of-factly.
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
He responded without missing a beat, as if the answer was obvious, self-evident. “Because it is,” he said. “I heard it, that’s why. And when you hear it, you’re gonna feel the same exact way.”
Head to the next gallery to read part 2.