The idea to name the album The Documentary 2 came about sometime in the middle of 2014. The Game had invited Dr. Dre to the studio to listen to some stuff he'd been working on.
“He asked me, ‘Well what you gonna name it?’” Game recalled. “I was just joking with him, I said The Documentary 2, and he just backed back like, ‘What?? You ready for that?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know man.’ Once I left the studio and got in my car, I kinda thought like, ‘I think I am ready for that.’ I’m up for the challenge, I like challenges. So I started working with Dre on the album and then it got pretty classic pretty fast.”
“Classic” – that is the TD2 watchword that The Game repeated over and over. TD2 has been an undertaking three years in the making, propelled forward always by the desire to make it “more classic.” The initial plan to release it in January, on the 10th anniversary of the release of TD1, was scrapped, and even when the album was done in March, (“it was still classic at that point”), Game wasn’t satisfied. “When my fans find out why it took me that extra seven months to complete my album, they’re gonna fucking flip their wig.” He estimates that Bongo the Drum Gawd produced 85% of TD2. Bongo didn’t enter the fold until February 2015, which would suggest that the album has been drastically overhauled since then, and gone through several iterations over the course of its three-year life span.
Much of the production on TD2 is handled by a Bongo-led contingent of youngbloods on the rise that includes Cardo, Johnny Juliano, & Sevn Thomas. Reprising their roles from past Game albums is a whole gamut of veteran producers, ranging from Kanye West to Pharrell to Swizz Beatz to David “Jelly Roll” Drew (of Snoop Dogg-affiliated production team “Nine Inch Dix” fame).
The Game's eyes lit up when he got to talking about these old heads. On Alchemist: “[He’s] just my Mobb Deep roots.” On Scott Storch: “Whenever Scott Storch is on the keys, it’s gonna be a problem.” On DJ Premier, who produced the album’s title track: “It’s by far the most lyrical [on a] lyrically insane album. I just went in and murdered that motherfucker. Three verses, all the way through. [We’re] in a day and time when 3 verses might be a little too much. But over a Premo beat, you just need all the ammunition you can get it.”
The Game has always stocked his albums with a Pro Bowl full of guest features, and The Documentary 2 is undoutedly his most ostentatious squad yet. He gives his LA/Aftermath boys some shine, but it's still top-heavy; the first half alone features, among others, Snoop Dogg, will.i.am, Future, Ab-Soul, Diddy, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake.
The studio, centrally located in Hollywood, was a hub of activity during TD2 sessions, a place that blurred the distinction between work and play. “Diddy said it felt like one of those ’93 Bad Boy sessions,” The Game said. “It was a lot of good energy, good people, it was liquor, good food, women... everyone just wanted to come by and hear the album, and more so just hang out, and have a few drinks and chill.”
Theory: Game gets all these high-profile guest features because he is a popular guy, and a lot of big names come through the studio to just sip and check out the album. But then they all get drunk, and Game convinces them to hop in the booth to spit some heat. As the executive producer of the album, the master of his domain, it is his solemn duty to set the proper tone. Positive vibes only!!
Game’s Instagram feed supports this theory, especially if you look at the last few months. A who's who of hip hop (and James Harden) paid the studio a visit. Dre was in there more often, and the atmosphere seemed more gregarious as the album approached completion. One post depicted Game ripping shots in the booth with Busta Rhymes. Another post depicted him simultaneously taking a shit and rapping sneeringly into a mic he’d set up next to the toilet, along with the caption: “I ain't been home in 30 days & I live 20 minutes down the freeway. I don't have a second to waste.... & I promise #TheDocumentary 2 is literally SHITTIN' on niggas !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" He explained to me that he wasn’t actually taking a shit, he'd gone in there to get a good *clap* sound (bathroom acoustics, yo), and sensed a photo op.
When not in the studio, The Game could usually be found doing one of two things – spending time with his four kids, or playing Madden “until the sun go down.” His passion for Madden -- “When I started rapping, I told myself, ‘Man, all I want is a Mercedes-Benz and an apartment and some internet so I can play Madden'" -- and his virtuosity on the sticks have been well-documented over the years, mostly by him. At one point the top-ranked Madden 09 player on the planet, his greatest gaming moment came in 2008 when he put down $100,000 on a single game of Madden against Bow Wow. It was a raucous affair, as Game entered the arena wearing a football helmet and proceeded to stomp Bow Wow 55-23. The next year, when Bow Wow wondered aloud on Twitter which record label he should sign with, Game had a suggestion: “sign to I'mAbUM@madden Records nigga !!!”
He’s still a devoted Maddenhead, as he brought the game to New York on his TD2 press run so that he had something to do in his free time. His current team of choice is the Falcons. “You can run in to me online,” he said. “It’s just ‘The Game.’ You can get that ass whooped on any day of the week.”
The Game’s Madden obsession nicely encapsulates the way in which he conducts his entire life. His personality is not an amorphous, shape-shifting, people-pleasing goop, but rather an inflexible metal rod. His competitive, confrontational, confident nature has been a constant over the course of his career, and it is responsible for his multitude of beefs and legal troubles that he has almost seemed to embrace as a part of his lifelong quest to keep it 100.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a rapper, or anyone, with a thicker file of beefs than The Game. Shit-talking is second nature to him. His element isn’t earth, air, water, or fire – it’s beef. He thrives on beefs. His best-known beef, with 50 Cent and G-Unit, culminated in arguably his best song ever, the timeless 15-minute diss track “300 Bars.” He’ll start beef with anyone who rubs him on the wrong way, rapper or non-rapper (“I'd kick David Beckham's ass on any given day”).
His affinity for conflict has not waned in recent years, and social media has only enhanced it. Social media tends to reward rappers with outspoken, outsized personalities, and seeing as it is now the primary venue in which rap beef plays out, The Game's beef game is stronger than ever. Meek Mill should probably be taking notes.
Social media basically confirms what we’ve known about him all along —he has zero filter. The Game you see is the The Game you get. He’s sparred recently on Instagram with the likes of Young Thug and he has no qualms about going after nobodies who bait him (i.e. struggle rapper/person Stitches). In September alone he threatened to break the jaw of both Wackstar, Chris Brown affiliate, and DJ Star, New York radio personality. The Game doesn’t take kindly to shit-talkers.
The point is this: while it is true that success and wealth have altered The Game's living circumstances -- he resides in a mansion in the breezy, celebrity-friendly Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas, where he regularly chills with his neighbor, Aubrey Graham -- it is also pretty clear that success and wealth have done little to the alter the fabric of his personality, or diminish his propensity for getting into legal trouble. He is currently facing up to three years in prison for an incident in March, in which he punched an off-duty cop during a pick-up basketball game. While it is quite possible that he had no idea the punch-ee was a cop, he has repeatedly made clear his disgust for police. No rapper has been more outspoken in regard to police brutality against black Americans. He penned an eloquent op-ed in the aftermath of the Freddie Gray riots; when two NYPD officers were murdered in Brooklyn last December, he tweeted, “I guess y'all 'can't breathe' either."
Indeed, The Game’s unrelenting realness is generally laudable but has produced more than a few cringing moments. His inability to tone it down is something he attributes to his LA roots, to what he believes to be the defining characteristic of LA gangster rap. “I think that the number one reason that LA rap has flourished is because, from the beginning, we never had filters," he explained. "We never gave a fuck. About what was politically correct. It was just, 'fuck the police,' when it was fuck the police. It was, 'we gang banging, and this is it.' Snoop taught the world how to Crip walk, I taught them how to Blood bounce, and we never gave a FUCK about who didn’t like it. And New York of course is the mecca of hip hop, but you guys were a little too safe. Even 'Fight the Power,' it was like ‘yea, fight the power.’" He raised his right fist solemnly. "But see, we was like" -- he grinned and sprayed the room with a salvo from an imaginary AK -- "‘rahhhhhahrhaahrrh!!!!!"
Head to the next gallery for the dramatic conclusion.