Last year, there’s no question that the West had it locked. Acclaimed albums by Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, Jay Rock, Ty Dolla $ign and The Game proved that the left coast can build off the momentum established by the legends – like Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, NWA, Nate Dogg, etc. – and continue to release quality music that stretches the boundaries of hip hop at large. It doesn’t look like the West is going to slow down in 2016, with albums by Snoop Dogg & Daz Dillinger and Anderson .Paak already releasing, Top Dawg promising new music, not to mention, Dre continues to drop exclusives on The Pharmacy. We continue to love watching California churn out the good stuff.

Last year, Documentary 2 was an incredibly dense follow up to The Game’s Aftermath Records debut The Documentary. By inviting West Coast young’ns Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak, and Ab-Soul along with legends like Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg, The Game united much of his region’s hottest MCs to contribute to the project. Of course, as hard as Game has always represented Compton and the part of the world it resides in, he’s also always been quick to collaborate with artists from around the country with ease. Everyone from Dej Loaf to Diddy was on the sequel, which built off the name and momentum set forth by the original: a West Coast gangster rap album made at a time where New York had it locked with artists like Fabolous, Busta Rhymes, and 50 Cent, the latter of whom was very close with Game at the time of this record.

You might not remember the G-g-g-g-g-Unit with Game in it, but it was once a pretty interesting pairing. “New York, New York, big city of dreams/ I got my L.A. Dodger fitted on, I'm doin' my thing/ Got me fuckin' with G-Unit, you know the drama that bring?/ I got niggas in Westside Compton and Southside Queens,” he says on the opening track of The Documentary. Recorded over a year and a half period between 2003-04 (which means that the deaths of Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac were still open wounds), the record consistently referenced the theme of a West Coast/East Coast collaboration that might have looked suspect to some of the artists’ closest pals. Nevertheless, the chemistry of Aftermath Records, The Game, 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, and Eminem was one of the strongest stories in rap music around 2005, and this LP, which turns 11 years old today, is full of timeless cuts and classics from the era. 

“Hate It Or Love It,” the fourth of six album singles, is a testament to the record’s greatest moments being about as high as any rap classic. Cool & Dre and Dr. Dre utilized a sample from The Trammps’ "Rubber Band,” and The Game was heard alongside one of the hottest rappers in the game at the time: 50 Cent. His clout may not be so hot right now, but eleven years ago he was about as hot as they come. When he sets up Game for the third verse of the track, it’s like a touchdown pass from the reigning MVP to the upcoming rookie of the year; a truly beautiful moment in hip hop history. “Used to see Five-O, throw the crack by the bench/ Now I'm fuckin' with 5-0, it's all starting to make sense/ My moms happy, she ain't gotta pay the rent/ And she got a red bow on that brand new Benz,” Game details amidst his rags-to-riches boasting. The cocky young star doesn’t slow down throughout the course of the seventy-minute studio debut.

That early 2000's sound is heard heavily throughout the album’s other singles: “Westside Story,” “How We Do,” “Higher,” and “Dreams” were all snapshots of the era, with the latter sparking the chemistry between Kanye West and The Game that has produced quite a few gems. The G-Unit sound dominates the former three.

50 Cent and the G-Unit shout can be heard all over the first side of The Documentary, but the second half of the record has some incredible collaborations from the likes of Nate Dogg, Eminem, and Busta Rhymes. Nate Dogg, the great West Coast crooner, pops up for the double feature of “Where I’m From” and “Special,” the first of which features some classic Aftermath production from Focus…, a producer who signed to Aftermath and went on to produce for everybody from Beyoncé to Busta Rhymes. The guitar-plucking track has a classic two-steppin’, West Coast sound atop which Game spits some of his hottest words of the record. “What you thought cause I'm from Compton I couldn't do numbers like Usher?/ Platinum certified, nigga that's a mill' plus/ Play both sides of the fence cause the Crips feel cause'/ See me ridin with Nate, nigga it's still Blood,” almost sounds like a prequel to Kendrick Lamar’s Reebok sneakers, which are working to downplay the red-vs.-blue warzone that the two MCs come from. 

The second Nate Dogg collaboration, “Special,” sees The Game debut his soft side on record. As he details his meeting of a woman worth wifing, it’s a refreshing splash of emotion from an MC who is usually harder than nails when it comes time to drop a verse. That emotion is amplified as the album comes to a close, with “Don’t Worry” and “Like Father Like Son” celebrating a side of life that is often too taboo for gangster rap. The Mary J. Blige-assisted “Don’t Worry” is a piano-led ballad that assures devotion to a distant lover, which is a different story than Game plays throughout the rest of the album, but alas. 

“Like Father Like Son” has to be one of The Game’s – and Busta Rhyme’s for that matter – most underrated tracks. While Busta expertly handles the hook, Game relives the birth of his first-born child in a way that climaxes the emotional input of the entire album. He spit some of his most honest lyrics to date on this cut:

“They say every time somebody die, a child is born

So I thank the nigga who gave his life for the birth of my son

11:32, she screamin at the top of her lungs

I'm panicking, nurse yellin for the doctor to come

All I can remember was Lemaze class, breathe baby

One, two, three, four

I see the head, Doc bustin through the door

He between the legs, he see the head, it's my baby boy!”

He thanks the Doctors, his baby-mama, the child’s godfathers, and gives his first-born the blessing to be nothing like he is. He wants better for his child. 

The Documentary is one of the most well-rounded albums around, and it worked to tie over a West Coast that wasn’t producing much music at the time. The revival of 2015 has put Cali back on top, and the new generation means the prior generation needs to be reevaluated. We’re happy to revisit The Documentary and call it a classic.