Friday, April 16, 2010

What Up Gangsta: Pondering (The) Game's Image

Let's make it big, Pharrell... [||]

Four years ago, The Game kicked these bars on "One Night", off The Doctor's Advocate: "Red bandana in my back pocket, I'm for real/ This ain't a pastel color khaki suit, and I ain't Pharrell/". Putting aside the obvious Jigga-baiting (who else rhymes Pharrell with "for real"?), Game's message was as direct as can be: I don't rock Bape hoodies and rainbow colored sneakers, I wear Dickies and Chuck Taylors and rap about blunts, bitches and drivebys. Game was reasserting his position as the face of the west coast's seemingly revamped gangsta rap scene. And I for one applauded the effort. (Side note: I don't enjoy listening to gangsta rap because I particularly enjoy recurring themes of violence and misogyny, nor to I condone the glorification of such acts/lifestyle(s). I appreciate gangsta rap, or reality rap, for its honesty and grit. At its best, gangsta rap, as a form of expression, is comparable to the works of Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma or Quentin Tarantino.)

Take it for what it's worth, Game was the only successful west coast rapper to emerge in the past decade. You can't name another emcee from the west who got significant radio play on more coasts than one. Many are quick to chalk this up to 50 Cent. Not me. Undoubtedly, 50 Cent provided Game with some catchy for the Compton rapper. But if 50 is such a great facilitator, why didn't he have the same success with Lloyd Banks, Young Buck or Tony Yayo? Game's initial success relied much more on the tutelage of Dr. Dre. (You could say the same about 50 Cent. What would GRODT have been without Dre's direction?) Pictures of Game and Dre dipped in black, posted up against a low rider - a mirror image of N.W.A. 15 years prior - got me hyped for what seemed like a west coast renaissance. Like much of my hopes for hip hop in the '00s, this dream deflated like the '04 Lakers.

Game's first two albums are solid and still get play at the Casa de Ivan. LAX? Not so much. In the past year alone, we've been hit by a barrage of misfires: "Krazy" (a cheap rip-off of Black Rob), "Big Money" (ditto, Geto Boys) and "Shake". "It Must Be Me" is an entirely different creature: it's 50% pop, 50% "gangsta", 100% neither. It tries to be "Drop It Like It's Hot" but it's not. It's attempt at being "I Ain't Heard of That" falls flat. Is Game subject to the same fate as Banks, Yayo and Buck (*cough*, and 50)? The red rags and 2Pac, Eazy-E and N.W.A. tattoos are a nice gesture to the city of angels, but they're cosmetic - and you remember what Tragedy said about that, right?

But I've still got faith in the homie Game. Anyone who's listened to his blistering (albeit tedious) "400 Bars" by now knows that he's still got the resolve and hunger since his rookie years. I just wish he would've chopped up that twenty minute plus lyrical massacre into multiple tracks (with different beats, of course). Sixteen bars per verse on a three verse track is forty-eight total; multiply that by eight and that's eight tracks with three-hundred and eighty-four bars total... still got sixteen bars to spare. That coulda been half of his album or at least a promotional mixtape. I digress. I want Game to understand that if he's gonna be taken seriously as a gangster/reality/hardcore/grimy emcee, he can't play this rap game on both sides of the fence. Oh, and take your hand out of your pants, please.

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