So, The R.E.D. Album finally dropped. It’s hard not to be surprised, even once the date was confirmed by just about everyone aside from a personal trumpeting from Jimmy Iovine, some fans were hesitant to believe it was true. Game’s fourth effort has been delayed time and time again since 2009, becoming something of a mini-Detox myth. God knows how many tracks the Compton MC went through to arrive with this album.
One can’t help but wonder if the record would have been stronger had it dropped 2 years earlier. It’s not a popular – or even accepted – fact with the fans of the movement, but the “gangsta” resurgence has died, consumed by punchline rap, which is currently falling by the wayside in its own right. So, instead of the once promised reformation of the West Coast, Game is forced to play catch up. He’s no exception, just like any rapper in or before his generation, he has to reassert himself in this new climate.
Problem is, he’s not too good at doing it. Rather than find his own identity amidst the riptide, he’s pulled under by it. This isn’t to say this is a terrible album, far from it. Nonetheless, it does sport a very confused Game, as if he were sprinting around after the album’s guests in a rigged game of musical chairs. On the highly hyped Tyler, the Creator collab “Martians vs. Goblins” Game is on his best Slim Shady trying to match the clever ne’er-do-well, while Lil Wayne simply babbles on the chorus to excuse the ‘Martians’ portion of the title. While on “Paramedics” one can hardly tell the difference between Game and Young Jeezy. The list goes on.
Nonetheless, the album has its strengths. Recently crowned West Coast hope (by Snoop Dogg and Game himself) Kendrick Lamar guests on album intro “The City,” utterly consuming the track with his hunger. Game’s clearly proud of getting killed by his chosen one, and the track’s a great hip hop moment. “Born in the Trap” boasts a nostalgic Premo beat, while The Neptunes’ contribution “Mama Knows” sports one of their better beats in recent memory. Finally, “Ricky” is perhaps the album’s proudest moment, inspired by Boyz n the Hood, the track is a bittersweet reminder of the sort of storytelling fans had hoped would comprise the majority of the record.
So what happened to that album? Game made noise about returning to Aftermath, and you couldn’t blame him: he was back with the Doc, where he was supposed to be. R.E.D. was to be a joint effort, with primary input coming from Dre and The Neptunes. Well, Pharrell is the executive producer, but both he and Dre only provide a beat each, and by Game’s own admission the latter is a Detox leftover 2 years aged. Frankly, the fact that “Drug Test” still bangs says more for Dre (and his latest protege DJ Khalil) than this whole album does for Game. Instead Dre provides a series of dramatic interludes which, to be fair, add more cohesion to the album than much anything else, but it’s a far cry from the true successor to The Documentary fans had hoped for. The truth is, this was an important album for Game: did he have longevity or was he a side note? With this mixed bag he’s likely cemented his reputation as a MC that was blessed with a sack of classic beats for his debut, now just a rapper like the rest of ‘em.