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If the written history of West Coast hip-hop were categorized biblically, it would logically be divided into three parts—the Old Testament, the New Testament and, somewhere in the middle, the Game Testament.
Registering as the only blip on a scene that had long since flat-lined, Game's 2005 album, The Documentary, is an undisputed classic. With two Grammy nods, more than 5 million in sales worldwide and much critical acclaim, Game's introduction to the world was more than just a debut. It was the early genesis of the West Coast revival in hip-hop.
Unfortunately, it was also built on the foundation of a thinly veiled marketing scheme contrived by music exec Jimmy Iovine, putting together 50 Cent and Game in a made-for-TV partnership destined for disaster. Under the plot, the East Coast crew's popularity would be leveraged to coronate Game as the West Coast messiah. Although initially successful, the Machiavellian G-Unit leader and pugnacious Compton native inevitably clashed, leaving Game at odds with the crew. It also kickstarted years of harsh criticism—partially for being the David who dared to throw stones at hip-hop's Goliath.
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With such a tumultuous start, it's no wonder Jayceon "Game" Taylor has navigated his rap career ever since with one hand on the wheel and the other balancing a huge chip on his shoulder. Aiming to silence the naysayers who painted him as hip-hop's version of an Affirmative Action pick, his second album, The Doctor's Advocate (2006), was his way of providing tangible proof that he could sell albums without the support of G-Unit or Aftermath. LAX was supposed to drive home the point the following year, but the Black Wall Street Records head announced it would be his final album. A premature retirement announcement before the sales numbers were in read like a white flag to many, a misstep that left him in a bad position for producing his next album.
Whereas LAX (an ultimately successful project) may have erroneously been viewed as the nail in the coffin of his career, his unintentional comeback, The R.E.D. Album, is similarly being deemed as a potential sledgehammer by anxious critics ready to question Game's relevance now that the pages of the West Coast hip-hop history books have turned toward the New Testament. Game acknowledges the changes, but also reasserts his position in the industry.
"The climate has changed," he says. "Back when I was coming in, 500,000 was standard. It's fucked-up for these new artists because they fans is on them so much and so fast, and they coming out selling 10 and 15,000. I could put out an album tomorrow and sell more than niggas is selling these days, but that ain't my forte. Like I said, I got fans, and I'm gonna do my numbers. . . . I'm not gone ever try to predict the future. Hopefully, every artist that's out on the West Coast perseveres, and I wish them the best of luck, and hopefully, they get the just due that they set out for."
Game makes it clear that his weapons are down when it comes to the new generation—despite how combative he has been in the past. After all, he's in a category all his own. Game reasserted his rung on the hip-hop heirarchy by doing what Dre did for him as a rookie, inviting Tyler, the Creator and Kendrick Lamar to feature on The R.E.D. Album—and even passed the torch to Lamar at a recent show at the Music Box in Hollywood.
"[I'm an] MC who's coming to a point in his career where I could be considered a legend as far as my repertoire is concerned and the things that I've done," says Game. "It's kind of time for me to look back and just say, 'Damn. I did it.' You could say that they don't matter as much as you want, but at the end of the day, they do matter. I think that with the success of all my albums going platinum that R.E.D. shouldn't fall short. So I'm not really worried about this album; I got a core fan base that are going to go out and purchase and buy the album and really support me no matter what I try. . . . So that's kind of where I'm at."
This article appeared in print as "Game, Set, Match: Don't call it a comeback—with R.E.D. Album, Game's just reaffirming his place in hip-hop history."