Unlike the relatively swift turnaround for Game’s second studio from his debut amidst label turmoil, The R.E.D. Album comes a lengthy three years after its predecessor, with the erratic behavior of Compton’s crowned king playing a factor in the delay. Even though one of rap’s most polarizing figures was coming off another run that adorned his hallways with more shiny CD replicas, the man, Jayceon Taylor found himself at a career crossroads, unsure of the next step. The delve into the abyss included numerous tinkering into more radio-friendly portrayals and a seemingly endless campaign of mixtapes with DJ Skee, with questions arising about the actual gameplan to all the disharmony. The R.E.D. Album isn’t a definitive answer to those questions. What it is, however, is a reaffirmation to the notion that it would be mighty foolish to count Game out of rap’s elite.
Much to the surprise of some, R.E.D. marks the long-awaited reunion with Dr. Dre, just not in the traditional sense. Instead of supplying the project with top shelf Detox leftovers, he is more than comfortable nestling into his narrator role, playing Scott Pelley to Game’s hour-long biopic of his usual Los Angeles living and thugged-out candor. (Although he does make a rhyming cameo on “Drug Test,” along with Snoop Dogg.) Not to say Game hinged on his mentor’s contribution for firepower as others know how to draw heat all the same. The one and only DJ Premier makes his rounds out West and offers up a serene blend of high octane scratches and hypnotic bells on “Born in the Trap” while Maestro creatively takes the title “Paramedics” to heart, giving the vibrato arm a workout to create an ambulance sirens effect with the intense 808s reflecting the panic of an emergency. Competition aside, it’s Hit-Boy’s simple yet affective piercing loop on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly” that show’s Game in his best light. Taking listeners inside an interrogation room with Bill Duke-like characters attempting to trick him into a incriminating himself, the headnodder transitions itself into “Heavy Artillery,” scoring one for album cohesion.
And don’t let the habitual name-dropping throw you for a loop; Game indeed has friends in high places and he utilizes their services to great lengths this time around. Lil Wayne helps the album live out its name on the Piru-promoting “Red Nation,” and hits the sideline as Tyler, The Creator hits the scene to ruffle feathers with greasy talk on “Martins vs. Goblins.” And who but else Drake, R&B’s greatest rapper, suited the horn-driven “Good Girls Go Bad” better? Dedicated to more respectable ladies inhabiting the earth, Drake ponders “Who still getting tested?/Where’s all the women at that can still remember who the slept with?” while Game praises his mother and shuns his abusive father, “You better thank God you’re still breathing air/cuz you could’ve went out like your boy Steve McNair…”
Contrary to popular opinion, Game’s biggest weakness isn’t his celebrity shoutouts; it’s his inability to escape the past, and understandably so. When you come from multi-platinum origins, it can be rather frustrating seeing your stock dwindle when you never really fell off. The R.E.D Album sacrifices some of its consistency when Game takes a “by any means” approach in pleasing all audiences and virtually makes a R&B EP in the middle of the album. Not to say the congruent features from Lloyd, Mario and Chris Brown are downright horrible, but they paint a pretty big offset to album’s other selections. Especially the painstaking recount of “Ricky,” which is directly inspired by Boyz N Da Hood and illustrates one of Jayceon’s best songs to date.
The future is what he makes it but the present has Game positioned firmly with the redprint to an additional jewel in his lifework’s compendium. Bulls are said to be colorblind but in the case of this rebellious rapper, R.E.D. is the shade of an artistic victory.
Label: DGC/Interscope | Producers: Pharrell Williams, DJ Premier, Cool & Dre, Boi-1da, DJ Khalil, Don Cannon, Hit-Boy, Maestro, StreetRunner, 1500 Or Nothin’, The Futuristics, Mars, Brody, Larrance Dopson