19 October 2015

REVIEW: The Game - The Documentary 2 & The Documentary 2.5

Ten years after the release of his debut album The Documentary, The Game tackles the daunting task of crafting a sequel that will live up to its namesake with The Documentary 2. At this point, The Game officially has enough longevity under his belt to accurately assess his position in Hip-hop. His career has seen its share of ups and downs, from his affiliation with G-Unit seeming like a match made in heaven, to him supposedly being kicked out forcing him to keep his brand solidified on his own. Both The Documentary and Doctor's Advocate hold up very well to this day, but notable whiffs like LAX, Jesus Piece, and Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf taint any possibility of heralding Game as a legend. His impact on the West Coast cannot be denied though, as he is single-handedly responsible for maintaining its pulse over the past decade, as well as lending a hand in cultivating the younger talent that has emerged in the past five years. All things considered, it was still tough to believe that a sequel to one of his most beloved albums would impress being that arguably his only decent project since Doctor's Advocate has been The R.E.D. Album in 2011.

I can say with the utmost confidence that The Documentary 2 shatters any notion that Jayceon can no longer craft a great project. The quality of The Documentary 2 and the attention to detail is impressive, and consistent throughout. From the production, to the contrast in sound between the two discs, it's evident The Game set out to raise the bar for what a sequel to a classic should sound like, as well as a double album. Jay-Z's The Blueprint 2 in 2002 displayed exactly what not to do when going this same route, and it's clear The Game took note and came well-prepared for the criticisms that would accompany his decision to try something most artists have failed at. Simply put, The Documentary 2 is nothing short of a stellar achievement.

Sonically, the first disc runs the gamut of the history of all regions of Hip-hop. The Primo-laced title track "Documentary 2," gives you a taste of the gritty golden era, while the melodic trap ballads of modern day are represented on the hook of "Dedicated." Some might take issue with the production off the bat, as there is an abundance of 90s samples on the first four tracks. Some of these, like the Screamin Jay Hawkins sample heard on "Standing On Ferraris," have been completely run into the ground over the years. Then there are others, like the Kendrick Lamar-assisted "On Me," which samples Erykah Badu's "On & On," that are executed masterfully. Regardless of production, one thing you'll notice right off the bat are how much Game has stepped up the BARS. Maybe this can be attributed to the recent revival of lyricism in Hip-hop, or it could simply be a product of Game's individual growth as an artist, but his cadences and wordplay are stronger than they have ever been. There's still no shortage of name drops scattered across the entire project, but like always, it's easily forgiven because the songs themselves are fantastic, with very few missteps.

Speaking of which, the song "Hashtag" has no place on this album. Jelly Roll's ad-libs and chorus line are borderline cringe-worthy, and completely throw off an otherwise cohesive project. Game also dumbs-down his cadences to radio trap status on "Mula," which also features a horrific hook sung by Kanye Kardashian. This super weirdo Yeezus type shit simply cannot be considered music in my opinion, but hey thanks for trying Jayceon. Luckily the title song "The Documentary 2" immediately follows, and is an absolute banger. "LA," which features Snoop Dogg, Will.I.Am., and Fergie, caps off an amazing first disc appropriately. It would have been a fitting outro to the nineteen track sequel, but in reality, it's only the halfway mark...

...because The Documentary 2.5 is eighteen more tracks of pure fire. After announcing the release The Documentary 2, The Game revealed on the radio that he would be dropping a double album, with the second disc dropping a week after the first. Usually a double album is sold as a single unit, with two discs packaged together, so it was curious as to why Game would separate their releases by a week. But after only a few tracks into The Documentary 2.5, it's evident that this is far more than a collection of throwaways that didn't make the first disc. He has managed to pretty much give us two entire album-quality projects, each worthy of existing independent of one another. The Game is literally over-achieving at this point, and fans are the ones reaping the benefits. If the sound on the first disc captured the essence of Hip-hop outside of California, then The Documentary 2.5 is a pure ode to the history of the West Coast.

At about the half-way mark, Game takes us back to the infamous W BALLS radio station made famous on Snoop Dogg's debut album Doggystyle back in 1993, with a three minute interlude that leads right into a slew of west coast bangers that make you feel like you're reliving the early 90s all over again. DJ Quik's iconic production gets things started on "Quik's Groove," with a beat that's so summertime smooth, it'll make you wish you owned a drop top cadillac hittin' switches in the streets of Los Angeles.  Whether it's "Outside" ft. E-40, "Up On The Wall" ft. YG, or "Gang Bang Anyway" ft. Jay Rock & ScHoolboy Q, there is no shortage of west coast 'slappers' all over The Documentary 2.5. If you were ever a fan of any G-Funk era artist from Cali, you will absolutely love this second disc. Even if you are the type that prefers gritty hood tales, those are also well represented with "The Ghetto" ft. Nas, "Gang Related," and "Last Time You Seen" ft. Scarface. If that wasn't enough, The Game includes a lone bonus track in "El Chapo," and completely slaughters the beat in one of the most impressive songs I have heard from him to date.

Typically, the average listener reaches fatigue after enduring thirty-plus songs from a single artist. It's usually too much to absorb at one time, but The Game's strategic arrangement coupled with a genius marketing scheme made it so that we were able to enjoy all this music without it feeling overbearing. This is another album in which it will be interesting how well it holds up five-to-ten years from now, but since The Game shows notable growth as an artist from a lyrical standpoint and his overall ability to craft a great song, The Documentary 2 & 2.5 might end up being his greatest body of work.  
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