The Game's Descent into Obsolescence

Aug. 27, 2008
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Despite his modest talents, I've long had a soft-spot for The Game and his stubborn adherence to the increasingly antiquated conventions of '90s gangsta rap. At a time when even 50 Cent, once viewed as the possible savior of West Coast gangsta rap, has found it more behooving to sing LL Cool J-ish crossover jams for the ladies, The Game is still beefing and thugging with everything he's got-which, frankly, isn't much. He's not a particularly graceful rapper, incapable of extending a line of thought for more than a few bars, and too often falling back on obvious culture references. But he has a scrappy charm, and his insecure-gangster persona is a novel, compelling archetype, which is crucial in a genre increasingly driven by personality and backstory more than lyrical deft.

Disposable as they are, The Game's records are always good for a few summer spins before they exhaust themselves, and his most recent LAX lives up to that modest standard even he's beginning to suffer from diminishing returns. In a sign of The Game's shaky confidence, he pads the album with guest spots even as better MCs are (finally) beginning to cut back on them.

Embarrassingly, he's upstaged on just about every track here: Ice Cube brings some throwback G-funk menace on "State of Emergency," Raekwon turns a fantastically smooth verse on "Bulletproof Diaries," Lil Wayne once again makes great use of the vocoder on "My Life," Ludacris proves he's still a spotlight-stealer on "Ya Heard," and even when dropping a route verse seemingly left over from his untitled new album, Nas still easily upstages The Game on "Letter to the King." That none of these songs, save perhaps for the Weezy-driven "My Life," quite sounds like a hit should be troubling to The Game, whose star is now falling at the speed of gravity. More troubling, though, is how expendable he's made himself on his own album.

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