"I'M B.I.G., I'M CUBE, I'm Nas, I'm Pac," Compton rapper the Game deadpans on his recent album, Doctor's Advocate. When it comes to the roster of people in line for that Mt. Rushmore of revered emcees, the Game is way in back of the line. Like, one person ahead of me. By no standards is the Game a great rapper—his breath in the middle of longer verses, his metaphors and rhymes are clunky and uninspired, and his voice lacks that distinctively listenable timbre that all of his aforementioned heroes possessed.
But that's not to say that the Game is to be ignored: If you're not following the career of Jayceon Taylor, you're missing one of the best spectacles in rap right now.
The Game entered the public consciousness in late 2004 with a string of mix tapes and a brilliant (if overly long) ode to West Coast rap, "200 Bars and Runnin'." Soon, Dr. Dre signed up to produce his first album, The Documentary, and the New York Times penned a long article stating that "not since Snoop Dogg's emergence... has a West Coast rapper generated so much buzz." The Game was quoted as ludicrously saying, "I want to sell a million albums in my first week." To no one's surprise, that didn't happen, and it seemed like the Game might become just another footnote in the history of LA hiphop.
Then people started digging around, and embarrassing skeletons started tumbling out of the self-proclaimed "West Coast Rakim's" closet. For instance: a humiliating pre-fame appearance on TV show Change of Heart. (Watch it here) Later, allegations started flying that the Game used to be a male stripper; he lost a feud with 50 Cent; Dr. Dre stopped returning his phone calls; and it seemed like the rapper's career was a dead as his hero Eazy-E.
Then Doctor's Advocate came out last November, and the Game was here for us all to deal with again. The album is a fascinatingly neurotic mess, with dozens of shout-outs to Dr. Dre, who's nowhere to be found, and disses on rappers who he praises in the next breath. From a technical standpoint, the Game is never going to be the next B.I.G., Cube, Nas, or Pac. But then again, Ice Cube never swung his wiener around onstage while wearing a tight-ass bowtie.