What a time to be on the west coast. It’s been a phenomenal year for hip-hop, and this side of the Rocky Mountains has been one of the biggest contributors to that fact. With releases from Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, Jay Rock, and even the “doggfather” himself, Snoop Dogg, west coast rap has thrived in 2015. And just when you thought the year was done with big releases, here comes The Game with not one but two sequels to his 2005 classic, The Documentary.
Both The Documentary 2 and The Documentary 2.5 were released this month, exactly one week apart, after being advertised as a single double-disc album. But as far as I’m concerned, mostly because you have to pay for them separately, the releases are two separate full LPs. If you’re thinking shorter albums with around 10 or 11 songs, which seems to be a recent trend across genres, think again: The Documentary 2 boasts 19 tracks, and The Documentary 2.5 follows up with another 18. While I haven’t listened to 2.5 yet, if The Documentary 2 is any indication, both of The Game’s new releases are as strong as their prequel.
As with most albums over 15 songs, I approached The Documentary 2 hesitantly. Lengthy albums can be excessive, boring, and monotonous to listen to. With the exception of a few songs, I can safely say The Documentary 2 is none of those things. The qualm I initially had about the record’s high number of features actually works in its favor, ensuring there’s enough diversity in the sound to keep you listening for all 19 songs. The Game has been an impressive rapper since the original Documentary, but his raw lyrical talent hasn’t always transferred into dynamic projects that offer more. A big problem I’ve encountered with him in the past, and again now, is tedium that springs from his voice.
The Game’s voice doesn’t change when storytelling to keep things interesting like Kendrick Lamar’s, but it also isn’t an appealing sort of static delivery like one hears from the likes of Earl Sweatshirt or Future. Instead it sounds almost like he perpetually has a sore throat. While The Game compensates for this with his lyricism and flow, the numerous features definitely help keep the album energized throughout, particularly those from King Kendrick on “On Me,” Ab-Soul on “Dollar And A Dream,” and Dr. Dre and Ice Cube on “Don’t Trip.”
Aside from the vocal issue, The Game’s evolution is pretty noticeable. With nostalgic west coast production propelling him, the Compton rapper delivers a project better than its prequel. The singing is in all the right places, the features are well placed on each track, and the skits, while not particularly interesting, are not overwhelming either. The track “Uncle Skit” is the exception to the not interesting ones, as it’s two minutes of Game’s uncle hilariously giving him advice and talking about his billion dollar idea. Game’s verses themselves are simultaneously filthy yet polished, a nice reminder to the doubtful as to why he is still relevant. “I’m from the home of the malt liquor, talk slicker / Where guns spark quicker, on fraud niggas / Them niggas better walk with you, take the long way home / My finger itchin’ and this barrel so loooong,” he raps on “Step Up.”
Much like last month’s 90059 from Jay Rock, The Documentary 2 is a necessary story to tell for modern rap to not completely abandon its roots for the exciting realm of experimentation. Its subject matter, a reaffirmation of the west coast above all, is explored in the context of the album’s collaborations with artists worldwide: Drake from Toronto is on “100,” Kanye West from Chicago is on “Mula,” and even Future from Atlanta guests on “Dedicated.” This unification of so many artists, with just as many diverse sounds, on a single project is a testament to how far hip-hop has come from the days of west coast versus east coast – a true documentary paying tribute to the genre.
Of course, what would a hip-hop documentary be without misogyny? The twelfth song on the album, “Bitch You Ain’t Shit,” is a fairly graphic track that gets pretty unbearable to hear about five lines in, even before the uncreative chorus from which the song takes its name. Rampant denigration of women has no place in hip-hop or any art form anymore, if it ever had one. For The Game to truly complete his evolution, he should have evolved his morals.
Besides some uninteresting skits and misogyny that warrants the skip button, The Game has delivered another excellent Documentary ten years after the original. If you’ve never been Game’s biggest fan, this would be the project to give him another chance with. And with features from the likes of Nas, Lil Wayne, and Scarface, The Documentary 2.5 promises to be just as good. The Game may be the last word on west coast rap in 2015, but with two months left of a year when surprise releases have become increasingly popular, only time will tell. Additionally, if you’re interested in learning how to play blackjack, there are plenty of resources available online.