There are certain things you expect from Compton legend The Game. You expect anger. You expect disrespect. And, naturally, you expect more name drops than a Piers Morgan interview. But in a hip hop age of R&B hooks and love songs, has the Compton legend stayed true to his roots on Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf?
Even the briefest of glances at Blood Moon’s track list would overwhelm feature-happy DJ Khaled, so naturally that means the album is often found scrabbling for a solid identity. What exactly is The Game, real name Jayceon Terrell Taylor, trying to do? On ‘Married to the Game’, where prodigy Sam Hook exhibits his substantial talent in one of the album’s several stabs at romance, the message is warped by the aggression of Game, Montana and DUBB’s bizarre “motherfucker” filled verses. The song itself isn’t exactly a classic from the beginning, but it’s an example of Blood Moon’s frequent confusion.
Lil Wayne’s auto-tuned hook on ‘Fuck Yo Feelings’ sounds like nothing more than Game’s desperate shot at a radio ready record and combined with Chris Brown’s painful verse, “You really care about this bitch? My dick all up in your feelings”, leaves a sour taste in the mouth. If you do feel obliged to put yourself through it, look out for Game’s blunt summary of how people apparently view his career: “Don’t fuck with that nigga, he went at Jay-Z / Then he went at Curtis, now he Patrick Swayze” But if, like most, you’re sick of auto-tune soaked, innovation-lacking records in a genre that’s endured it’s fair share of late, avoid the attraction that Weezy and Breezy’s names might offer at all costs.
It would, of course, be stupid to write off all the album’s features as below-par and contradicting influences, because many of them do oppose that trend and offer something worthwhile. Yo Gotti, T.I and 2 Chainz duel spectacularly on ‘Really’, combining with the eerie beat that screams “LISTEN UP”, before our protagonist steals the show in one of his best moments on BM: YOTW. It’s this 91 second, unmissable all-out attack that’s the Game we knew and loved back on his 2005 double-platinum debut The Documentary. The “Hate It or Love It” wordsmith squeezes in just about everyone from Jeezy and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, to Kevin Durant and Will Smith, on his way to one of 2014’s most memorable verses.
Only The Game knows why he felt the need to include so many others on this record, but his lyrical talent, even after all these years, is still just about unparalleled. You’ll find yourself wondering why he didn’t simply grab the limelight himself and display it as he does on “Purge”, the emotional call-to-arms that pays tribute to Mike Brown and sees the former protégé of Dr Dre fantasise about murdering racist ex-LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling, child molester Jerry Sandusky and Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman. “Dumpin’ ashes on the fuckin’ Time magazine / Tryna burn a hole between Israel and Palestine”, he spits, before declaring: ”That’s why I’m headed to Ferguson with this German Luther/ Cause I’m probably more like Nelson Mandela than Martin Luther”. It’s beautifully worded, and the pain in his voice is so evident that you can’t help but stop what you’re doing and join him for a moment, with the well-timed change of pace it offers as the LP’s halfway point also a refreshing one.
It’s at the album’s beginning that Taylor is at his strongest and that’s because he sticks to his roots of hardcore, punchy bars and heavy-hitting beats. Despite the seemingly light-hearted abbreviation, ‘F.U.N’ sees him call out everyone in the game bar living legends: “You a fish out of water, every MC gets slaughtered if you ain’t Nas, Eminem or fuckin’ S dot Carter” as well as his witty, Detox referencing, “Two things I learned, nigga gotta stay strapped /and niggas ain’t goin’ down without a Dr. Dre track”.
Undeniably though it’s Game’s opening track, the chainsaw onomatopoeia-toting “Bigger Than Me”, that is the album’s sharpest production. Despite his well-documented beef with 50 Cent, he still points to him as great in the head-nodding hook “These niggas ain’t Nas, they ain’t Jigga to me /These niggas ain’t Em, they ain’t 50 to me”, before a mini-diss by claiming he “put the G in the Unit”. It’s lyrically compelling, and stakes a worthy claim to become one of the 34-year-old’s timeless anthems for years to come – which just about says it all.
If you’re expecting The Game to lead a one man attack, with powerful beats and careless disses, be prepared to search for it on Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf. Have patience when Tyga turns up for a frighteningly average verse on ‘Best Head Ever’ and if you’re a real Game fan, have faith in the reality that Documentary 2, the sequel which will mark the tenth anniversary of his most iconic moment to date, should be everything this album could have been when it drops in January 2015.