I’m about my ’hood/I’m about my block,” The Game raps on “LAX Files,” the first song on his third album, LAX. This isn’t particularly accurate. Anyone listening to him for long will conclude that he’s about one thing only—being respected.
Unlike thug emcees such as Young Jeezy and Tony Yayo, who seem only to want to be rich and popular, Game desperately wants appreciation for his art. He’d love to be placed in the pantheon alongside his deceased heroes Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G. and Eazy-E (all three of whom he eulogizes on “Never Can Say Goodbye”), but he would settle for being mentioned among the greats of today. “I ain’t buyin’ that the best rappers is Kanye and Wayne,” he moans on “Ya Heard.” Point taken, and LAX is the most anticipated hip-hop album since Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III (itself the biggest ticket since Kanye West’s Graduation). But while West seems to have settled into his nerdy Japan-fetishist/booty-groping flosser persona and Wayne into his outer-space stoner shtick, Game can’t seem to be himself.
He’s disconcertingly focused on how others see him, which causes him to name-drop like crazy, particularly when it comes to Dr. Dre, who produced his first album but seems to want nothing to do with him since Game split with G-Unit. Perhaps his biggest problem is that he doesn’t very often play to his own strengths. He should be using his well-honed ear to create more of the dramatic, unself-conscious bangers that channel his easy, instinctive flow. When he succeeds in this regard, such as on “Dope Boys” and “My Life,” LAX is a transcendent piece of work. The rest of the album, unfortunately, is a cloying, insincere mess.
The bottom line: **