Game has experienced a series of highs-and-lows throughout his seven year career, which began as an Aftermath/G-Unit Recording artist, then took several strange turns from there. After a public falling out with 50 Cent, and a struggle to maintain his relationship with mentor Dr. Dre, Game has made a series of questionable moves publicly. Among others, these moments include promising his fans Dre production on each consecutive LP and not delivering, getting his face tattooed and re-tattooed, beefing with Jay-Z for no reason, or stealing 50 Cent’s basketball rim, filming it, and then getting arrested for doing so. Game’s strange behavior has left many fans scratching their heads over the years, and while his last album, R.E.D. didn’t live up to expectations (or the multiple delays), he has still more or less released a catalog of solid LP’s.
With his latest release, Game goes for a concept album on Jesus Piece, a themed record that finds religious symbolism teeming in each track. Make no mistake, Game did NOT go Kirk Franklin and attempt to release a Christian rap album; in fact, much like Meek Mill and Drake’s “Amen” single, this record is written from the perspective of the sinner.
While the album does have a few moments that don’t quite fit in with the rest of it, such as the brooding gangster rap opener “Scared Now”, or the closing Bone-sampling weed song, “Celebration”, much of the rest of the album carries the theme quite well. The standard edition’s tightly knit 13 tracks are performed at a laid back, gospel-influenced pace, making for a very well put together LP. Things get off to a great start on each “Ali Bomaye” (feat. 2 Chainz and Rick Ross), “Jesus Piece” (feat. Kanye West and Common), and “Pray” (feat. J. Cole and JMSN), as Game once again shows his knack for picking out beautiful beats.
If there is a fault to this otherwise strong album, it is the sheer number of guests. Without the blessing of Aftermath or 50 Cent, (the latter becoming less relevant with each release), Game looks to the rest of the rap industry to back him up. While tracks like “All That (Lady)” (feat. Lil Wayne, Big Sean, Fabolous, and Jeremih) and “Celebration” (feat. Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, Tyga, and Chris Brown) are solid, there’s almost a compilation feeling to this album at times. Yet Game still stays in the forefront, as he has somehow figured out to leave listeners hanging off his every word; even if he does contradict himself at times. Perhaps that’s the trick, or it’s the sheer amount of name-dropping that still keeps our attention. Yet on less guest heavy songs like “Name Me King” (feat. Pusha T) and “See No Evil” (feat. Kendrick Lamar), Game still commands the ship.
As far as the religious undertones of the album, again Game’s perspective is that of the rumored “whores and thieves” that Jesus hung out with, not that of the 12 disciples. Some will undoubtedly be offended at Game’s use of religious imagery and symbolism throughout this album, especially on tracks like “Church” – which likens the strip club to the steeple, or the Jake One helmed “Hallelujah”, where the word is nothing more than an ode to his Rolls Royce. Oh, and there’s that album cover. Some will see the whole thing as blasphemy, while those less-sensitive to religion will look past it.
Game’s raps do not extend much further than a confession of his sins, which keeps this album from being rated higher. With the exception of “Can’t Get Right”, where he speaks openly about his fallout with Dre, Game rarely gives us a glimpse into the persona beyond the strippers and stardom, suggesting there is a layer to him we haven’t seen yet. Instead, much of his lyrical content still panders to name dropping artists, suggesting these artists’ endorsements will make up for the lack of support from his former label mates. Yet the rest of the rap world has moved on, it’s time for Game to do so as well.
Despite these character flaws inserting themselves into the creative process, Game still has carved out a very solid record. With the exception of “Celebration” and maybe “All That (Lady)”, Game doesn’t really try to pander to radio or clubs with a collection of “singles”, making Jesus Piece one of the most consistant albums of the year, and one of the strongest from all of the artists in his class. While Game has allowed a long guest list to help him define his last two records – this time working better than last – we think next time he should put the faith back in himself. Chuuuuch.
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