Things just ain’t the same for the aggressive content brigade. But Game’s impact on West Coast hip-hop is solid. Once the new kid on the Left Coast block, the Compton native is now an elder statesman from which upstarts like Kendrick Lamar can learn. With arguably his best material cued up, the spiritual O.G. reviews the good, bad and inbetween of his career
Words: John Kennedy (@youngJFK)
Photography: Johnathan Mannion
When Jayceon Taylor was ambushed in his Compton, Calif., stash house, back in 2001, and punctured by five bullets from a .45 Glock, the soon-to-be rapper’s life literally flashed before his eyes. Eleven years later, after selling more than 7 million records and reviving a dormant L.A. rap scene as the Game, the MC once again feels his existence is in danger. Amidst the hell-raising fury of October’s Hurricane Sandy, his plane suffered a precarious descent into Atlanta. “No exaggeration, we almost died on the landing, bro,” recalls the 33-year-old spitter, once known as Hurricane Game, of today’s flight touchdown. “When the wheels touched the ground the plane jumped back into the air because it was unstable. It’s scary out here, no exaggeration.”
Game is, of course, exaggerating. But based on his newest project, Jesus Piece, you get the sense that he’s already made right with the (wo)man upstairs. The recently baptized rapper’s fifth LP—comprised of 13 tracks to represent Jesus and his dozen disciples—attempts to convey the struggle between adopting street life and Sunday service. It might be Game’s best, and certainly truest, effort in the midst of iPhone-self-recorded rapper scuffles and his on-off-on engagement to fiancée Tiffney Cambridge (as documented in the VH1 reality show Marrying The Game). The father of three is still finding himself, and he’s far from ready to die. “I’ve grown as far as decision-making, and just being a smarter, wiser and better person,” says Game. “But I’m the same person at heart. You can’t change that.”
VIBE: When the world first met The Game, you were a Dr. Dre progeny and lone bright spot for the future of West Coast hip-hop. Now there’s an entire class of young rhymers, from Kendrick Lamar to Dom Kennedy. Do you feel like a California elder statesman?
The Game I do. I feel like an OG, but these cats are coming in at about 24 [years old], so I’m not that far from them. I’m on my fifth album, so the separation between rookie and veteran is a bit further than it seems. But the West Coast is about to have a real strong movement. The East needs to unify a little bit more, but we’re about to make a real strong push and tip that scale.
Kendrick is already playing a big role. How did you feel the first time you heard his song, “Black Boy Fly,” where he said he used to be jealous of your success?
It was a dope concept. I appreciated it, because I’m all about paying homage to people. I feel like he spoke for a lot of up-and-coming artists from California watching me do my thing. For someone to pay homage to me makes me feel like job well done. I did a reply to “Black Boy Fly,” called “Little Brother.” Kendrick did the beat. It’s speaking directly to Kendrick, letting the world know from my perspective what I saw in him from the time he was 15 until now. It’s exactly like [Kanye’s “Big Brother”] in reverse. It’s just dope.
On Jesus Piece’s title track, there’s a line that says Dr. Dre gave your beats to Kendrick.
I was working with Dre, and it was the early stages—after me and Top Dawg put Kendrick with Dr. Dre. Dre was supposed to give me a bunch of beats, and I only got to keep one out of all the ones he promised me. I said in that song: “Dre promised me records, I never got ’em, and some of my albums missed records/I felt he shitted on me for Kendrick, recorded diss records/And Kendrick my nigga, put him on his first mixtape/I popped champagne when I heard he was with Dre.” It’s the same concept as “Black Boy Fly” in four bars.