Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
Words by Phlip
In a few days, Jayceon “Game” Taylor is due to release his 5th studio album, titled Jesus Piece.
As with anything involving Game, controversy found the discussion due to the proposed artwork, which led to an alternate cover design being offered. Another constant with Game releases is the horrible nature of plugging leaks. Being on vacation this week allows me a chance to listen to the album kid-free a couple of times while I attempt to do things around the house, then report back to the all of you with my findings.
No need to kill you to death with further setup, y’all know who he is and what he is about, let’s get to the discussion of the music, shall we?
1. Scared Now (feat Meek Mill)
This beat is haunting, to use a word on it. After a couple of intro bars, we get a hook that matches it. With no silly-ass rap album intro, we’re right down to the business of felonies and shit. Before long names are being dropped, I have heard Biggie and 50 Cent mentioned. In all, Game approaches this song with a subdued and calm voice. Meek Mill decides that he doesn’t like that idea and brings an energy that makes a decent contrast to the beat and earns the last verse on the song despite being an inferior talent to our host.
Not a bad way to begin the album.
2. Ali Bomaye (feat 2 Chainz & Rick Ross)
I’m being honest when I say I am feeling some kind of way seeing
Titi Boi 2 Chainz and Billy Bobb Rick Ross on one song. I am already beginning to think that these majestic beats are the order of the day. Chainz goes first, and the beat wakes up a little bit to match his energy. He does little to change the world lyrically, but apparently hip hop is about celebrating wealth these days anyway, so his verse serves its purpose. Game comes in and talks some of the same talk. I am not used to hearing his voice sound like this, but I happen to be a fan of how his verse comes out.
I found myself kind of wishing that Game’s verse had been last, RIGHT at the point where he reentered and had me thinking he had saved the song, then he passed back to Chainz. Luckily, he came back in one last time. The dropping of a couple of bars and then passing back to someone else was odd. I didn’t hate the song, but I don’t love it.
Seriously, did you just sneak a rap album skit at the end of a song?
3. Jesus Piece (feat Kanye West & Common)
I like the beat of this song. It still gives to the aforementioned “theme” of it all, but it is much happier than others had been. Game starts off on discussion of the past, which is unfortunately more of his time-tested dance of dropping other rappers’ names. Kanye is only heard on the hook, and we do get a Common verse. It is a little weird to me, knowing that Common is Muslim to hear him speak of Jesus. It is also weird to me for Kanye to appear in a song for which he couldn’t be bothered to have made the beat for. Wait, is he still making beats these days or is he making sneakers? Nevermind. In all, though, I liked the song.
4. Pray (feat J. Cole & JMSN)
Hey, speaking of people who make beats stopping by the studio and not bringing a beat tape with them. Herein comes NC’s own Jermaine Cole and some Detroit cat I have never heard of who also produces. Well, it COULD be worse. At least we will get a Cool and Dre beat out of this. We’re back to the order of the day in the sound of it and I commend Game for sticking to the concept, even if he is talking about strippers and violence. The subject of this song is one that Cole pretty much made an album of, so he plays the lane very well. This song isn’t bad, but it lacks the energy that people of my attention span crave.
5. Church (feat King Chip & Trey Songz)
The first thing I noticed with this song was the beat, which sounds kinda cheapy so that it not a good thing. Unfortunately, Game sounds like he is pandering to a Southern audience on this track, and he does not do a good job of it.
Tremaine Compositions Trey Songz and his autotune don’t help things a great deal. By the time this King Chip cat shows up, we are almost 4 minutes into the song. I cannot HONESTLY say that I like this song. Not that I have an issue with southern-styled hip hop, but the fact of the matter remains that this was a heavy-handed attempt at it and I came from it feeling like my intelligence had been insulted.
6. All That (Lady) (feat Lil Wayne, Big Sean, Fabolous & Jeremih)
Wait… Is D’Angelo dead? I know DGC used to be funny about allowing his guest appearances, but why is Jeremih singing on this song when Game tends to fancy himself one to respect the past so much? Oh well, D’Angelo will get paid for this sample. Anyway, Jeremih and his autotune aside (yes, literally ignore him), this song is not bad. Even Wayne’s verse is not terrible in how he is not making too many silly-ass punchlines drive his verse. The best thing about Big Sean’s verse WAS that it ended with Fabolous still prepared to rhyme. Then I looked down and there was only 27 seconds left on the song and the beat faded, so he was just giving us a Diddy outro.
So, with Jeremih singing on this song instead of letting a VERY capable sample handle that – seemingly in the wrong spot – and arguably the best rapper on the track not getting an actual verse, I do not like this song.
7. Heaven’s Arms
This will be the only song on the album without a guest, so Jayceon BETTER make it count. With the beat, and the tenor of his voice in this song, I am almost willing to forgive the last prior song. I am just going to have to get used to name-dropping, because Game is just going to do that even if it doesn’t have much to do with the song in and of itself. Luckily, it doesn’t take away from this song.
8. Name Me King (feat Pusha T)
You know, I was thinking as I typed this sentence of how ironic it would have been to have Pusha’s BROTHER on this track instead of Pusha T himself, given what we know of the brand of hip hop Malice is making these days. No, I will not refer to Gene as “No Malice.”
I think the word to describe this beat is “big,” and it worries me that I have heard 9/11 mentioned twice in the last 4 minutes between the last and this song. I notice that Game does a good job of matching the style and energy of those he performs with. With that said, I actually like this song.
9. See No Evil (feat Kendrick Lamar & Tank)
Back to the chamber music churchy-sounding beats. No intro bars on this one, just right to the rhyming. If I were keeping a name-drop count on these songs, then this post would be a book.
Why does Tank – who can sing well – need to be autotuned? That is becoming an unwanted theme of the album as well. This song reminds me that I am going to have to try to give this Kendrick Lamar kid another chance. I have TRIED to get into him, but just haven’t been able to stay into it. Game’s last verse on this song is lyrically better than the first was, but I am still caught up on this Tank/autotune thing. Overall, I kind of like this song.
10. Can’t Get Right (feat K. Roosevelt)
Never heard of K. Roosevelt, and Wikipedia was no help in telling me anything about him. Google tells me that he makes beats, and if I am to judge off of this one then he does so quite well. I think Biggie and Tupac get the most name-drops on this album and the second verse onn this song thrusts Dr. Dre into a close third. Since K. Roosevelt is listed as the guest AND the producer here, I will assume that this autotuned individual on the hook is him. Yes, I just mentioned that NO ONE who has sung on any song on this album has done so without noticeable voice correction.
11. Hallelujah (feat Jamie Foxx)
The last previous song is finishing while I type this sentence. Let me just say that if Jamie Foxx sings on this song and uses autotune, it will take all of the willpower I have to complete the listening of this album to finish this review. This Jake One beat is HARD. And I think they skirted unneeded voice correction on this song with the use of a multipart harmony instead. It comes across with necessary commitment to the concept by coming across choir-like.
12. Freedom (feat Elijah Blake)
Again, I like this beat. The sped up sample has a Dilla/Kanye feel to it. Apparently this Elijah Blake cat comes from NoID’s collective, so that serves as no surprise. I LIKED this song before he took a call from Birdman in the middle of it. Seriously, was the Frank Ocean line necessary? He wasn’t doing anything to anyone that mattered to the making of this album. So apparently people CAN sing on this album without using too much autotune. I won’t say that there was no voice correction employed, just that it was not as heavy-handed as previous instances on this album.
Kevin Hart ends this song, setting us up for the end of the album. Again, this is fully within the concept of the album and I continue to commend that that has been maintained thus far.
13. Celebration (feat Chris Brown, Tyga, Lil Wayne & Wiz Khalifa)
If I’m honest, I was primed to not like this song based upon the guests alone. Wayne had already been on one song and behaved himself, this is to be the last song on the album and I had this strange premonition that he would not do so again.
Now, back to business.
Bone Thugs sample/interpolation. It just hit me that I have been hearing this song for a few weeks now. Again, game does a good job of playing up to the style of what is ahead of him. Chris Brown comes in as an autotuned singer and half-rapping a verse as well. This song is a statement of who to put where on a song, and getting Tyga out of the way ASAP was the move. Wayne still manages to not do anything dumb. I am yet unsure why they even listed Khalifa as being on this song, as he only got like 3 bars that were more a nod to Bone Thugs for the use of their “First of the Month” for this song.
And, of course the Deluxe Edition inclusions:
14. I Remember (feat Young Jeezy)
Okay… Remember when I said that Game sells himself up to his guests? Well, I heard Future on this song too, and he sold himself DOWN to both Future and Jeezy. I have gotten to the point where I do not even bother with NOT saying that I am not a fan of Jeezy.
All I will say about this song is that I understand why it wasn’t an album track. I own it when I am not being objective, and right now is just one of those times where I was never able to get past my preconceived notions.
15. Blood Diamonds
And where was Kanye on this song? I like this beat, and it seems that he is getting off of the same subject, applying the metaphor of the things that rappity rap types blow money on here and the comparative importance to what kids in Africa die for. Chinese sweatshop kids that made these Nikes I’m wearing get a mention too. I will say that THIS song didn’t make the album because it was not within the concept of the album, because it was otherwise pretty good.
The version I received did not include the iTunes or Best Buy bonus tracks.
Before I even set about the task of reviewing this album – like when I typed out the track listing and guest spots, I noticed that this album would be VERY similar to his prior ones, in that there are a TON of guests on the songs to the point where there are more songs featuring a guest than there were unassisted ones. I will be totally honest when I say that I was not exactly enthused by that fact.
On the whole, this is a pretty good album, that I will sync to my iPod and listen to while I am at work. I am not sure that I would go out of my way to pay $9.99 for it. I can FULLY understand why anyone reading this would though. If I find myself in Target within the next couple of weeks – which I will – and walk past it with a couple of extra bucks to spend, then I might grab it for the collection though.
Words by Phlip