Earlier in October, to mark the 10 year anniversary of his groundbreaking debut LP, The Documentary, West Coast rapper The Game released a double barrelled sequel that many are calling his best work to date. In a fickle industry full of one-hit wonders the 35-year-old star, born Jayceon Taylor, has always managed to stick to his guns whilst remaining both relevant and consistent. With a solid back catalogue any artist would be proud of, we examine just how a troubled drug dealer became one of gangsta rap's modern day icons.
"I woke up out that coma 2001/ 'Bout the same time Dre dropped 2001."
Shot multiple times during a home invasion involving a drug deal gone bad in October 2001, The Game almost became a statistic before he even got started. Managing to reach his phone and call for an ambulance he ended up spending three days in a coma and it was after his near death experience that he hatched his plan to get out of the drug game and venture into music. Fast forward a year and he had released his first mixtape, You Know What It Is Vol.1, with his brother Big Fase, and bagged a record deal with independent label Get Low Recordz. It was then that his journey to super stardom began.
It wouldn't take long for the budding lyricist sign to a major label. Although he was initially courted by Bad Boy Records label boss Puff Daddy, it was Dr. Dre who eventually stepped up and signed The Game to his Aftermath imprint. With a fellow Compton representer at the helm and an already proven track record as being the home of superstars - Eminem and 50 Cent being the biggest - Aftermath's newest signing was about to shake up the world and put the West Coast back on the map with his debut album.
"Three years later the album is done/ Aftermath presents: N***a Witta Attitude, Volume 1."
With some guidance from 50 Cent, who was the biggest name in hip hop at the time and tasked with steering The Game in the right direction and moulding him into a star, The Documentary became an instant success.
Originally titled N***a Witta Attitude, Volume 1, the title was later changed after an injunction was filed by the widow of Eazy E, Tomica Woods-Wright, because she didn't want the N.W.A. name used.
Released in January 2005 The Documentary went on to sell over eight million copies worldwide spawning hits including How We Do, Dreams and Hate It Or Love It. Despite the record's commercial success The Game's gritty gangsta rap style was far from being watered down. Although some critics took issue with his constant name dropping, it didn't matter. The Game was winning and he was winning big, and not just for himself but for a whole coast.
"Since the West Coast fell off, the streets been watching/ The West Coast never fell off, I was asleep in Compton."
The West Coast boom that started with the likes of Ice-T, N.W.A., Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and many more seemed to lose popularity as the early 2000s kicked in. Finding his feet, Dr. Dre left Death Row Records to set up shop on his own. Snoop followed suit abandoning the once power house record label for the south signing to New Orleans-based No Limit Records. 2Pac was shot and killed in a drive by shooting in Las Vegas. Then there was the southern rap scene. Leap frogging every other coast and taking over Billboard in the process, the West Coast needed a new voice, a way back in. The Game was it.
Sending not only the West Coast into a frenzy but all of hip hop, there was a new sheriff in town, and just like he looked up to Cube, Dre, Snoop, Eazy E, Tha Dogg Pound, Warren G and DJ Quik, today's new generation of West Coast artists list The Game as a key influence. On Black Boy Fly, taken from Kendrick Lamar's critically acclaimed Good Kid M.A.A.d. City, the young MC spits: "It's 2004 and I'm hearing the people roar/ For the name of The Game they line in front of the store/ Swap meets selling our mixtapes I'm like oh s**t, wait/ Don't wanna be another n***a stuck regretting mistakes." Inspiring the next generation of rappers - think Kendrick and TDE, YG, Ty Dolla $ign, Nipsey Hussle, Dom Kennedy - The Game breathed new life into West Coast rap and once more it on the lips of the commercial listener.
"50 ain't gangsta/ Lloyd Banks ain't gangsta/ Yayo ain't gangsta/ Young Buck, you know you ain't gangsta."
Serving up rap beef on a regular basis was something else the Compton rapper loved besides the west - he even has a "Beef" tattoo somewhere amongst the masses of other ink his body plays host to. If you were to ask him to list all the people he's had a problem with you'd probably be better off asking who he hasn't had a problem with. Besides high profile spats with the likes of Joe Budden, Jay Z, 40 Glocc, and more recently Young Thug and Lil Durk, the one that caught the attention of everyone was the one he had with former mentor and label mate Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson.
On New York Skit taken from the 2.5 disc of his new album The Documentary 2, The Game recounts the event that started his beef with 50. It all began when 50 announced to the world during an interview with Hot 97 that The Game had been dropped from G-Unit - he was often regarded as the fifth member alongside 50, Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo and Young Buck. News to him, The Game rounded up an entourage and went to the Hot 97 studios in New York. A scuffle ensued and gun shots were exchanged between the two parties resulting in one of The Game's crew being hit. Whilst not fatal it was the beginning of one of the most publicised beefs in hip hop history. Starting his own "G-Unot" campaign, bars were exchanged and 50 continued to taunt his former protege with various skits on his popular G-Unit Radio mixtapes as well as publicly claiming he made more money from The Documentary than The Game through publishing. To this day the pair have not publicly made amends.
"Heard about the s**t with Diddy/ So I came through to vest you up/ And I got a vest for 40, a vest for Hush/ A vest for every n***a with an owl on his chest and what."
Controversy is something that The Game has never been able to fully shake. Besides physical altercations and jail sentences, his affiliation with convicted drug kingpin Jimmy Henchman, who is allegedly the same man who orchestrated the hit on 2Pac's life in 1994 when he survived a shooting at Quad Studios in New York, also raised eyebrows. However, something that has always been obvious is that for every enemy he might have he has 100 close friends. Never more evident than on The Documentary 2, featured guests include Busta Rhymes, Lil' Wayne, Scarface, Kanye West, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Drake, who he lyrically arms with a bulletproof vest on their collaboration 100 swearing to go to war for if anyone tests the Hotline Bling rapper.
Ten years after he catapulted onto the rap scene life is good for The Game. With an impressive body of work that includes Doctor's Advocate, Jesus Piece and of course The Documentary, he has created a lot of timeless music. Now celebrating the anniversary of his acclaimed debut album with the release of its two part sequel, the behind-the-scenes documentary shot for the album hears Dr. Dre describe it as the best hip hop album of the last five years... at least - and you have to remember that Dre's much anticipated and well received Compton only came out in August.
It's hard to stick around in hip hop. So many artists have come and gone with frivolous listeners only paying attention for five minutes before moving on to the next big thing. Only the greats have been able to carve out a career and enjoyed a respectable level of longevity. It's fair to say that The Game is one of those greats. He might not be a Jay Z, an Eminem or an LL Cool J, but he's certainly got staying power and it wouldn't be surprising if he's still as relevant and highly regarded in another 10 years.
The Documentary 2 and The Documentary 2.5 are out now.
Will Lavin is a hip hop Music & Lifestyle Specialist of 10 years. A 2015 IMC Award winner, he's written for publications such as VIBE, XXL, Complex and Blues & Soul. He's worked with artists such as Chaka Khan, Timbaland, will.i.am. and Chris Brown. He also runs illwill.co.uk.