The Game – Jesus Piece

Jesus piece game albumcover The Game   Jesus PieceThe Game – Jesus Piece
Interscope: 2012

Opinions of the Game are as split as his personality. To some people, he pays homage to his predecessors; to others, he’s a name-dropper. He’s either experimenting with his delivery to keep the album interesting, or he’s a test case for communication accommodation theory. Or he’s a biter. But I have to ask: if you have to imitate other people to keep your album interesting and you’re not Affion Crockett, what does that say about your skills?

Meek Mill appears on the intro “Scared Now”  and then presumably stayed in the booth to record a reference track for the following “Ali Bombaye.” Picture it now, Meek Mill and Game hovering over a notepad as Meek dispenses advice: “YOU’RE GONNA WANNA SAY THESE LINES LIKE THIS…” as snare rolls rattle off behind them and Game wishes he brought earplugs.

The guidance from J.Cole on mimicking the Simba flow on “Pray” was probably (definitely) more subdued, as Cole likely just gave Game the J.Cole face whenever Game flubbed the delivery. Don’t let the flow robbery ruin this track for you, though. Game has an underrated ability to make great deep songs when he really wants to, and JMSN’s haunting hook and J.Cole’s guest verse make for the best appearances on the album.

Considering that Nas’ appearances on Game albums have been fantastic (“Why You Hate The Game” and “Letter to the King”), you’d think Game’s jacking of Nas’ rediscovered Nasty flow would be put to better use than “Heaven’s Arms,” Game’s attempt at an It Was Written bonus track. Rapping like Nas isn’t easy, as any MC Get Busy can tell you, so Game just gets by with a flurry of Gucci and Ferragamo drops and *gasp* a Jay-Z reference in which he deads whatever beef he thinks exists between Jigga and himself. Game’s thirst for Hova is five-albums, numerous-mixtapes, and several-retracted-disses deep, with no response out of Jay unless you count “Dear Summer”. Keep it pushin’, Jayceon.

Speaking of keeping it pushing, I could go on about the police reports that Kanye West, Pusha T, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony should be filing for Grand Theft Flow on Jesus Piece, but I have places to be and your Excel spreadsheet won’t populate itself.  Like Game’s previous albums, what keeps Jesus Piece listeners engaged is the production, plain and simple. It’s not just his impeccable beat selection; Game has a producer’s ear for how a song should sound, a talent that Rick Ross also used in his rise to prominence. The exuberant, Jake One-produced “Hallelujah” may be rife with sacrilege on a level we haven’t seen since Meek Mill’s “Amen”, but I’ll be damned if it’s not on the same level of Just Blaze’s best take-‘em-to-church compositions.

Amadeus brings back Kanye’s chipmunk soul for “Freedom” and Game infuriates me for a single line: “Fuck copying styles,” which is ridiculously appropriate because he sounds so natural and comfortable on the track. He sounds like HIMSELF and it’s easily one of the best songs on the album. The same goes for “All That (Lady)”, where Cool & Dre masterfully flip the classic D’Angelo track and the biggest crime is Fabolous’ relegation to a few lines at the end as the track fades out. We now live in a world where someone thought it’d be a better idea to give Big Sean more shine on a track than Fabolous. The Mayans were right…

It’s no mistake that the best tracks on Jesus Piece are the ones where Game is just Game; not Nas, not Meek Mill, not Kanye, not MC Get Busy. Why he insists on being a rapping chameleon is a mystery to me and the rap world at large. Maybe it’s an insecurity or lack of faith in himself and his abilities that causes him to latch onto other artists’ styles and mention them whenever he needs something that rhymes with “Doctor Day” or “Two Pocks”.

Not to sound like that stock motivational post that half of your friends have on their Facebook profiles, but Game needs to focus on being the first-rate version of himself instead of a second-rate somebody else. Most rappers change styles up in order to stay relevant by piggybacking off whatever’s hot. But the thing is, Game is relevant no matter what, and it’s due in large part to his ability to consistently make solid and occasionally fantastic songs, despite his myriad of flaws. Jesus Piece works in the exact same way.

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3 out of 5

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