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Game's fourth major release, R.E.D., feels like his first album. The Compton-bred MC who has established himself as hip-hop's most palatable contemporary gangsta rapper has taken on a new mindset for R.E.D., an acronym for rededicated.
"R.E.D. feels like The Documentary album," Game explains, comparing it to his 2005 debut. "Doctor's Advocate was a bunch of turmoil. I just finished leaving 50's G-Unit and was fighting with Interscope. The third album, LAX, was my first time free to make my decisions and this album feels like my best work to date."
Game is enjoying his creative freedom on R.E.D. and is doing so with assists from executive producer Pharrell Williams, a 5 year reunion with Dr. Dre, and collaborations with Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado, Lupe Fiasco, Snoop Dogg, Robin Thicke, Beanie Sigel, Rick Ross and Jay Electronica. Fans of his classics will appreciate his trademark unapologetic street tracks, but they will also have an opportunity to embrace a broader side of his work.
The album's first single, the pop-radio ready "Ain't No Doubt About It" with Timberlake and Williams offers a new sound for Game--percolating synthesizers, humming bass and Timberlake's soulful falsetto. "I never thought Justin Timberlake would do a song with Game," he said. During a studio session with Game and Williams, Timberlake stopped by and inquired about the song. Game replied, "Yeah, it's the new Game and Timberlake.'" Timberlake took Game up on the offer and immediately went in the recording booth to add his vocals to the song.
R.E.D. also marks the first time Game and Williams worked together. Their chemistry in the studio was so good that Game asked Williams to executive produce the album. "We did four joints in one day," Game said. "Second day, we did four more joints. We came back in and did four more songs. I was like, ‘Would you mind executive producing the album? You might as well, just let me follow your lead.'"
Williams was in and honored not only to be working with Game, but also to be working on an album Dr. Dre is part of. "Game's a good guy and I'm excited for the world to hear the many facets of his character. What's even crazier is that as a fan, I cannot believe I am actually producing songs on the same album as Dr.Dre," states Pharrell. Pharrell came in and was helped Game balance the album's harder edge songs with more melodic tracks. "It was too hard," Game said of his pre-Pharrell album. "Now it's more colorful towards the middle. Still hard, but everything got a good feel and flow to it."
Dr. Dre balances Williams' work with arguably the album's brashest song, "Dead People." On the hate-fueled record, Game's fantasizes about murdering his absentee father. The song plays out like an audio book, documenting granular details of Game's fictional ambush. As a storyteller, Game sets an artistic benchmark. In one of the verses, he takes on the persona of the three bullets fired, explaining what each bullet is thinking as it leaves the gun's chamber, descending on its victim. "Here, I come, headed for your lungs," he raps in one of the lyrics.
Game and Dr. Dre haven't worked together since The Documentary, Game's critically acclaimed debut album. After The Documentary, Game and 50 Cent began feuding which lead to Game's departure from G-Unit. Since The Documentary was a joint venture between Interscope, Dr. Dre's Aftermath and 50 Cent's G-Unit, the tension between Game and 50 Cent posed a hardship on Game's working relationship with Dr. Dre. Game's glad to be working with Dre again and said the legendary producer is insistent on culling the best work from artists. "Dre, he's a tutor," Game said. "He will make you say one line until the sun comes up."
In addition to "Dead People," Dre also provides narration for the album. Game wrote out his life story and Dre reads it for album interludes. " Game is also at his lyrical best on "Ricky," inspired by Morris Chestnut's character in the 1990 Oscar Award winning film Boyz N The Hood. The thematic song produced by DJ Khalil incorporates audio from the movie as Game unleashes autobiographical stories about hardships growing up in Compton. "I watched [Boyz N The Hood] on a bootleg VHS tape," Game said. "I watched it when I was 10 years old. It painted a vivid picture of how Los Angeles was." Plus, there is the dark, slow, eerie "Heavy Artillery" featuring Beanie Segal and Rick Ross, in which Game spews, "Eminem wasn't Dr. Dre's only sick n*gga."
Williams helps Game bridge the melodic and street elements on the album's street track, "It Must Be Me." The throwback, West Coast music bed and Game's steady spitting rhyme flow hearkens early Ice Cube. Williams also blesses Game with the braggadocios "It Must Be Tough" where he boasts about his ability to cop anything he wants, cars or women: "It must be tough, watching a n-gga ball like Carmello, my cars is all yellow, my broads is all yellow, what's wrong with y'all fellas."
Game further balances the album with an endearing ballad ode to his mother, "Mama Knows," beaming with guest vocals from Nelly Furtado. Lupe Fiasco joins him the soul-influenced "Skate On." And the party ensues on the booming "When My N-gga Come [Home]" and "Roll My Sh-t" both featuring Snoop.
Game exhibits his most creative style yet on "TKTKSONG TITLE." When Game heard Pharrell's old school track, he immediately thought Ghostface would be great to feature. However, when his initial efforts to reach the Wu-Tang Clan member were unsuccessful he decided to adopt Ghostface's rhyme style for the song.
Maybe the most surprising recent shift for Game is his decision to forego beefs. Between rifts with 50 Cent and G-Unit, Jay-Z, and Joe Budden, among countless others, Game has been involved in his fair share of hip hop feuds. But Pharrell was influential in encouraging him to spend less them focusing on trivial matters. "Pharrell was like, ‘You are like my brother and I want people to see you how I see you,'" Game said, recalling his conversation with Pharrell. "I want them to see you for who you are. I want them to see how intelligent you are, how dope you are, and how crazy your pen game is, how articulate you are. Let's try no beef." Game said the new focus is positive. "It feels different. Feels crazy. Everybody feels good."
While R.E.D. does not abandon Game's hardcore fans, the 30-year-old rapper and proud father of two boys felt it was important for his music to reflect his personal growth. "How many n-ggas can you shoot at? How hood can you keep it?" Game asks. "I fought. I shot. I been in Hot 97 shoot outs. I've been in the hood getting shot. I got two dead brothers. Grew up in a foster home. Got molested sisters. I know how much a brick weigh. How much more hood do you want me to be? Want me to be 40 years old still kicking down the door, waving the 44? I got to flip the script."
Game not only flips the script with R.E.D., he re-writes it all together.