en: The Documentary [info]
Mainstream hip-hop in 2005 is a pretty contradictory beast: corporate, lawless, angry, humorous, moralistic, sentimental, clever and stupid - often in the space of a single track, from the lips of the same rapper.
Breaking it down, the divide looks pretty simple. On the one hand you've got your fantasy world of MTV Cribs: That's ostentatious displays of wealth, pimped-up rides, booty shakin laydeez and enough ice for a rink. On the other you've got your street. That's hustling, surly men in vests, fallen soldiers with a taste for pitbull breeding.
Those living the latter want the former. Those living the former need the latter. Credibility means 'keeping it real' (ie getting shot five times), and credibility is all. In this vacuum, where fantasy ends and reality begins, exists the genre of gangster rap.
And into this scenario, enter Compton resident Jayceon Taylor, aka The Game, the latest in the long line of hip-hop survivors and one whose encountered two slices of good fortune. First when he survived a three-day coma after taking those five bullets, and second having Dr Dre there to greet him when he woke up.
With such a CV the music is probably irrelevant. But sonically-speaking, The Documentary is one of the best major label hip-hop albums of recent years. The guest producers- includingDre, Kanye West, Just Blaze and Eminem - proffer a near faultless succession of hi-tech beats and ominously catchy hooks.
Its basically G-Funk 05-style, and as a successor to Straight Outta Compton, The Chronic, Doggystyle and Get Rich Or Die Trying, The Documentary is a worthy one.
The only downfall is lyrical. Taylor may spin a great life story, but he's a pretty mediocre rapper rarely able to transcend either his heroes (this is a man who sports an NWA tattoo) or the cliched thuggery of the genre.
The result is probably the ultimate fanboy album - musically brilliant, but otherwise curiously sterile. The Game ticks all the requisite boxes and will no doubt get propelled to Crib heaven off the back of it, but whether he remains a long-term fixture is open to question.