Larger than life

By MATTHEW GASTEIER  |  December 6, 2006

It doesn’t just come through in the lyrics. “Lookin’ at You” charges up and shifts into high gear with style while female sighs float around like smoke from the engine. And if I were Jay, I would be seriously pissed at Kanye and Just Blaze. Last time around, the College Dropout gave the Game what may have been his best beat ever with “Dreams,” and here he almost tops that on “Wouldn’t Get Far,” a track that knocks shouts and stabs around the channels like tennis balls. Just Blaze may have come out of Kingdom Come looking better than any of the other high-profile producers associated with it, but here he shines, particularly on “Why You Hate the Game,” an epic closer that Nas easily steals with lines like “Pro-black, I don’t pick cotton out of aspirin bottles.”

Although the bangers are everywhere on this unapologetically commercial rap disc, the darker tracks triumph — like the title cut, where the Game raps drunk and dejected, addressing Dre: “Sitting here looking at my platinum plaques/Thinking what the fuck am I without a Dr. Dre track.” It’s a raw and brilliant five minutes, the best emotional performance you’ll find these days outside of a Ghostface record. But his point is arguable: if Dre’s four tracks on Jay-Z’s record couldn’t save it, there’s no reason to think the Game needs anyone but his own crew of producers. That his estimable sales (and debut at #1) don’t compare to Jay’s may speak to the limits of the true hip-hop audience: while the Game was doing the traditional thing and releasing his first single to the streets, Jay was premiering his jam on ESPN. It’s the difference between a star and a celebrity, an artist and a legend. Doctor’s Advocate may be a crystallization of the genre, but Jay-Z’s just a concept now, a reason for anyone to say, “I like hip-hop too.”

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