I'm saying it straight out the gate. The sophomore slump has officially been avoided. Take some time to think about this comment. How rare is it (these days) that a major release, actually lives up to or exceeds an artists critically acclaimed debut, albeit one short year later? And what makes this feat by The Game even more impressive is the lack of 50 Cent's AND Dr. Dre's assistance – and he makes sure you know it.
Quite simply, in my opinion, and it is just that – an opinion, The Game has firmly established himself as one of Hip Hop's most enigmatic characters with The Doctors Advocate. He's already reached superstar status, and while far from legendary, The Game is fast becoming a true rap icon. He embodies everything that has been far too absent from the genre, for far too long. You can't deny his enthusiasm, his hunger and his vigor. He reached multi-platinum success with 2005's The Documentary, got kicked to the curb by his mentor and crew 50 Cent and G-Unit, and consequently some might argue, brought down the empire that is Curtis 'Interscope' Jackson and his band of brothers. To top it off, when he revealed that Dr. Dre, an integral part of his fantastic debut album, was not contributing to Doctors Advocate, everyone was quick to write him off as a one-album wonder, destined to fade to black. The Game's utter defiance in light of these circumstances should have been a sign that he could pull his shit together and give the middle finger to the doubters.
The Doctors Advocate, picks up where The Documentary left off. The superstar line-up of producers returns, sans Dre, with Kanye, Just Blaze, Scott Storch, Hi-Tek and Swizz Beatz all contributing on Game's second foray. The album acts as a quasi-dedication to Dre, and many will hark back to the main criticism of The Documentary, Game's constant 'name-dropping'. You'll be hard pressed to find a track on DA where the West Coast legend isn't mentioned, but that's kind of the point, Game's signal of respect and homage to the man who helped piece together the artist he is today (at times Game sounds remarkably similar to Dre), the ushering in of a new era without him, and a final thank-you. Who knows whether we will see the two combine again.
The album kicks off with 'Lookin At You', and with the flick of a match, Game ignites vintage West Coast production from Urban EP Pope making a clear statement:
Guess who's back on the West Coast tracks/
It's the muthafuckin messiah of gangsta rap/
Still dippin the 6-4, still puffin on the same chronic/
Haters mad cos I still got it.
And by the time DJ Khalil chimes in with 'Da Shit', you'll definitely notice The Game has a decidedly more West Coast state of mind from that of The Documentary. Hip-Hop to Pop superstar Will.I.Am features and produces 'Compton', and while I had my reservations, it turns out to be a solid homage to the streets where Game plied his illicit trades. 'Remedy' from Just Blaze would sound absolutely in place if you turned on the radio in LA in 1992, with menacing pianos, monster drums and trademark scratches on the hook, Game matching the production with a flow reminiscent of Cube or Pac but at the same time making it entirely his own. It's that good. 'California Vacation' cements the West Coast feel, with Game, Snoop and Xzibit all contributing to the thick, gangsta-certified hi-fi of Jonathan JR Rotem's pimped out production.
One thing that will also become apparent are the parallels Doctors Advocate has with The Documentary. 'Remedy' is the new 'No More Fun and Games'. 'Doctors Advocate' with Busta Rhymes finds Game drunk again and confessing his innermost feelings on his relationship with Dre, with Aftermath and with himself, and is an updated 'Start from Scratch'. And 'Ol' English' with production from Hi-Tek is another narrative-driven track about The Game's entry and experiences with gang-life and the choices and consequences that he has had to endure, the 2006 'Runnin'. While evoking memories of his last album, Game still manages to keep them fresh new entries of his growing catalogue of solid songs.
The end of the album is what stops it from being a truly amazing follow-up. Tracks like the average and disjointed 'Bang' with Kurupt and Daz have little point, further proving that producer Jelly Roll cannot make a good cut to save himself, and 'Around the World' with Jamie Foxx is a typical ladies joint that is in reality, above average but perhaps should have been placed on the album a bit earlier, stifling the momentum that Doctors Advocate had built up to this point. I could literally go through every track here, because there is so many I haven't mentioned such as the cynical but soulful ode to groupies on 'Wouldn't Get Far' with Kanye, the double hit of Scott Storch on the initially ordinary but ultimately enjoyable 'Lets Ride' and 'Too Much' with Nate Dogg, and the album closer where Nas, Game and Marsha from Floetry all contribute to a 9 minute long Just Blaze track, but I'll let you discover the rest for yourself – there has to be some surprises.
On Doctors Advocate, The Game has shown his boldness, his evolution, and his roots. Many will value the fact that The Game is not afraid to rep the West to the death, and you can tell he means it. He doesn't get bogged down in taking shots at 50 (he's already done enough dis tracks for a whole album), but when he does mention his former friend, it is done with maturity and respectability which is quietly admirable. While not matching the brilliance of his debut, Game has followed up with a great album; one of the years's best, impressively crafting two distinct records which have been influenced by two chaotic periods in his whirlwind career. Game has just proven he has the future ability to leave a massive footprint in Hip-Hop. Bring on the next installment.