January 20, 2005

With Dre & Co. on the beats, let The Game Begin
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

The hype surrounding The Game made him seem more like a marketing gimmick than a rapper. Dr. Dre signed him to Aftermath because he was from Compton, home of gangsta rap pioneers NWA. 50 Cent made him a member of G-Unit because he also got shot during a botched drug deal.

No one knew whether he could actually rap, but The Game could definitely star as a video game character in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

His debut album, The Documentary, proves The Game is more than a cheap publicity stunt and might re-establish the otherwise lifeless West Coast hip-hop scene.

The Game's lyrical content won't send listeners reaching for the rewind button with astonishment, but the album's superb production and The Game's decent flow guarantees listeners won't need to skip any tracks either.

The production roster on The Documentary is absolutely preposterous for a debut album. Jay-Z had to release ten albums before he got this sort of all-star line-up to produce The Black Album.

Timbaland, Kanye West, Just Blaze, Eminem, and Hi-Tek each bless The Game's grimy growl with fresh beats. But lest we forget the lessons of the 2004 Yankees, a superstar line-up doesn't automatically guarantee a championship.

Fortunately, Dr. Dre serves as sonic director, lending a cohesiveness to The Documentary that's rare on albums with so many producers. Dre put more effort into The Game than he has with any of his Aftermath projects since 50 Cent's debut. Surprisingly, the five tracks Dre produced, including the old-school g-funk in "How We Do," aren't the best beats on the album.

Just Blaze produced the hottest track on The Black Album ("Public Service Announcement") and now brings his infamous horns to two of the best beats on The Documentary, "Church for Thugs" and "No More Fun and Games."

Apparantly, Kanye West has recently discovered the 33 RPM button on his turntable and his offering, "Dreams," is a nice departure from his typical violin solos and sped-up samples.

The Game is outshined by both 50 Cent and Dungeon Family producers Cool and Dre on the album's best track, "Hate It or Love It." 50 Cent's mellifluous flow glides effortlessly, whether it's from verse to hook or from rapping to singing.

Here and throughout the album, The Game raps barely well enough to justify the beat. Every once in a while he will utter a mildly clever line, but he mainly spends his verses reminiscing about NWA, 2Pac, and the good ol' days of West Coast hip-hop. Just in case anyone was not aware of his affiliation with Dre, The Game references the doctor 35 times in 70 minutes.

There's really nothing mentionable about The Game as a rapper, but The Documentary bangs from beginning to the end, perfect for driving fast with the speakers blasting.
2004's worth remembering
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

There were a lot of rap songs I liked in 2004 that I would prefer to never hear again. The shelf life of radio-friendly hip-hop is extremely brief, after which the initially catchy beat gets stale and goes bad.

Music shouldn't be reviewed immediately after it's released, as first impressions can be deceiving. The funky synth on J-Kwon's "Tipsy" was delicious upon its first taste, but six months later the beat sounds like a cheap, silly version of Queen's "We Will Rock You."

Now that we have some distance between us and 2004, it's time to look back at what is worth remembering from the year passed. There were plenty of pleasant songs on the radio this year, but only a few had anything more going for them than a novelty of newness. The following songs are the ones that will last:


Nas "Bridging the Gap" [ft. Olu Dara]
Nas and his pops collaborate to bridge the unnecessary gap between hip-hop and music. Jazz legend Olu Dara struts and swaggers his way through a thumping beat, telling stories about his music career and raising the young Nasir Jones.

Jay-Z "99 Problems"
Rick Rubin emerged from his hip-hop hibernation to craft the heaviest rock/rap beat since "Fight for Your Right." The wee Beastie Boys could never handle a beat this thick, but Jay-Z does justice to the bearded guru's offering. Hopefully, we won't be forced to wait another ten years for the next Rubin beat like we did for this one.

Cee-lo "I'll Be Around"
How could Cee-lo possibly be inconspicuous when his flow is so doggone ridiculous? He might be the soul machine, but Timbaland's bouncing, twittering trumpets provide Cee-lo with his fuel.


Franz Ferdinand "Take Me Out"
There's beauty in the breakdown. Somewhere between 54 and 55 seconds into the song, the whole track falls apart and reemerges anew with a different beat. The transition begs for listeners' accompaniment on the air drums, with full headbanging action.

Eminem "Rain Man"
On an otherwise mediocre album, "Rain Man" was a hilarious throwback to what made Eminem great in the first place. You might think Eminem must have been tripping on mushrooms to write such a strange, abstract song. Eminem is famous for his irreverence for authority and celebrity, but never before has he been so indifferent to the rules of song structure. After a few minutes of ambiguously gay miniature golf and accidentally killing Christopher Reeve, Eminem brags, "I ain't even gotta make any goddamn sense, I just did a whole song and didn't say shit."