big release of the week
Kendrick Lamar was anointed king of West Coast hip-hop last year thanks to an arresting, inventive debut, Good kid, mAAd city, which captured a life less ordinary in his native Los Angeles.
Until Lamar's arrival on the scene, Jayceon Terrell Taylor – aka The Game – had bestrode LA like a colossus. The rapper's 2005 debut album, The Documentary, had garnered the sort of praise that Lamar is currently enjoying, but he's been more hit than miss since then.
And so it continues with this, his fifth album, which was released in the US just before Christmas but has yet to make significant inroads on this side of the pond.
The title – and the striking black Jesus image which adorns the cover of the "deluxe" version – hints at a spiritual concept album, but despite song names such as Pray, Church and Heaven's Arms this is a comparatively conventional rap album whose preoccupations with guns, girls and bling is practically the stuff of parody.
There are numerous references to "sin" and "salvation," though, and its creator claims that while this album celebrates the gangsta lifestyle, it's one that finds a place for Christ.
That said, it's highly unlikely that lovers of Contemporary Christian Music will be opening their arms to The Game any time soon.
Can you imagine this country's only Christian radio station, Spirit FM, embracing Church and its strip-club preoccupations?
"You ain't 'bout that life," the track insists. "You don't bounce that ass like, 'Oh, Lord!'/ Then climb back up the pole and meet Christ."
The rousing Hallelujah, which features actor Jamie Foxx, is unlikely to convert the meek either: "Halle-motherf***in'-lujah/ All my real niggas, I salute ya/ All the bad bitches, I'm-a run through ya/ Hop in my holy ghost, hallelujah!" Blasphemous it may be for some, but it boasts a catchiness that's undeniable.
A whopping 27 guests appear on this album – a veritable who's who of contemporary rap including Kanye West and the aforementioned Kendrick Lamar as well as Rick Ross, Pusha T and Lil Wayne. It's a show of power that reflects The Game's status in his genre, but it also has the unfortunate effect of making him feel like a bystander on his own album.
He's at his best when settling scores against old enemies, as revealed on the incendiary Blood of Christ. Although this track is only available on the bloated, messy and over-long "deluxe" edition.
KEY TRACKS Blood of Christ; Hallelujah