A red book titled “All About Me” sits on a coffee table in The Game’s suburban home, next to a collection of Tupac’s poetry and the Taschen book “Black Ladies.”
It’s the kind of text meant for “self-discovery,” with personal questions about beliefs, hopes and life experiences alongside space for readers to write their answers. A friendly inscription from a woman named Elizabeth asks Game to use the book as a tool to find out what’s important to him.
Game hasn’t written a single word inside.
Perhaps fittingly. For nearly two years, the constantly feuding rapper has been forced to define himself by what he is NOT.
After a clash of egos with 50 Cent, he’s not part of the G-Unit clique any more — now Game shouts “G-U-NOT” on stage. Superstar producer Dr. Dre sided with 50 in the feud, so Game is no longer on Dre’s Aftermath label. Game’s not living in Compton, the gritty birth city of gangster rap, which he references religiously in his lyrics.
So with Tuesday’s release of his hotly anticipated second CD, “Doctor’s Advocate,” comes a big opportunity: Game gets to portray himself on his own terms.
No hooks warbled by 50 Cent, as on his chart-topping singles from last year, “How We Do” and “Hate It Or Love It.” No beats from Dre.
“’Doctor’s Advocate’ is about me. And that’s just it,” Game told The Associated Press. “It’s about me doing what I want to do, and me doing it by myself. I’ve always wanted to have my own situation, be my own man and kind of just go into solo artist mode. I wanted to be a Dre. I want to be an Eminem. I want to be a Jay-Z, a Nas. I think at the early stages of my career I’m on the right path.”
Dre's name keeps coming up
Maybe. But this all sounds a bit disingenuous coming from hip-hop’s most notorious name-dropper. Despite a wealth of beats from A-list producers — Just Blaze, Swizz Beatz, Kanye West, Jonathan “JR” Rotem — nary a song passes on “Doctor’s Advocate” in which Dre’s name isn’t invoked in some form or another.
He’s at his most explicit on the slow-burning, emotional title track: “Even though sometimes I run loose, you still my homeboy Doc, I take a bullet for you. ... Remember when we got drunk to do ‘Start from Scratch,’ I told you you was like a father to me. I meant that.”
Though he’s made it clear in previous interviews he feels he owes his life to being discovered by Dre and pulled off the Compton streets, why does every track shout out Dre, particularly after they’ve parted ways?
It’s a touchy subject. “The number one reason is I’m the Game and I do what ... I wanna do. And that’s pretty much why I am who I am. And also why I am as big as I am,” he answers. “I got the same attitude that Tupac had.”
Game is easily compelling enough to stand alone as an artist — hard-hitting solo tracks like the Scott Storch-produced “Too Much” on the new CD shine on the strength of his gruff voice.
Yet he doesn’t want to be alone. If Dre, 50 and Eminem won’t play with him, maybe the rest of the rap industry will: The “One Blood” remix enlists more than 20 rappers from across the country in an epic, messy 11 minute-plus free-for-all.
And when Game appeared at a recent concert in Hollywood being taped for MTV2, he told the crowd, “You didn’t come to see me. You came to see the West Coast.” He proceeded to rap alongside veterans Xzibit and Nas, G-funk crooner Nate Dogg, reggae artist Junior Reid and singer Marsha Ambrosius.
In concert, he’s more charming and less thuggish than you’d think — at one point kneeling down and telling an embarrassed Ambrosius, “I will kiss your Converses.” He also hoisted his son Harlem onto his shoulders as the two danced.
“My son, who’s 3 1/2 now, that’s always my motivator and my inspiration. So whenever I get with him, that fueled with my ... attitude, I can get out there and do anything,” Game said.
During an interview in his living room, the 26-year-old MC (real name: Jayceon Taylor) looked the part of a wealthy stay-at-home dad, wearing a white T-shirt, And 1 basketball shorts and red Louis Vuitton slippers while sipping from a fruit drink.
His son had been shipped off to preschool in Woodland Hills for the day, and he’d lined up a series of interviews, including a spot on MTV “Cribs” where he was showing off his cars — including a Lamborghini, Bentley, Range Rover and Land Rover.
Despite his 6-foot-4 height, Game seems smaller in person than his videos and scowling photos would have you believe. He has an expressive baby face and a tendency to gaze thoughtfully downward during conversation.
He’s at his most animated, and perhaps most nervous, when discussing his relationship with Dr. Dre:
“We’re still great friends. As hip-hop artists and producers — just being among hip-hop’s elite as far as Dre’s production and my lyrics are concerned — we’ve kind of like, you know, grew apart a little bit. Because like I don’t need Dre to sort of be right over my shoulder, looking over me to make sure I do it right. I studied under Dre for the last three and a half, almost four years, man, and I think I’ve learned a lot. Maybe not all that I need to learn, but I’ve learned a real, real substantial amount.
“I still talk to Dre on maybe a weekly basis. It’s never really about music, it’s more about life. Dre plays sort of a big brother in hip-hop at this point. As well as my friends like Snoop and Busta Rhymes and Kanye” — all of whom appear on the new album.
Game stops himself. Moves back on message. “But I’m on my own now. This is show and prove. This is grow up and show up or shut up,” he said. “We’ll see what the people think.”