The Game: Jonathan Mannion
Raymond Fiore
January 24, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

If you were a young rapper recording your major-label debut, who would you draft for your dream team of collaborators? Probably Kanye West, Just Blaze, and Dr. Dre for some fresh-outta-the-oven beats. 50 Cent and Eminem for a few killer cameos. And, of course, Mary J. Blige and Faith Evans for some hood-friendly hooks to satisfy the female R&B base. Bam! You’re practically certified platinum before that baby’s been mixed and mastered.

Such is the fortuitous fate of 25-year-old Compton MC the Game, who was teamed with all of the above for his auspicious Documentary. With his signing to Dre’s Aftermath empire in 2002, he was anointed heir apparent to the West Coast gangsta rap throne. And as a result, production biggies have brought some truly tasty heat rockets to the table, nearly rendering Game’s well-studied, adaptable flow an afterthought. Take ”Put You on the Game,” a Timbaland club track so crunkalicious, it’s almost shocking that a California newbie — not a Ludacris — was the recipient of its deep-fried Southern charms. Still, the matchup’s a smart move; while he may always be repping for Compton, the neo?West Coast savior’s throaty thug-life sound also has roots in other regions. On the title track, he all but admits to being a pastiche of bicoastal influences by name-dropping works by iconic artists. But when the cocksure Game places his CD on a par with these seminal discs (”Until they sign my Death Certificate, All Eyez on Me/I’m still at it Illmatic and that’s The Documentary”), his formidable talent is tainted by spectacular hubris. No matter: With the brightest hip-hop stars aligning for him, the Game may have willed himself a popular masterpiece.

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