When gangsta-rap revivalist The Game recorded The Documentary, his brash, chart-topping 2005 debut, he enjoyed all the perks that come with being a part of Dr. Dre's extended family. 50 Cent supplied criminally smooth verses. Eminem laid down a particularly vicious salvo. And mentor Dre hip-hop's most revered beatmaker expertly co-produced nearly half the tracks. But shortly after the CD's release, The Game (né Jayceon Taylor) found himself in a brutal rap battle with 50's G-Unit clan, much to Dre's displeasure. Possibly as a result, his second LP, Doctor's Advocate, features zero contributions from the good Dr. Or 50 Cent. Or Eminem. And it doesn't live up to the nihilistic brilliance of The Documentary.
But the N.W.A-worshipping roughneck doesn't fall flat on his face, either. That's mostly because many of the other hitmakers who helped out on Documentary are still returning his calls. Kanye West, for example, once again mines gold from jubilant '70s soul on ''Wouldn't Get Far,'' which playfully pokes fun at opportunistic groupies (''Would you ride with Ne-Yo if he was in a Geo?'' quips West in a laugh-out-loud verse). ''Remedy'' finds Jay-Z producer Just Blaze pilfering Public Enemy's hard-hitting sound while The Game inhabits the diabolical spirit of pre-movie star Ice Cube, spewing historical conspiracy theories involving Andrew Jackson getting high off cocaine. And the rapper's gruff delivery juxtaposes nicely with beatsmith Scott Storch's ABBA-inspired disco-thump and singer Nate Dogg's clean tones on ''Too Much.''
It's when copycat producers are brought in to fill in for the missing Dre that the CD strays into generic, second-rate territory. On opener ''Lookin' at You,'' The Game claims ''I'll never fall off even without the Doc,'' but the track's farting horns and annoying chorus suggest otherwise. The song would clearly benefit from a sticky, sing-song refrain from 50 or Em. Lowlights like ''Bang'' and ''Let's Ride,'' which recycle Dre's signature high-pitched synths and plinking pianos, are marred by stale rhymes chronicling cartoonish gangbanging. And though Swizz Beatz doesn't try to ape Dre on his ''Scream on 'Em,'' the track's agonized grunts both signify and induce discomfort.
Apart from the obvious sonic references to Dre, The Game name-checks his onetime father figure a whopping 38 times. The most affecting instance is on the title track, where, in a rare moment of vulnerability, the remorseful MC admits he ''betrayed'' his guru. ''Sittin' here lookin' at my platinum plaques,'' he croaks, ''thinkin' what the f--- am I without a Dr. Dre track?'' Still respectable but he might want to avoid alienating any more friends.