Written by Silas Valentino
36-year-old Jayceon Taylor is having a banner year. Known to us plebs as The Game, 2016 has been a succession of little successes for the Compton rapper. He released two albums over the summer: Streets of Compton in June, the original soundtrack for an A&E documentary of the same name, and the quick follow up Block Wars in July, another soundtrack but for The Game’s own Atari-produced mobile game. And then a mere three months later he returns with his latest release, 1992, his 8th studio album. All of this comes just one calendar year after he released his previous LP The Documentary 2. Just listing these releases is almost obnoxious but just goes to prove that The Game is all about the hustle.
1992 was a pivotal year (this measly rock writer was born that very Valentine’s Day) but to the then 12-year-old Taylor, the year was riddled with conflict. As depicted on the album artwork – completed by none other than Darryl “Joe Cool” Daniel who fashioned Snoop’s Doggystyle artwork – 1992 was a tumultuous time of the Rodney King beating, O.J. Simpson’s media parade and the Los Angeles race riots. Yet at the center of the album’s artwork, and at the center of the album itself, is The Game, pulled apart by Bloods and Crips plus the world at large.
Translating these disputes into dialogue, The Game treats 1992 as a nostalgic call back that pays respects to his heroes as he upheaves his various roots. Before a single line is delivered, album opener “Savage Lifestyle” begins with a news segment comparing visuals of the Rodney King race riot to Operation Desert Storm as a sample of Marvin Gaye’s seminal “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” starts to creep in. The Game soon follows with a steady flow calling out “the trap” where “red and blue don’t matter when you black.” He describes gun smoke filling the air, contempt for President Bush and “Niggas robbin’ liquor stores with taped up ‘Duck Hunt’ guns,” a sharp use of imagery that plays on the innocence lost of a 12-year-old boy submerged in violence and chaos.
The sampling of old school beats doesn’t stop with Gaye and later in the album The Game remixes “Colors” by Ice-T and the Wu-Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M.” 1992 is far in the rearview and The Game isn’t through with paying his dues.
Topping off the album is the Tupac-referencing “All Eyez” (clearly a nod to ‘Pac’s landmark All Eyes on Me album) but unlike any of the philosophical gangster rap expressed on the former, “All Eyez” is a lady-loving slow jam featuring the R&B crooner Jeremih. Over a bouncy beat with glossy production, it takes a full 38 seconds before The Game appears to prove that this is actually one of his tracks and not a mistake. Without any context and with a fresh pair of ears, if “All Eyez” came onto the radio, chances are listeners would be strapping in for a Justin Bieber-like single. It’s that poppy, trading left hooks for the left field.
Even though this a honey-smooth track is rumored to be about model Karrueche Tran, you can’t teach new tricks to an old dawg and The Game spends part of the time blasting young foes: “Back when lame niggas hit you with the one liners/All sounding the same like Future and Desiigner.”
The music video for the single matches the polished production with images of The Game snuggling up with his lady friend while enjoying the ultra-affluent side of life, but the boy has been officially taken out of Compton when at the 1-minute mark he’s seen slipping his feet into some sandals, socks intact. This may very well be the visual that ultimately discredits The Game. Or he’s just comfy – we all get to decide.
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