6 - Tuesday, December 11, 2012
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Game's right 'Piece'
Kendrick Lamar pens
a Compton tragedy
After a lull, The
Game has found
By JACKSON HOWARD
Daily Arts Writer
Since being dropped from Dr.
Dre's Aftermath label, Game has
been suffering from something
as an iden-
tity crisis. His
debut, 2005's Game
mentary, and Jesus Piece
its successor, Inerscope
hailed almost instantly as land-
mark West Coast albums and
undoubtedly embodied Game's
By 2008, however, Game
seemed to have abandoned his
role as West Coast savior and
instead became, well, nothing.
His mediocre third and fourth
albums were messy, disjointed
compilations with an eye-popping
amount of guests, all of whom
Game attempted to imitate.
Game wasn't Game anymore.
Whatever identity and craft he
had on his first two albums had
disappeared by 20i1. He was
Then Jesus Piece arrived. Sud-
denly, it all makes sense. Game
wasn't wasting away over the
last six years. He was just doing
a little soul searching. Jesus Piece
is his long overdue masterpiece.
The Game who made this album
isn't Dr. Dre's protege or a style-
jacking chameleon, but instead
a real, true artist. Call him a late
bloomer, but at 33 years old, Jay-
ceon Taylor has finally found
A total of23 artists, from Jamie
Foxx to Lil Wayne, show up on
Jesus Piece. Somehow, though,
the album flows seamlessly, as
,each guest seems to understand
his place in the grand scheme
of the project. A concept album,
Jesus Piece is connected through
a theme of religion, specifically
Christianity, though it's far from
"Oh, 1 know I'm awesome."
being quoted by your neighbor-
hood pastor in his next sermon.
In "Church," a buoyant strip-
club anthem Trey Songz tells a
woman that she's "thicker than
a Bible." Throughout the album,
Game plays with different defini-
tions of religion, and he's happyto
point out on "Church" the irony
of a good Christian man leav-
ing mass to go eat some chicken
wings and "see some hoes twerk,"
a point that's hilariously empha-
sized by a subsequent skit.
The second track, "Ali Bomaye,"
featuring2 Chainz and Rick Ross,
clocks in a little long at about five
and a half minutes. That being
said, the track is so incredibly epic
that after a few listens, the length
is negligible. Over an apocalypti-
cally raucous and haunting beat,
Game namedrops Will Smith,
Usain Bolt and Kanye West in
the same verse, 2 Chainz claims
he has cologne "that cost more
than your rent" and, best of all,
Ross compares himself to Michael
Phelps while rapping about smok-
ing Hawaiian tree bark and own-
ing rifles with lasers.
The album isn't all adrenaline,
though. "Pray" finds Game trad-
ing bars with J. Cole about strug-
gling women. And on "Can't Get
Right," Game confesses his sins
and admits he was hurt when
former mentor Dr. Dre signed
Kendrick Lamar as his proteg6.
Game has moved on, though, and
it's no accident that Kendrick is
featured on the song right before,
the somber "See No Evil."
Game's albums have always
been wonderfully produced, but
Jesus Piece is even better. The
album incorporates more vocal
samples than any rap release
since The College Dropout, but
while Kanye's debut relied on
one technique - the sped-up soul
sample - Jesus Piece utilizes a
variety of sounds to create a piece
of work that plays completely dif-
ferent than anything out in rap
"Freedom" uses an early 2000s
Kanye-sounding beat, "Hallelu-
jah" is backed by a church choir
and "All That (Lady)," featuring
a lineup of Lil Wayne, Big Sean,
Fabolous and Jeremih, flips neo-
soul legend D'Angelo's hit "Lady"
into an ode to women that is both
radio-friendly and well-crafted.
"This is my life and it's exactly
how I planned it, damn it" Game
snarls on the standout title track,
which features Kanye and Com-
mon. A debatable statement
undoubtedly, especially coming
from Game, but in the context
of Jesus Piece it makes sense:
He's finally in control. The soul-
searching is over. Just like Jesus,
Game has been resurrected.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome
to the Church of Game.
By ELLIOT ALPERN
"I hope the universe loves you
today," he speaks, and the words
pool into a thick foundation of
grief, remorse and concession.
The lines could've appropri-
ately fallen on the lips of many
of literature's classic charac-
ters: Hamlet, contemplating the
nature of destiny, or Romeo peti-
tioning for fortune.
Yet this short soliloquy isn't
inscribed within the dusty tomes
of old theater scripts; it's pressed
within the crisp plastic of Ken-
drick Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d
city - a hip-hop tragedy for the
modern age. Woven into the
beats is a visceral tale of pain and
loss, a narrative carved out of the
desolate patch of concrete that is
South Central L.A.
And unfortunately it's easy
to miss - songs like "Backstreet
Freestyle" belie the existence of
anything below the "Damn I got
bitches" surface. But make no
mistake, Kendrick is as much a
playwright as he is lyricist.
I present to you:
good kid, m.A.A.d city,
Act 1: The end
Curtains open to Compton. Yet
this dusty, choking swatch of city
isn't the Compton of now, but the
Compton ofsoon. The Compton of
Kendrick Lamar is 17, red
blooded, a teenager in every
explicit sense of the term. He's
seduced by a girl - a long con, a
ruse perpetrated through Nextel
conversations in a heat-stroked
"It's deep rooted, the music of
beingyoung and dumb /It's never
muted, in fact it's much louder
where I'm from."
He's wary, justifiably so -
the girl's cousin Demetrius is
a known gang banger, but as it
is with being young and dumb,
these things pale in the spotlight
of lust. A text (the contemporary
pigeon or messenger), a reply, and
"Passing Alameda, my gas
meter in need of a pump / I got
enough to get me through the
The bumper-to-bumper scene
is one of most applicable sym-
bols - the tension, the grind,
the front-to-back friction in
shimmering heat. Kendrick
is "enthused by the touch of a
woman," drunk on the moment,
too impaired to think straight.
"I pulled up, a smile on my
face, and then I see / Two niggas,
two black hoodies, I froze as my
phone rang... "
The actual sound is jarring, the
plot climaxing all too soon (Ken-
drick perhaps a bit too enthused),
and we are flung back into the
past of a Compton timeline.
h k . % %- "
In their dangerous, kinetic
boredom, they happen to rob a
house, a "first offense" for Ken-
drick's record. The song fades
to dark. We learn in the outro
skit that Kendrick plans to go to
a girl's house later - the same
interest from the first track, yet
still in the relationship's fledgling
Interlude: Breathe Slow
Though the plot is barely
touched upon in "Swimming
Pools (Drank)," the outro skit
gives us the provocation, the act
that will set in motion'Kendrick's
own fate. As the crew's slow-
roasted crime spree stretches to
a botched drive-by shooting, the
rapper's friend Dave is himself
shot and killed.
Act 3: Dying ofthirst
IdKe spe are "I-woke up this morning and
nothing on figured I'd call you / In case 'm
not here tomorrow."
Lamar. The song "Sing About Me, I'm
Dying of Thirst" opens with the
same deceptively simple beat,
the words solemn and affective.
story picks up again with Dave's brother calls Kendrick,
rt of Peer Pressure." It's lost and confused, struggling
tat this here is the con- with the burden of loss.
n - the simple beat and "And I love you 'cause you
word echo the intro track love my brother like you did," he
verist of juxtapositions: admits - and what's a tragedy
:h a literal sequel and without love?
ogical foreshadowing). "Just promise you'll tell this
story when you make it big/ And
Act2: It's2:30 and ifI die before your album drop I
he sun is beaming hope - "
The sound of the gunshots,
h a nigga quick and then three punctuations out of step
;h about it / That's ironic with the beat, are both expected
I've never been violent, and shocking. In this delusion
n with the homies." of life, where death clings like
to the title, Kendrick disease, love seems to be worth
how being with his gang both killing and dying over. It is
im into being the antago- the intertwining string and the
's not. The crew cruises dividingblade.
osecrans, "hiotboxing like If the end of the intro track
Foreman." The intent is "Sherane" is the album's climax,
ethargic; they do nothing then this song is its culmination,
t for the inevitable some- its eulogy for the way of life that
occur. is Compton.
The "Dying of Thirst" half of
the song reinforces the unyield-
ing perception of violence in
Kendrick's life. The motif is
strong for two interlinked rea-
t-4q5 suns: The more obvious expla-
nation is that our tragic hero
$plq@g aComn is awash in sin ("I am a sinner,
who's probably going to sin
again"), and is literally dying out
of need for holy water to cleanse
b]E Mi 1Eh his soul.
The second is a monument
to his collective grief. In pay-
ing tribute to a fallen brother,
the custom is to pour a sip of
U. LOU=Sr one's drink into the earth out of
-bkA t respect for the fallen. Kendrick
a.-S 1has lost so many that he himself
A CM& 3N=l e E = is"Dying of Thirst."
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The last words here don't
need to be spoken by Kendrick,
but are rather a soliloquy from
his mom, before the events of
track one - a message left on his
"If I don't hear from you, by
tomorrow .... I hope you come
back, and learn from your mis-
takes. Come back a man, tell
your story to these black and
brown kids in Compton. Let
'em know that you was just like
them, but you still rose from
that dark place of violence... "
Just another day in Compton.
53 ;Thrcst A
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