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LAX

Game

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Album Review

After two albums driven by his worship of legendary West Coast producer Dr. Dre plus feuds with fellow rappers like 50 Cent and the G-Unit crew, the Game's third official effort is his least important release to date and the strongest argument yet that it just might be time to move on. The cuts that truly matter on LAX aren't the ones where the rapper's hardcore, unswayable definition of loyalty comes into play but the ones that go outside the usual topics and explore both the profound (the African-American struggle) and, more surprisingly, the profane (rump shaking). Most rappers are allowed only one shoutout track every couple albums, but here the name-dropping initial single "Game's Pain" is only the tip of the iceberg. Common and Lil Wayne not only guest star, but get mentioned repeatedly on an album that replaces the heavy shadow of Dre by dropping names from all over the place (Kanye West, Erick Sermon, Rakim, LL Cool J, Luther Campbell, Kurt Cobain, just to name a few). It's nowhere near as compelling as his previous Dre obsession, and with the Game having avoided the sophomore slump while becoming commonly accepted as in it for the long haul, the "everyone is out to get me" lines all seem like leftovers. In this ponderous for ponderousness' sake atmosphere, the mention of Chili Cheese Fritos in "House of Pain" brings sweet relief, and when the rapper refers to his woman as "beautiful as an Eli Manning pass," it's just one of the reasons the feel-good "Touchdown" is a highlight. Excuse the vocoder and Lil Wayne's appearance on "My Life" is big time, but the bar is raised high on the closing "Letter to the King." Exploring how the legacy of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King affected his own life, the Game pulls out the "ghetto grammar" on the track and offers both moving words of reverence and unapologetic controversy ("I wonder why Jesse Jackson ain't catch 'em before his body drop/Would he give me that answer, probably not"). Add the "Jam on It" sample producer Nottz lays on "Ya Heard," the sultry backing track Scott Storch designed for "Let Us Live," and a superstar guest list that's a mile long, and this scattershot album is easy to recommend despite its flaws.

LAX, Game
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