He loves it when you call him Big Poppa.

It's August 2010, and 30-year-old Jayceon "Game" Taylor is about to have his third child, but it feels like it is his first. He just got a call from his girlfriend of more than five years, Tiffany, and learned that her water has burst.

He rushes home and sees the woman he wants to marry one day sitting on the floor. Tiffany doesn’t want to get up, because the pain is so commanding. In true Game fashion, he makes a joke, saying, “If you don’t want to get up, I’m going to take you to the bootleg hospital.” Within minutes, she’s up and out the door, en route to the hospital. The birth of their daughter, Cali, will be videotaped, and the audio of the auspicious occasion will serve as the ending moments to Game’s fourth LP, The R.E.D. Album, via the track “California Dream.”

“It makes you soft, man,” Game would explain a year later, this past August, in Manhattan during a quick ride from his Times Square hotel to BET’s Midtown studio, about having a daughter. “As hard as you try to be, it softens you up. At the end of the day, whatever I’m doing, I remember not to take it overboard, because I’m here for my little girl. She makes me whole. I love her to death. I can see my future in her, man.”

A year ago, during that same summer of Cali’s birth, it was assumed that Game would put out The R.E.D. Album. But with no single in the marketplace, the good folks at Interscope/Geffen had alternate plans. They wanted the proper setup to release the project. Game went back in the lab, in pursuit of a suitable lead cut, with his mentor of almost a decade, Dr. Dre. Since the end of 2009, the two had resumed working closely together, on both The R.E.D. Album and another in-limbo offering, the Doc’s long-anticipated Detox.

The duo connected on a record they felt could hit the jackpot: a cut called “Drug Test,” which DJ Khalil produced and Dre raps on. After the two Compton icons laid their vocals at Paramount’s Encore studios, in Burbank, California, Game knew something was missing, so he called in Snoop Dogg to add his swag-covered paw prints. Within hours, the D-O-Double-G arrived to the studio, wearing sweatpants and house shoes. Between puffs of shared greenery, Snoop got in the booth and kicked some familiar rhymes while Game and his gang sat down smiling. “May…I…kick a little something for the G’s and/Make a few ends as I breeze through,” Snoop raps. “The shit on my hip is a fuckin’ preview, and guess what it leads to.”

Just like that, they had a winner. “You good, nephew?” Snoop said to Game, before he glided off into the night. “I’m straight, unc,” Game responded happily. “Anything you need, you hit me,” Dogg added before making his exit.

But even though the on-paper combination of Dre, Snoop and Game (newcomer Sly also appears on the finished version of the record) seemed like a no-brainer to ignite the radio and officially kick-start R.E.D.’s release, it wouldn’t be ’til just about a year later that “Drug Test” and the LP that spawned it would see the light of day. “[Getting] Dre to rap, that was easy,” Game says about the song. The man dubbed “Hurricane” is now firmly in chill mode at BET’s studios, getting ready to tape two episodes of the channel’s most successful program, 106 & Park. “We was working on Detox, and we was working on R.E.D. … Now just because you get Dre to rap on something doesn’t mean you gonna get to keep it at the end of the day. That’s the thing.”

Game started his first session for The R.E.D. Album in late 2008, with plans for Pharrell Williams to executive produce and, of course, be one of the few track masters to provide beats. After several months and close to a dozen tracks in with Skateboard P, the Cali rhyme slinger got the call from Dr. Dre to come in and resume work on Detox, a project Game says he has worked on with his mentor on and off for the entirety of his eight-year professional career. That’s when the Doc inspired a different feel to The R.E.D. Album. “Dr. Dre. came in and said, ‘This is The R.E.D. Album? Cool. But you need this, this, and this and that,’ ” Game says of the shift in his focus. “I was like, ‘Well, where am I gonna get this, this, this and that?’ He was like, ‘We here, ain’t we?’

“We started working on The R.E.D. Album, and some of the songs we did for The R.E.D. Album he snatched for Detox. Then we worked on some more, and he gave me more for R.E.D. At that time, I was probably the happiest I was in my career. Back working with Dre. Working really closely. Our relationship has always been real easygoing, man. Especially when it comes to the music.”

Despite providing heavy input on R.E.D., Dr. Dre and Pharrell have just one song each on the LP that they produced. Most of the tracks were helmed by La Mar “Mars” Edwards, from the collective of musicians and producers 1500OrNothin. “We’ve been working on The R.E.D. Album for two, three years,” says Mars, who also wound up being a co–executive producer on the album. “He still has half of the album he has from two years ago. That goes to show you how artistic he is and how he knows what he wants. It was just fun. It was just fun records.

Us doing those fun songs was cool because he didn’t have them. Then we had to get back to the core of who Game is and why people bought [his] albums, Doctor’s Advocate and The Documentary. The whole project was between gettin’ it done and taking it back to whoever.”

In total, Game recorded more than 100 songs for his new album. He worked with everyone from the YMCMB family to
T.I. to Yelawolf to a woman he used to lyrically terrorize during his stint as a member of G-Unit, Ashanti. Most of the records, obviously, didn’t make the cut. Songs like the Pharrell Williams–produced “Ain’t No Doubt About It,” featuring Justin Timberlake, hit the Internet unsanctioned, while Game himself leaked a myriad of others, like the Dre-produced and Ashanti-featured “Soft Rhodes,” on various mixtapes, such as Hoodmorning (No Typo): Candy Coronas. Ironically, neither Dre nor Pharrell has heard the album in its completed state. “I didn’t play the whole album for either one of them,” Game says. “They both were instrumental to the conception of it. But I don’t have to do that. They both know I can do it. I stopped sending people music when it got to the last two months. Nobody knows what the entire album sounds like except my engineer. [The album] was a little dark. But at the end, I did songs with Wale and [Rick] Ross and Mario. We got to the end of the album, and I was like, ‘We ain’t
got no songs for the bitches. None.’