Ever since Game stepped on the scene, I've been skeptical of the guy's skills. If he's top 5 like some of my constituents propose, then hip-hop is truly in the toilet bowl. Cause Game don't be saying shit when he rhymes. Like seriously, he's got his moments, but what the fuck is he talking about 90% of the time? I give it to him, his flow has definitely improved, and he's got a good voice and good delivery, and in general he's a good "rapper." But to make him out to be anything more than that would be foolish.

I had zero expectations for LAX. I actually figured it'd probably suck, because well, everything I'd heard was pretty underwhelming and sounded much worse than the couple singles he had out from the last LP (which I actually thought was a pretty remarkable album, mainly because of the beats). That said, I know I'm sort of a music journalist and all (not a hat I wear too confidently these days, what with all the fuckery going on in rap music), but I have no idea when LAX is even supposed to drop. So for whatever it's worth, here's my preview of the leaked version of the LP I downloaded a few hours ago. RIAA, holler at your fucking boy.

1) "Intro"- is this DMX? What the fuck? This is one guy I’d try to stay away from hanging with on a regular basis.

2) "L.A.X. Files" (JR Rotem)- nice piano little piano progression over triple time drums, cool little strings come in and out in the background sporadically. Game name-dropping throughout the whole song, is he gonna do this again for the whole album?

3) "State of Emergency" ft. Ice Cube (JR Rotem)- got some cool Paper Thin-like drums underneath a little Yamaha DX-7 synth line. Too bad there’s no verse from Cube.

4) "Bulletproof Diaries" ft. Raekwon (Jelly Roll)- this joint is all deep rolling bass and hard drums, and there’s a soul sample buried somewhere in there, but it’s not really all that identifiable under synth blurps and drum rolls.

5) "My life" ft. Lil Wayne (Cool N Dre)- I don’t know if the leaked version I have is official or what, but if it is, then this has to be the worst mix on a record I’ve heard in a long time. Game’s vocals are way too loud, I can barely hear the instrumentation in the track, which is actually pretty damn good, despite being kinda sappy sounding.

6) "Money" (Cool N Dre)- starts with these chopped up vocal samples of the word “Money” arranged in a nice little melody, backed by pianos and synthesizers. The hook incorporates some wordplay with the word “Money,” which is not necessarily new technique, but it comes off well here. This is the best song so far, although it’s kind long and gets boring after a while.

7) "Cali Sunshine" ft. Bilal (Nottz)- This is one of them joints that when it first comes on it makes you scrunch your face up and just nod your head uncontrollably. Beat heads will love it. Got Nottz trademark rolling bass line over some weird little banjo-type melody, and all this interesting percussion going on. Another joint I think could have been mixed better, but oh well.

8) "Ya Heard" ft. Ludacris (Nottz)- another really solid Nottz track, with these rising sine wave synths over drums that swing off-beat in a good way. Just a complete side note, sounds like Fat Joe wrote Game’s verse on this, or at least inspired some of the flow, cause I could swear Joe was spitting when it was actually Game. I mean, they both kinda suck, so what difference does it make, but just saying.

9) "Hard Liquor" Interlude ft. Nas- not sure what track that is in the background, but that shit bangin as fuck.

10) "House of Pain" (DJ Toomp)- when this first came on I thought, wow this is some terrible wannabee rap rock shit. Even though the rock guitars get built up with horns and pianos and other instruments, there’s no way to take away from the fact that this 6-note melody just flat out sucks. Low point of the LP so far.

11) "Gentleman’s Affair" ft. Neyo (JR Rotem)- This is real nice. Got a very smooth r&b feel, but the drums are still pretty thick heavy sounding. I like how the organs come in very subtly toward the end of each verse and add a nice build-up effect. Probably could have done without Neyo on this. Pretty generic selection of a singer to appear, but Game’s a major label act, so I shouldn’t expect anything less.

12) "Let Us Live" ft. Chrisette Michelle (Scott Storch)- A pretty simple repetitive bass line with little keyboard sprinkles at the end of each bar. I hope Game didn’t actually pay for this track. This is pretty lackluster. Chrisette Michelle feature totally goes to waste. Game admits to not hating Nas or MOP, says he was just going through a phase. Hmm.

13) "Touchdown" ft. Raheem Devaughn (Nottz)- tight kick drums and smooth g-funk synth blurps, but then there’s this whole arrangement of synthesizers that come in on the hook. Real chill out joint, something to smoke to.

14) "Angel" ft. Common (produced by Kanye West)- some straightforward 4/4 drums with this medley of analog synth sounds. Not sure if Kanye actually played the keys on this. I doubt it. But who knows. Very solid track.

15) "Never Can Say Goodbye" ft. Latoya Williams (produced by Ervin “EP” Pope)- starts with newcasts about the deaths of Biggie, 2Pac, Eazy E. Subject is a little tired in my opinion, but Game’s got a nice little take on it, rhyming as each character in the verses. First verse he’s Pac, second he’s B.I.G., third he’s Eazy. Track is pretty cool, though breaks no new ground. I do like some off the instrumentation, the live bass is sick.

16) "Dope Boyz" ft. Travis Barker (1500 or Nothin)- A lot was made of this collaboration. I’m guess Travis played the drums on it. Pretty standard drumming to me though. It’s just a basic drum pattern, like, what gives?

17) "Games Pain" ft. Keyshia Cole (Knobody)- I always thought this was a good beat. Never liked the song though. Actually this song is a total mess, and I don’t give a shit how many times it plays on the radio. Nothing will change my mind. The hook, while sorta cool because it’s “paying homage,” lacks any real flow and is totally unmemorable. More of a glorified bridge than a hook. Game rhyming about a bunch of hip-hop shit. Yawn. Waste of a hot track.

18) "Letter to The King" ft. Nas (Hi-Tek)- a steady drum pattern with deep kicks and a bright rimshot riding underneath a smooth guitar loop. Game spits a bit of Black History, and makes me think this was originally supposed to be for Untitled, but somehow hit the cutting room floor. Even though this is a dope track, it probably would have fit in more on Nas album. On L.A.X. it sounds a little disjointed from the rest of the LP, but in the age of making 150 songs and picking 19 to making the album, what do you expect?

19) "Outro" ft. DMX- What the fuck is the dog doing back on this LP??!!? Once Game really starts hanging with X, his career will really and truly be in the toilet, no matter how many records L.A.X. sells. Stay away from that guy.

Final thoughts: I give this shit a solid "L" rating, and that's mostly because the beats are pretty damn good. Game is still rapping about nothing for most of the time. I mean, I couldn't really tell you what any of these songs are about, other than the fact that he name drops damn near everyone in contemporary urban music in almost every song. There are a couple tracks where the influence of others is sort of understated, but overall it's still pretty glaring that Game is lacking real great songwriting skills from MCs perspective. I commend him for being a fan of hip-hop, but dog, you gotta really add something to the game, rather than just compare yourself to other people. Also, he had the whole jail experience, the fallout with his brother, he's been in some movies- there's a lot of experiences he could have been addressing from a lyrical standpoint on the LP, and if he does, it's not in any sort of coherent way.

Also, from a beat standpoint, these joints pretty much sound like the same tracks he's been rhyming on since The Documentary. That Aftermath, West Coast sound, shit is pretty tired already. People wanna hear something new. I commend him for sticking to his guns and not following trends, but other than the joints that Nottz did (and even those to a certain extent), everything on here is just good, not great. Solid, but not spectacular.

I'd probably skip the trip to the store for this joint. Save the gas money, download on Itunes. Worth some listens for sure, but you'll probably tire of it quickly.