Game, “I Wish” (Originally Published June 2008)

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Back home, he took to putting in work with Big Fase, until one night in October 2001, when he was shot five times while tending their crack spot. After coming out of a three-day coma, he committed himself to hip-hop. Rhyming became his main focus, and he and Fase founded a label, The Black Wall Street. Game was first discovered by Bay Area veteran JT the Bigga Figga, but it was Interscope A&R man Mike Lynn who brought him to Dr. Dre, who, in turn, introduced him to 50. Unfortunately, the rocket ride of success tore the brothers apart. In the year following the release of The Documentary, Game accused Fase of embezzlement. Fase blasted back, calling Game’s street cred into question. “For lack of a better word, I certified his gangster,” Fase told allhiphop.com. “A year later, me and everybody that loves me were left out here with nothing… I set the stage and the backdrop, and he’s living my life, basically.”

There has been a dispute over the Black Wall Street name, with Fase, who co-manages up-and-coming Watts rapper Glasses Malone, and many of Game’s Blood brothers running a rival company. “I thought getting out of the hood and being able to do something positive for my family, I thought that would make me happy,” says Game, who publicly disowned his brother in 2005. “But the money has made a wedge between everything that I’ve known to be good before I was a rapper.” (Fase did not respond to XXL’s e-mailed requests for comment.)

Jimmy Rosemond empathizes. “That gotta hurt,” he says. “To have your brother and those kind of guys not really rolling with you no more. It’s a lonely feeling, and all of that bears down on him… Entertainers look for love from the closest things to them. And when the closest things to you ain’t there anymore, it’s even worse.”

Though Game is back on speaking terms with Fase, his mom and his father, the bonds are still broken. If anything, though, his troubled relationship with his family seems to make him more intent on being a good father to his own children. The drama of his life and the demands of his career have him talking early retirement.

“I need to find my place, man, and really be the cornerstone of my family,” he says. “I need to be there for my sons. I know that all my grinding is for them, but I feel like I’m missing…” His voice trails off, and his tone softens. “Being in the studio from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m., I’m missing my son brush his teeth, and I’m not there to put his clothes on right. And, you know, I’m there for him, and he sees me more than not, but I need to be there for him. And hip-hop is taking that from me… I can’t see myself being a part of it any longer after this album.

“My life is fucked up right now,” he continues. “I’m in a fucked up place. My fans love me, and I know what they want. But, in a minute, I’m not gonna be physically capable of pleasing the world with music. Because my mind isn’t right. People are driving me under God’s good earth. For what reason, I don’t know. I’m a good dude. I do for everybody. I look out for everyone. I don’t have money like Diddy. I ain’t Bill Gates. I’ve never been on Oprah’s couch. I’m just a hood nigga with a dream and a great heart.”

He used to find solace in the recording booth. But, today, he says, not even his music brings him peace. “It’s a false reality,” he says. “’Cause it’s just a way to escape from all the demons and all the pain and suffering that I’ve been put through by people that are supposed to care about me. If it wasn’t for my sons, I probably would’ve done something drastic by now. Even killed myself.

“I just wanna be at peace. Sometimes I wanna be at peace so bad that I wish myself off of the earth. Because you gotta be at peace when you’re dead. No nothing to worry about. No bills, no attitudes, no watching your back. Nobody.”

After the photo shoot has wrapped, Tre and Kevin begin clearing outfits off the clothing rack, getting ready to leave. Game sits on the far side of the couch, looking straight ahead, focused on some invisible fixed point. His Interscope rep stands crosswise a few feet away, waiting to usher him out and home. Game’s mood has only worsened. His voice is more solemn, his responses more curt. “I am the nobody in hip-hop,” he says, sulking. “I feel like all the people in the world that feel like they’re the nobody of the world. I sleep where I can. I’ll take a blanket if you got one. I’m homeless in hip-hop.”

Moments later, the subject of his criminal past comes up. “I don’t even wanna talk about that,” he says, beginning to choke up. He’s silent for a moment, and tears start to stream from his eyes, over the new red star tattoo, down his cheeks. “I should just say one more thing for you to understand and know. I’m just crying for music. I’m crying for hip-hop, because it’s like seeing someone you know, someone you’re really in love with die. Slow. The tears coming from my left eye are from my shit that I’m dealing with in my life, and the tears down my right cheek are tears for hip-hop. You know that they’re real, ’cause you see ’em. The world won’t. They’ll be able to read my tears, and hopefully they’ll figure out that what I love so much is worth saving. And, if not, then, hey, I bailed out before it went down, anyway. So I won’t be blamed for it.”