From Lecrae’s newfound favorable reception within the entire hip-hop community to Pusha T’s and Meek Mill’s respective versions of “Amen” to G.O.O.D. Music’s “New God Flow,” religion’s muse on hip-hop has risen over the past two years. With Jesus Piece, Game reinvigorates this trend by framing a praiseworthy album blessed with sterling features that imparts many believers’ choice, including his own, to keep their faith without altering their nature.
The Compton MC’s record gets underway with “Scared Now,” the type of street banger that most have grown accustomed to hearing from him. In the first verse, he allusively addresses the incident with 40 Glocc, while his other verse includes a hypothetical phone call with former affiliate 50 Cent. “Interscope asking will I take 50′s call/’Hello, put up 10 mill for a real nigga/Drop this joint album, and we’ll kill niggas/G-Unit!,’” Game expresses. Into the bargain, the opener is indicative that Game’s tentative final album on Interscope would not be saturated with religious metaphors. Since releasing his first-rate debut LP The Documentary in 2005, the self-proclaimed Handsome Ass Nigga has been one of the most controversial, but consistent rappers. And Jesus Piece drives that streak home a little further. Only difference? This go-around includes more passengers.
Chuck Taylor presses on with “Ali Bomaye,” a high point of the album thanks to bang-up verses from himself, Rick Ross and 2 Chainz. “First you get the power/Then, you get respect/I’m getting so much money I can buy your bitch/Take it how you wanna, if you wanna take it/I like clubs where all the women working naked,” Chainz spits. Contrastingly, the only leftover track from Five (the initial title for the fifth album), “Jesus Piece,” does not live up to expectations; unlike Common, whose verse is spot on, Kanye West astonishingly adds very little to the song, making his presence on the record unfelt. But the other Roc-a-Fella chain bearer J. Cole fills up the gap as he adds a keen verse on the tender, narrative track “Pray” that is illustrated over the LP’s warmest production. Most instrumentals on the record are, appropriately, soulful but not identical, as highlights more thump, such as the album’s first single “Celebration” and the potential single “All That (Lady);” Lil Wayne appears on both, contributing his best verse on the latter. “We could make babies/Let’s be creative/She said leave them tricks alone, but I’m a skater,” Tunechi phrases.
Compton’s new poster child, Kendrick Lamar—who Game shouted out in the thank you note of his sophomore effort Doctor’s Advocate—also plays a standout role as a supporting act and a song subject. On “See No Evil,” Lamar supplies a laudable verse, yet not one that compares to the scene-stealing verse he provided Game for “The City” on The Red Album. What’s more, the collaboration with K-Dot brings out one of Game’s best 16s on the entire LP. “Say it’s a blessing when you die in your sleep/’Cause the coroner don’t need no sheets, capisce?/I’m saying, stop playing/Wrap him up in what he lay in/Fold a nigga arms, now a casket what he pray in,” Game articulates in the opening verse.
Likewise, on “Can’t Get Right,” the one-time Dr. Dre protege flexes on the second verse, revealing why he composed diss tracks for Dre after believing the legendary producer disregarded him to focus on Kendrick—even though he did not bear his young homie any ill will. “Felt he shitted on me for Kendrick/Recorded diss records/And Kendrick my nigga, put him on his first mixtape/I popped champagne when I heard he was with Dre/And, I’m telling y’all this true story ’cause I’m real/Dre first time hearing bout it, wonder how he feel,” Game confesses.
Rap as a sport has changed over the last seven years, but Game stands the same, kicking poignant rhymes, namedropping as much as critic Gene Shalit, expressing remorse about his troubled history with Dre, taking light shots at Ma$e (the start of “Hallelujah”), flip-flopping his opinions on Jay-Z once again (the end of “Heaven’s Arms”) and more. Even if Game signs with Cash Money (“Freedom” includes a brief interlude of Birdman recruiting him), to another major label, or goes independent, Game will certainly look to persevere and hold his fort in the West Coast. Jesus Piece is another evidence of Taylor making the most of God’s gift to him, but with friends, or how he described it on “Freedom” (“My album like a Rari, a lot of dope features”). –Christopher Minaya (@CM_3)