Limelight
The Game had a hard-knock life in the city of Compton before deciding to take a crack at the rap game. Vowing to bring the West Coast back as a major player in the hip-hop world, he, in fact, did just that. Bow down!
Words Jon Caramanica

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the April 2005 issue of XXL Magazine. It is being reprinted here to celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Game's Aftermath/G-Unit debut, The Documentary.

Sometimes you can look right at your future, stare at it long and hard, and no matter how perceptive you are, it fails to register. When Jayceon Taylor was 13, he found himself in a Compton hospital confronted with just such a situation. In the bed, with bullet wounds in his stomach, was his older brother Jevon—a hardheaded, back-talking Nutty Block Crip who’d been on the wrong side of a fight over a woman. Across the room was their father, himself a Nutty Block Crip, whose dereliction of duty on the home front had, in a sense, laid the foundation for the disarray before them.

When Jayceon was pulled out of his eighth-grade classroom that day and found his father waiting for him, he knew something had to be wrong. He didn’t see his dad often. It’d been over five years since they’d last lived under the same roof. Jayceon lived with a foster family in nearby Carson, California. Each relationship in the hospital room triangle had been fractured long before—all the Taylor boys grew up hard—but there they were, the father and his two sons, each hoping for some sort of salvation. “At that time, I’m not really a fuckup fuckup yet,” says Game, now 25, of that day in 1993. “My brother, he’s telling me, ‘I just want you to be good, ’cause Mom and Dad is saying you fuckin’ up.’ We were both in tears. He was telling me how we need to spend more time together and how he loved me and was gonna try to do right.

“You would think he was gonna come home that night,” Game remembers. “He was alive, well, talking.” So well, in fact, that everyone left the hospital, leaving them unprepared for the call, later that night, that Jevon had passed away. It hurt. Indescribably. But rather than fight back and reject the circumstances that had landed him amid such despair, he did what seemed, to a young person who was raised the way he was raised, even more logical: he relented.

“It was over,” Game says in a flat tone honed by 10 years’ distance. “I went wild. It was time for the monster boy to come out. The value of life was nothing to me for the next three years. From thirteen to sixteen, it was, I don’t care about you. Fuck you. Fuck your life. Fuck your kids. Fuck your wife. Fuck your dog.” Another older brother, Big Fase 100, had been living with grandparents in a different section of Compton and was bangin’ with the Cedar Block Piru Bloods. So even though Game attended Compton High, a heavily Crip school, tiny bits of red began to dot his outfits.

During that time, he finally moved out of the foster home where he’d spent almost a decade and returned to live with his mother. But the experiment in second-try domesticity was doomed to fail: “I used to have a Transformers lunchbox,” says Game. “And now I had a backpack with blunts in it.”

Jayceon Taylor became The Game because being Jayceon Taylor wasn’t working out quite as he would have liked. When he was shot five times in October 2001, he’d been running a Compton dope spot with his brother. He’d almost made it out: despite his gang affiliations, he’d starred on Compton High’s basketball team (alongside future NBAer Baron Davis, who also plays godfather to Game's son Harlem) and won a scholarship to Washington State University.

His college career, though, was quickly cut short by what he dismissively terms “drug allegations.” He came home before his freshman season even began, and it was back to the block. “I started hustling immediately,” he says. “Selling crack cocaine, weed, radios, rims. Whatever we could get, man, we would sell. The low points was that I wasn’t doing shit positive. The high points was that I was getting money by all means necessary, and the financial reward of hustling was pretty good.”

These days, a legitimate hustle—the rap biz—is serving him even better. “I’m pre-rich right now,” he said this past fall, while shuttling around New York in a black SUV, attending to a slew of promotional obligations. The energy in the car was palpable. Speaking about his sudden burst of fame and fortune, he sounded as if he was just discovering it for the first time, his voice a mix of wonder and arrogance. “I’m rich for no reason! I’ve accumulated a million dollars and I ain’t sold a record yet.” At the time, his debut, The Documentary, wasn’t even completed, and still, “I’m getting fifty, sixty thousand for features, I ain’t got a video out. I’m getting ten, fifteen thousand to do a sixteen on a mixtape... Shit is weird, man. They keep wanting to give me money for nothing. I be wanting to tell them, like, ‘Yo, I ain’t did shit yet.’”