“I got to a certain point in my life where I felt like I was about to commit suicide.”

Sometimes the game is just too much to bear. Over the past couple years, Jayceon “The Game” Taylor has carried a lot on his shoulders. He’s gone through a lot of changes and dealt with more drama than anyone would want to. “It wasn’t so fun being me no more,” says the 26-year-old father of one. “All the chips was stacked up against a nigga. My back was against the wall. I felt like I was alone. I felt like it was me against the world.”

Pretty much since his double-platinum debut, The Documentary, came out on G-Unit/Aftermath/Interscope Records in early 2005, The Game has been under pressure. Having refused to take sides in 50 Cent’s rap beefs, the Compton-born rapper was very publicly dismissed from the G-Unit camp (and 50 claimed to have written the hooks for more than a third of the songs on The Documentary). Later, just months after a joint press conference supposedly signaled détente, Game declared an all-out war against his ex-crew. Then he saw his own California-based Black Wall Street organization dwindle from 50-strong to seven, with the most notable defection being his older brother, Big Fase 100, who took to the Internet with claims that Game abandoned him after achieving success (success, Big Fase pointed out, that was due in part to street cred borrowed from him). Now there’s talk that Game may have lost his spot on Dr. Dre’s Aftermath label and that Dre, a fellow Compton native and Game’s musical mentor, won’t be producing any tracks on his next album—the same album Game has dubbed The Doctor’s Advocate.

Whether or not Dre’s drums will grace its grooves (and we’ll get to that in just a few), the album boasts an all-star list of collaborators: Scott Storch, Nas, Kanye West, Tha Dogg Pound, Busta Rhymes, the Black Eyed Peas’, Mary J. Blige, Just Blaze and Cool & Dre. Game’s keeping the highly anticipated music top secret—and the tracks stay on his computer’s hard drive, and no CD copies exist. The lead single, “It’s Okay (One Blood),” though, has already been burning up late-summer radio waves.

Meanwhile, Game’s been forging new artistic alliances—Young Jeezy, who gets a shout-out on “One Blood”; the imprisoned rapper Shyne; even a former sworn enemy, Ja Rule—and focusing on the Phoenix, Ariz., rapper Juice, who’s set to be the first artist on Black Wall Street Records. (He’s looking for a distributor and says he expects at least $50 million from anyone bringing contracts to the table.)

So suicidal thoughts are a thing of Game’s past. And so is that so-heavily-criticized butterfly tattoo he got on his cheek last year—it’s been replaced by a symbol of hometown pride. “I crawled up out of the fuckin’ corner,” he says, settling in to talk after a photo shoot at the famed Hollywood lounge the Dresden Room. “Stood back on my muthafuckin’ two feet and poked my chest out. I had to come back for the fuckin’ crown. I’m from L.A. I’m the face of L.A., so I put L.A. on my face.”

game2.jpgLet’s start with the “One Blood” joint. I noticed the first thing you say on the record is that you see “dead people…”
[Laughs.] Everybody wanna know about that line, man. What I’m sayin’, basically, is that everybody who counted me out—every MC that ever thought he was better than me, every nigga out there that ever thought that he could beat me in this hip-hop shit, every nigga out there that ever thought that my career was dead and I wasn’t comin’ back—I’m about to body all them niggas, man. I’m about to body hip-hop. When this new album drop, The Doctor’s Advocate, every rapper in the world is gettin’ bodied. I’m not takin’ no shorts on this one, man. I’m not takin’ no prisoners. I’m not bein’ nobody’s friend. I’ma make my music, and I’ma kill niggas. So when I say, “I see dead people…” Hip-hop is dead, man. All these niggas is dead. I’m comin’ for everybody. I feel like ’Pac right now, in my heart. My ambition to win is so deep now, my passion for the sport of hip-hop is so deep now, that I feel like I could damn near cry, man. I worked so muthafuckin’ hard on this album, put my heart into this album, that when I think about all the shit that happened, all the hurdles and obstacles I had to go through to get this muthafuckin’ album out, a nigga could drop a tear, man.

The album title: The Doctor’s Advocate. You have said in the past that you and Dre had a father-son relationship, a teacher-pupil relationship. But it seems like that relationship has changed, at least as far as your working relationship. There’s talk that Dre did not work on the new album and that you are no longer on Aftermath, that you’ve been shipped over to Geffen. What’s the status right now?
The status is that me and 50 have chose to part ways. And along those lines, there’s a lot of things shaking up. Honestly—I’ma keep it 100 percent real—I don’t know who I’m signed to… I just know that Interscope and Geffen are both fighting over what label imprint is gonna be on the back of the album. But the G-Unit label is not gonna be on the back of the album. You might see the Aftermath logo on the back; you might see an Interscope on the back, you might not. You definitely gonna see Black Wall Street on the back though… And on this album, I already been in the studio with Dre on this album. I got beats from Dre early, early. I worked with Dre early on this album.

So there are new Dre beats on there?
Yeah. Stuff that Dre did, that I had in the beginning of working on this album. Can’t nobody take that away from me, man.

When did you get the news that your label situation was changing and that there was a possibility that you might not be on Aftermath?
When I started going against the grain and doing what Dre told me not to—respond to 50. Once I did, I kind of felt like I betrayed Dr. Dre. But, you know, it ain’t no love lost. I had to do what I had to do to keep my career afloat. Now, do I regret what I did as far as beefing with G-Unit? No! Because now I feel like I’m a free man and I can stand on my own. Dre executive produced the last album, but on The Doctor’s Advocate, you flip the album over, it’s gonna say, “Executive produced by The Game.” So that mean if this album goes down as a classic, then muthafuckas gonna have to give me my respect. Because I went in and wrote, penned, spit and packaged another classic album without 50.

The beef between you and G-Unit is well documented. There was a real clash of egos and philosophies with you and 50 Cent. You didn’t want to get involved in some of the beefs he had with people like Nas, Fat Joe and Jadakiss. Then you got kicked out of the camp. And then it was really on.
What was I suppose to do, go sit in the corner and cry? No. I didn’t do that. I had my back against the wall, man, and I came out punchin’.

At the 2005 Summer Jam concert in New York, when you brought out the G-Unot campaign, with the guys in gorilla and rat suits, this in effect broke a truce you and 50 had agreed to months earlier. What were you thinking the morning after?
I was thinking it was me against the world. I didn’t give a fuck about what nobody said. I didn’t give a fuck about nobody’s ideas. I can honestly say that I was in the same state of mind of Tupac, probably, before he got killed. I was so far gone that, now that I look back on it, I really was playin’ with my life at that point. But the crazy part about that is that I didn’t give a fuck. I didn’t care, man, ’cause I was fightin’ for my family and my son.

With Dre being the label CEO—the big brother, in a sense—to both you and 50, why hasn’t he been more vocal in the whole situation? At least publicly. We don’t know what’s being said behind the scenes, but from the outside, it seems like once everything popped off, Dre just sort of wiped his hands of everything.

I can’t answer a question for Dre; I can only be responsible for myself. As far as Dre, I couldn’t do anything but respect him. Dre signed me, gave me the opportunity to make millions of dollars, which I have. All I can do is be thankful towards Dre. At the same time, you can’t take that personal, because this is a business. Is it Dre’s responsibility to get in between two men when, you know, it’s a real hip-hop war? I almost felt like the Biggie and ’Pac shit was ’bout to come back full circle…

Dre reached out to me on numerous occasions. And I’m pretty sure he did the same thing to 50. I got a few phone calls from Dre about stopping the beef and talking to 50, but I’m hardheaded. I do me. I do what I want to do, man… Now, I didn’t hear the conversations he had with 50, but I’m pretty sure they were the same. Dre wanted it to end. [Interscope chief] Jimmy Iovine wanted it to end. But when you look at the aftermath of the shit, you can pretty much figure out what happened: I didn’t listen to Dre, and neither did 50. We both grown men. We’re gonna make our own decisions. The best decision we think suits us. We made a decision to go to war. And we’re at a stage now where it’s dead. Nothing else can be gained on either part. We already made it big as it could be. Neither one of us is dead yet. So what we gonna keep on goin’ for? The people are getting tired of it.

If I could say one thing to 50 himself, I would just tell that nigga, Stop it, man, and leave me alone. I’m just tryna to feed my son. Tryna keep my homies tight, you know what I’m sayin’? Keep Compton on the map and keep the West Coast afloat. So any nigga out there that’s just tryna beef with me, and, you know, you don’t even know me or you don’t even know the core of why you mad at me—just leave me alone. I’m out here, man. I ain’t fuckin’ with nobody.
86cover.jpgRead the rest of our interview with The Game in XXL’s
November 2006 issue (#86)