Since being dropped from Dr. Dre’s Aftermath label, Game has been suffering from something best described as an identity crisis. His debut, 2005’s The Documentary, and its successor, 2006’s Doctor’s Advocate, were hailed almost instantly as landmark West Coast albums and undoubtedly embodied Game’s unique sound.
By 2008, however, Game seemed to have abandoned his role as West Coast savior and instead became, well, nothing. His mediocre third and fourth albums were messy, disjointed compilations with an eye-popping amount of guests, all of whom Game attempted to imitate.
Game wasn’t Game anymore. Whatever identity and craft he had on his first two albums had disappeared by 2011. He was washed up.
Then Jesus Piece arrived. Suddenly, it all makes sense. Game wasn’t wasting away over the last six years. He was just doing a little soul searching. Jesus Piece is his long overdue masterpiece. The Game who made this album isn’t Dr. Dre’s protégé or a style-jacking chameleon, but instead a real, true artist. Call him a late bloomer, but at 33 years old, Jayceon Taylor has finally found himself.
A total of 23 artists, from Jamie Foxx to Lil Wayne, show up on Jesus Piece. Somehow, though, the album flows seamlessly, as each guest seems to understand his place in the grand scheme of the project. A concept album, Jesus Piece is connected through a theme of religion, specifically Christianity, though it’s far from being quoted by your neighborhood pastor in his next sermon.
In “Church,” a buoyant strip-club anthem Trey Songz tells a woman that she’s “thicker than a Bible.” Throughout the album, Game plays with different definitions of religion, and he’s happy to point out on “Church” the irony of a good Christian man leaving mass to go eat some chicken wings and “see some hoes twerk,” a point that’s hilariously emphasized by a subsequent skit.
The second track, “Ali Bomaye,” featuring 2 Chainz and Rick Ross, clocks in a little long at about five and a half minutes. That being said, the track is so incredibly epic that after a few listens, the length is negligible. Over an apocalyptically raucous and haunting beat, Game namedrops Will Smith, Usain Bolt and Kanye West in the same verse, 2 Chainz claims he has cologne “that cost more than your rent” and, best of all, Ross compares himself to Michael Phelps while rapping about smoking Hawaiian tree bark and owning rifles with lasers.
The album isn’t all adrenaline, though. “Pray” finds Game trading bars with J. Cole about struggling women. And on “Can’t Get Right,” Game confesses his sins and admits he was hurt when former mentor Dr. Dre signed Kendrick Lamar as his protégé. Game has moved on, though, and it’s no accident that Kendrick is featured on the song right before, the somber “See No Evil.”
Game’s albums have always been wonderfully produced, but Jesus Piece is even better. The album incorporates more vocal samples than any rap release since The College Dropout, but while Kanye’s debut relied on one technique — the sped-up soul sample — Jesus Piece utilizes a variety of sounds to create a piece of work that plays completely different than anything out in rap right now.
“Freedom” uses an early 2000s Kanye-sounding beat, “Hallelujah” is backed by a church choir and “All That (Lady),” featuring a lineup of Lil Wayne, Big Sean, Fabolous and Jeremih, flips neo-soul legend D’Angelo’s hit “Lady” into an ode to women that is both radio-friendly and well-crafted.
“This is my life and it’s exactly how I planned it, damn it” Game snarls on the standout title track, which features Kanye and Common. A debatable statement undoubtedly, especially coming from Game, but in the context of Jesus Piece it makes sense: He’s finally in control. The soul-searching is over. Just like Jesus, Game has been resurrected. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Church of Game.