After the lackluster commercial and critical performance of his previous release, "The R.E.D. Album," Game promised in an interview with Complex magazine that his new album, "Jesus Piece," would be his “best work lyrically since Doctor’s Advocate.”
As someone who has endured legal trouble and engaged in rap feuds, Game certainly hasn’t shied from the media’s attention. Even before the release of his fifth full-length LP, the album stirred controversy.
The artwork of Jesus Piece features a black Jesus clad with a red bandana covering his mouth and a gleaming Jesus Piece around his neck set against stained-glass windows. The concept album’s theme explores the coexistence of Game’s faith in God and his fun-loving, sinful lifestyle inspired by his gangster roots.
While it may be hard for some to accept, this seemingly blasphemous concept describes the life of the former-Blood member perfectly, perhaps summed up best as he exclaims, “I’m tryna go tryna go to church, get some chicken wings, after that hit the strip club, see some h***s twerk” in the darkly mystical sounding “Church.”
The superb production from the likes of Cool & Dre, SAP, and Black Metaphor creates beats that sound like they could be played in church with the backing of an organ, or bumped in a Maybach through the streets of Compton. Perhaps the best example of this duality is in the Jake One produced “Name Me King,” which features choir-like background vocals and warm piano notes juxtaposed with a heavy kick-bass and snare drum pattern.
Jesus Piece is feature-heavy, headlined by the likes of Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Lil' Wayne, Kendrick Lamar and Trey Songz. J. Cole delivers perhaps the most memorable guest verse in “Pray.” Not to be outdone, Game spits one of his best verses on the entire album in this song: “She pop pills like medicine, she probably gon' die, it's startin' to be evident, I told her, 'Slow down, girl you're heaven-sent,' I'm a thug but I got a heart like Kev in there, and I can't let this girl throw her life away,” Game raps emotionally over the soulful Cool & Dre produced beat.
While Game’s lyricism shines throughout the album, he also showcases his pure rapping talent and ability to flow in a variety of ways. In “Heaven’s Arms,” one of only two offerings free of features, Game’s wordplay shines as he raps, “So one day I’m top five I can politic with Jigga though, I was just trying to blueprint myself behind Jigga though, and all them old disses, yo, bulls**t, Thibodeau.”
The only curious track selection on Jesus Piece is “I Remember." Content-wise, this song nostalgically re-examines the gangster lifestyles of Game, Future and self-proclaimed trap star Young Jeezy, but steers from the album’s theme and, combined with the uninspiring production of Yung Ladd, sounds like any number of generic trap-rap songs that clutter the hip-hop universe.
Excluding this one song, every track on Jesus Piece is a must-listen. Although it doesn’t tell a cohesive story like fellow West Coast rapper Kendrick Lamar’s recently released concept album Good Kid m.A.A.d City, its subject is still evident and is supplemented by excellent production.
Most of all though, Game reaffirmed himself as one of the best rappers in hip hop today and reminded us that he has been one of the most influential artists in the evolution of West Coast hip hop over the past decade. For its artistry and listen-ability, not only is Jesus Piece Game’s best album since Documentary, it's one of the best rap albums of 2012.
Gavel Media Rating: 9/10
Josh Forte is from the newest and one of the smallest cities in Massachusetts:
Gardner. Josh is a member of the Boston College Class of 2014 and is double majoring in Economics and English. Perhaps the only things he loves more than working out are each of the Boston sports teams. He began writing for both Culture and Sports his junior year. Other than lifting weights, he enjoys cooking, playing basketball and listening to hip-hop. Follow him on Twitter @jforts.