For the last couple of months, VH1 has been showing the reality show Marrying the Game, which chronicled the wedding preparations of the Game, the abrasive, derivative rapper, and his longtime girlfriend, Tiffney Cambridge. By the end of the season, though, the two were at loggerheads and the wedding was off, at least in part because of the Game’s heavy focus on completing work on Jesus Piece, his fifth album.
Which is a concise way of saying: This album better have been worth it.
Since the beginning of his career, the Game has had a tortured relationship with other rappers: with some he loudly and publicly quibbles, and to others he pledges allegiance in song in a way that transcends admiration into stalker-like obsession. Jesus Piece (DGC/Interscope), as usual, does both of those things, though now that the Game is something of a veteran, his battles have mostly been settled.
Not only is he acknowledging his peers in his rhymes here, but Jesus Piece is also teeming with guests, more guests than a DJ Khaled album: Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, Meek Mill, Kendrick Lamar and many more.
Ross’ verse on Ali Bomaye is excellent, and both Lil Wayne, on All That (Lady), and Pusha T, on Name Me King, do more than phone it in. Future delivers a transcendent, lighthearted hook on I Remember. Even Kanye West appears on the chorus of the title track.
Oh, and the Game appears on this album as well. His voice is raspy, and his flow isn’t as rigid as it was early in his career. On Can’t Get Right, he’s almost smooth:
I used to want to be a little Hov
Started with a little rock, got me a little stove
Made a little money, bought me a little Rov’
Sometimes, as on Scared Now, he’s happily reliant on blunt force: “Put three holes in his head like a bowling ball.”
When the Game isn’t rapping about other rappers — which is rare — he is sometimes rapping like other rappers: Pray is a blatant Drake photocopy; on Freedom he sounds like early Jay-Z; and on Celebration he borrows from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. It’s either lack of originality, or it’s true love — maybe Cambridge was right to call off the wedding. She could never compete.
— JON CARAMANICA, NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE
The bassist Eric Revis likes to play strong and loud and is willing to cut across lines of style and tradition to satisfy his need. He’s done it in Branford Marsalis’ Quartet, one of this country’s top-billing jazz groups; in Tarbaby, a trio with the pianist Orrin Evans and the drummer Nasheet Waits; and in a trio led by the German saxophonist Peter Broetzmann, with which he toured last year. That’s a pretty good range, from some baseline verities of the American jazz tradition to free improvising with art-brut appeal.
For his new album, Parallax, he’s found a new forum. Originally, for some 2009 New York club dates, he brought together a quartet with Ken Vandermark on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Jason Moran on piano, and Waits on drums. This is good bridgework, particularly between Vandermark and Moran. Their worlds — in Chicago and New York — don’t overlap much. But they’re close enough. Both use compositional structures and organic group interplay and scholarship to experiment with jazz as a history and a process, revisiting old landmarks, shuffling tradition into new shapes. (They’re both MacArthur Award recipients, for those with scorecards.)