Before I begin this review, I’d like to preface it with 3 KEY POINTS. I have made these points before in various ways and in various comment sections… but they bare repeating here.
I) A good album review aims for Objectivity. Although it is virtually impossible for an album review to be completely unbiased (a review is, at the end of the day, one’s opinion) the more one strives towards Objectivity, the better and more informative the review will be. It also helps when the reviewer has a keen understanding of the elements a strong album should (generally speaking) contain. 1) Lyricism [The content, depth and thematic cohesiveness of each song]. 2) Lyrical Hotness (How creative the wordplay is]. 3) Flow [How well the lyrics are delivered]. 4) Production [Quality and Fit of the beats] 5) X-Factor [Originality of the Overall Album]. 6) Overall Thematic Cohesiveness [The whole album being greater than the sum of its individual tracks]. A good reviewer does not upgrade an album’s score because the artist happens to be his favorite. A good reviewer does not downgrade an album’s score because the artist used to be a CO. A good reviewer does not upgrade an album’s score because he likes club bangers and every track on the album is a club banger (that’s a bad album unless the album is called ‘All Club Bangers’). A good reviewer does not downgrade an album’s score because the artist wears clothes the reviewer doesn’t like. In short, a good review is not a mere reflection of the reviewers personal tastes, but rather a critique of an artist’s work based on the time-tested technical and artistic elements that go into making quality music.
II) When I review an album, I put it up against ALL albums within its respective era (era being roughly defined as anything released within the last ten years). I don’t just rate the album against other albums that came out in the same year, and I don’t do things like adjust the rating because the album is better or worse than the artist’s previous work. In other words, when I review a hip-hop CD, I simply put it up against the best of all time (the Illmatics, F&Ls, the Mood Muziks, the Blueprints) and also the worst (Afro Man Shit, Bizarre from D-12 Shit, All The Whack Shit You Know Is Whack Shit) in its particular era.
III) In this Rating System, a 5 denotes an AVERAGE ALBUM. Let me repeat that one more time: A 5 IS AVERAGE! Most people consider a 7 to be average, but from a mathematical standpoint a 5 makes more sense. With this approach, 5 being Average means that 50% of all albums will be worse than the average album, and 50% of all albums will be better than the average album. This is the very definition of average.
1) COMPLETE AND TOTAL TRASH [AFROMAN]
4) BELOW AVERAGE
6) ABOVE AVERAGE
10) CLASSIC MATERIAL [ILLMATIC]
‘Jesus Piece’ is The Game’s 4th studio album and first concept album. In order to understand the intended concept of the album, let’s get it straight from the horse’s mouth: In an interview with Complex Magazine Game said, “The album is simply like this, man. We wear Jesus pieces, right?… We be iced out. We don’t necessarily have a relationship with Jesus. I don’t even know if people wear Jesus pieces really believe in Jesus all the time. I just think that it’s become a trend in hip-hop and that’s what we do. I got into that and breaking that down and saying, “How you going to spend $50,000 on a Jesus piece but you won’t go to church and put $100 and paid your ties?” What are we doing out here?… I smoke weed. I drink. I go to strip clubs. I have fun in my life but I still believe in God. So basically, in church, it’s a bunch of hypocrites sometimes and people there sinning just as much as people outside the church. It’s about that.”
So, to paraphrase, the intended concept of the album is to explore the struggle of wanting to indulge one’s carnal desires while also wanting to live a righteous life that adheres to Christian principles.
Of course, in addition to delivering on this concept Game will– as all artists should– attempt to incorporate memorable lyrics, mean flows and overall quality song making. Let’s see how well he lives up to the task…
Track 1: Scared Now
-A dope and menacing beat.
-Game delivers with a voice and flow that fit the beat very well.
-A simple yet catchy hook that fits the title.
-Sub-par lyrics from Game [“Put that pussy on the net like a pornstar, another weenie with bread, he a corndog”]
-The song has no thematic cohesiveness; is just a bunch of more or less unrelated lines.
-Game does not even make the slightest reference to his intended concept except for placing the term ‘Jesus Piece’ in the hook. Most if not all good concept albums set up the mood for the concept in the opening track. Game makes no attempt to do any such thing. Had this not been a concept album, this would have been a fine, if not stand out, intro. However, it is a concept album. This is a major flaw.
-Meek Mill delivers a forgettable verse that adds nothing to the song.
Track 2: Ali Bomaye
-A big, thunderous beat worthy of its name. One of those ‘comes around once a year’ level beats.
-Despite saying nothing, Rick Ross’s flow compliments the beat well.
-Kevin Hart delivers a funny skit that fits the album’s theme better than just about anything else on the CD.
-Sub-par lyrics from Game and 2Chainz (though the beat will make you not care)
-Again, the song makes no reference to the concept (again, the beat will make you not care).
Track 3: Jesus Piece
-Excellent beat. Overall, probably the cleanest and strongest beat on the album.
-Excellent flow by Game. His best on the album.
-Common delivers a dope verse that poetically plays with religious themes. [“We throw the peace up, Knowing that the world need us, Eagerness to live life and see the bright lights, The sacrifices we made is sort of Christ-like, At the after party thinkin’ what the after life’s like, He paid for our sins, is it really priced right?”]
-Yet again, Game makes no reference to the concept of the album. Only this time it’s more insulting than ever. Game has not only gone three straight songs without exploring the concept in any real way, he fails to do so on the TITLE TRACK of the album. All he gives us is the words ‘Jesus Piece’ in the hook.
Track 4: Pray
-Song contains a strong theme about men who attempt to care for and protect emotionally fragile women.
-The beat, with its haunting chant backdrop & gospel-influenced hook, complement the song’s theme well.
-The first song where Game delves convincingly into the album’s concept spiritual turmoil.
-Game and Cole fit well together on this track, with Game’s verse blending seamlessly into Cole’s.
-Sonically speaking this isn’t a great song, but it’s definitely above average.
Track 5: Church
-Explores the concept of the album in loose but comic fashion by converting the meaning of the phrase ‘go to church’ to mean ‘providing a woman with sexual gratification.
-The beat is lazily produced, repetitive and grows old quickly. The worst on the album.
-Game’s flow is as uninspired and lazy as the beat. His worst on the album.
-Lyrically, the worst song on the album.
-Overall, this is ‘mixtape at best’ material.
Track 6: All That (Lady)
-Beat uses a dope sample from a classic D’Angelo song.
-The song contains a light theme about admiring women; a theme everyone on the track sticks to.
-Big Sean delivers a surprisingly slightly above average verse.
-Overall, an enjoyable if not particularly inspired song.
-Once again, we’ve strayed away from anything close to the album’s concept.
Track 7: Heaven’s Arms
-The first song on the album that does not have any other rappers featured on it.
-Another solid ‘just go in’ track where concept (track-wise or album-wise) isn’t so necessary.
-Game employs a raw flow likely inspired by Nas.
-A low key but gritty and fitting beat that complements Game’s delivery.
Track 8: Name Me King
-Very nice beat.
-Raw deliveries from both Game and Pusha T.
-Although the song lacks a theme, it stands as one of those ‘just go in’ tracks that doesn’t really need one.
-Pusha T delivers a fitting verse with perhaps the best single line on the album. [“Rollie’s cross oceans like Frank out in England, the Gay Pride bezel rainbow like it’s spring again.”]
-A somewhat lackluster hook.
Track 9: See No Evil
-A solidly delivered theme about ignoring the evils one sees in the hood for the sake of self-preservation.
-A hypnotic beat and hook that complement the theme.
-Game offers up ‘struggles of Compton’ lyrics that are uninspired and, at this point, overly familiar.
-A somewhat lazy and sub-par verse for Kendrick by the standards he’s set for himself in the past.
-Game raps in a pseudo-Biggie voice that’s more puzzling than affective.
Track 10: Can’t Get Right
-A nice beat.
-Solid and consistent (though by no means amazing) lyrics.
-Focuses more on Game’s personal trials which, to a degree, is more in line with the album’s concept.
Track 11: Hallelujah
-A strong focus on the concept of the album with Game being in church, finding himself torn between serving God and his carnal desires.
-The production is a bit bland (though by no means bad).
-Sonically speaking, this is one of the more forgettable songs on the album.
-Jamie Foxx’s contributions sound forced and out of place.
-Game appears to imitate Kanye West’s flow for no good reason on this track.
Track 12: Freedom
-A song fitting for an album nearing its end.
-Game sticks to the song’s theme of his emancipation from his Interscope contract.
-Contains Game’s strongest bar on the album. [“First time in Detroit, had to rock the Grant Hills
cuz I threw up my deuce from California was at a standstill.”].
-Feels lazy, with Game merely talking and Kevin Hart delivering a (lackluster) skit.
-Not a memorable track, particular for the second to last song.
Track 13: Celebration
-Although unimpressive in just about every way, an acceptable and somewhat fitting ending when one considers this is likely Game’s last hurrah with Interscope.
-Arguably the second weakest song on the album.
-Doesn’t do the original Bone Thugs song that is samples much justice.
-Some of the most forgettable lyrics on the album from Game and everyone featured.
-Doesn’t mesh well with the other tracks; feels like it belongs on a completely different album.
‘Jesus Piece’ follows a trend that has become more and more prevalent ever since Game released ‘LAX': It’s an album that contains strong, at times amazing, production, but one that ultimately lacks substance, true lyricism, true originality and any sort of real consistency. Game has long been well known for getting some of the best beats in the business, and it may be time to finally concede that while this is, in obvious ways, a blessing– it may also be becoming more of a curse. At this point, the beats are, by and large, carrying Game. Game no longer seems interested in dropping bars that make you go ‘Oh shit, that line was crazy’ (if anyone disagrees feel free to post the hottest lines from ‘JP’ in the comments) and one would be hard pressed to find any real depth on this album (save some brief revelations on the second verse of ‘Can’t Get Right’). Game spends the vast majority of his time on ‘Jesus Piece’ spitting tired rhymes about the same old Phantoms, the same old Choppers, the same old Streets and the same old True Religion Jeans. Further proof Game is lacking in worthwhile things to talk about these days is to be found in his abundance of features which, as often as not, appear to do little for the track other than spare the ink in Game’s pen.
Also, although I didn’t mention it in the Cons section of each song, Game’s penchant for name-dropping cannot go unchecked here (had I mentioned this in the Cons section of each track, I would have had to mention it for, well, every single track). The name-dropping has simply reached the level of Outright Ridiculousness at this point (unofficial counts on various websites have the total Name Drop Count for ‘JP’ somewhere between 160 and 170). Yes it’s true that name-dropping is essentially what Game does– but it’s also painfully obvious that name-dropping is now his official go-to move whenever he can’t (or, more likely, doesn’t want to) think of something more creative. It’s clearly become the result of pure laziness, seeing as how the name-dropping adds no depth or value to his songs whatsoever anymore. In fact, way more often than not these days, the name-dropping actually detracts from his music (Game actually name drops producer Just Blaze twice… on two separate songs… neither of which are Just Blaze beats! WHY!?).
But ultimately, it’s the severe lack of focus in terms of the album’s purported concept that hurts it most. The reason the concept can’t simply be dismissed is because once an album is labeled a ‘concept album’ it then becomes the responsibility of the artist to deliver on the concept that was promised. Look at it this way: Let’s say you see a movie trailer that tells you the movie will be about an apocalyptic alien invasion. But then when you go to see the movie… the aliens only make a cameo for 20 minutes. How would you feel about that? It would be unacceptable. The standard is no different for a concept album. What makes this (lack of a) concept album so bad is that if Game did not explicitly state the concept of the album prior to it coming out no one on earth would have even known it was supposed to be a concept album in the first place. Hell, had he named this album LAX 2 or R.E.D. Album 2, it would have been just as fitting.
With all that being said, the album does enough things right to make it enjoyable despite its shortcomings. At the end of the day, music is not meant to be analyzed, it is meant to be enjoyed… and there is plenty of material on ‘JP’ that will let you to do just that so long as you take it for what it is– music that is mostly style over substance. To be sure, there are several tracks (‘Jesus Piece’, ‘Name Me King’ and ‘Ali Bomaye’) that will get consistent rotation on your Itunes Playlist simply because of Game’s unparalleled production, at-times infectious flows and general primal appeal, and a track or two (‘Can’t Get Right’, ‘Pray’) where a bit of depth shines through and gives you something more. At the end of the day, you’ll walk away knowing Game delivered a solid album. Even if you also know he could’ve delivered so much more.
X-FACTOR [ORIGINALITY OF ALBUM]: 6/10
[Thank you for reading everyone. Whether or not you agree with my review, please let me know if you would like me to do more reviews in the future. Thanks again. One.]
Written by mjbII
Disclaimer: These are the views of mjbII and only mjbII and do not necessarily reflect the views of Defsounds.com.