The R.e.d. Album

Is Game angry or insecure? That’s the question to consider after listening to the long-delayed (and just plain long) “The R.E.D. Album.” The L.A. gangsta rapper has always had an over-the-top mean streak, and he growls verses with even more fire than usual on his fourth album, and first since 2008’s “LAX.” The rap landscape shifted considerably in those few years, particularly on Game’s West Coast. Bizarre, swagged-out young acts such as Odd Future and Lil B have crawled up through the cracks and gangsta is no longer the genre’s dominant style. Even Dr. Dre’s newest disciple, Kendrick Lamar, is more thoughtful than thug. Lamar makes an appearance here, upstaging Game on “The City,” which sets a trend for the album.

“The R.E.D. Album” is overstuffed with high-wattage cameos. Lil Wayne, Drake, Rick Ross, Snoop Dogg and Big Boi would make up the starting lineup, but the bench offers almost as much firepower. Game surrounds himself with these stars, regularly gets out-rapped by them and proceeds to thrust his chest out and proclaim his superiority. It’s a clumsy exercise in straining for relevance, playing the underdog and misplaced machismo. “Spit like I’m the ghost of ’em / Name your top 10 I’m harder than the most of ’em,” he barks a few minutes into the album, referencing Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur, just before placing himself next to Jay-Z and Nas as an all-time top-five rapper.

That’s a laughable claim, but at least give Game credit for buying into his own hype. He raps with an all-out relentlessness and simply wills many tracks to success. “Ricky” and “Born in the Trap” have no guest spots, but Game as gangland storyteller is enough to make them album highlights. Next time, he should spend more time reminding listeners who he is, as opposed to who he’s not.

David Malitz

Recommended tracks:

“Ricky,” “Born in the Trap”

(Courtesy of Interscope Records)