Official Website of The Game and Roley Boyz!
Words: John Kennedy (@youngJFK)
Photography: Johnathan Mannion
When Jayceon Taylor was ambushed in his Compton, Calif., stash house, back in 2001, and punctured by five bullets from a .45 Glock, the soon-to-be rapper’s life literally flashed before his eyes. Eleven years later, after selling more than 7 million records and reviving a dormant L.A. rap scene as the Game, the MC once again feels his existence is in danger. Amidst the hell-raising fury of October’s Hurricane Sandy, his plane suffered a precarious descent into Atlanta. “No exaggeration, we almost died on the landing, bro,” recalls the 33-year-old spitter, once known as Hurricane Game, of today’s flight touchdown. “When the wheels touched the ground the plane jumped back into the air because it was unstable. It’s scary out here, no exaggeration.”
Game is, of course, exaggerating. But based on his newest project, Jesus Piece, you get the sense that he’s already made right with the (wo)man upstairs. The recently baptized rapper’s fifth LP—comprised of 13 tracks to represent Jesus and his dozen disciples—attempts to convey the struggle between adopting street life and Sunday service. It might be Game’s best, and certainly truest, effort in the midst of iPhone-self-recorded rapper scuffles and his on-off-on engagement to fiancée Tiffney Cambridge (as documented in the VH1 reality show Marrying The Game). The father of three is still finding himself, and he’s far from ready to die. “I’ve grown as far as decision-making, and just being a smarter, wiser and better person,” says Game. “But I’m the same person at heart. You can’t change that.”
VIBE: When the world first met The Game, you were a Dr. Dre progeny and lone bright spot for the future of West Coast hip-hop. Now there’s an entire class of young rhymers, from Kendrick Lamar to Dom Kennedy. Do you feel like a California elder statesman?
The Game I do. I feel like an OG, but these cats are coming in at about 24 [years old], so I’m not that far from them. I’m on my fifth album, so the separation between rookie and veteran is a bit further than it seems. But the West Coast is about to have a real strong movement. The East needs to unify a little bit more, but we’re about to make a real strong push and tip that scale.
Kendrick is already playing a big role. How did you feel the first time you heard his song, “Black Boy Fly,” where he said he used to be jealous of your success?
It was a dope concept. I appreciated it, because I’m all about paying homage to people. I feel like he spoke for a lot of up-and-coming artists from California watching me do my thing. For someone to pay homage to me makes me feel like job well done. I did a reply to “Black Boy Fly,” called “Little Brother.” Kendrick did the beat. It’s speaking directly to Kendrick, letting the world know from my perspective what I saw in him from the time he was 15 until now. It’s exactly like [Kanye’s “Big Brother”] in reverse. It’s just dope.
On Jesus Piece’s title track, there’s a line that says Dr. Dre gave your beats to Kendrick.
I was working with Dre, and it was the early stages—after me and Top Dawg put Kendrick with Dr. Dre. Dre was supposed to give me a bunch of beats, and I only got to keep one out of all the ones he promised me. I said in that song: “Dre promised me records, I never got ’em, and some of my albums missed records/I felt he shitted on me for Kendrick, recorded diss records/And Kendrick my nigga, put him on his first mixtape/I popped champagne when I heard he was with Dre.” It’s the same concept as “Black Boy Fly” in four bars.
When I was recording Doctor’s Advocate, it was a real dark time for me. I was really pissed off and my voice was a little bit deeper. I was still battling back from gunshot wounds and my voice was kind of tampered with from that shooting; it wasn’t until about 2008 where I got my real talking voice back. I was in N.Y. half-sick recording, drinking 40 oz. every night. So I don’t know, I was just in that Dre bag, I guess.
Jesus Piece has a religious tilt. What spurred you tapping into your spiritual side?
The thing is, it’s not a change. I believe in God like you believe in God, like my brother that’s out there gangbanging in Compton. It’s just balancing that belief with the streets. In the ’hood, you pray and rock Jesus pieces but at the same time, you gotta do what you gotta do to survive. We’re still fighting the devil. That’s basically what it’s about.
Do you regularly attend church?
Nah, I can’t go to church on the road because I don’t know these pastors out here, man. They could be preaching that false thing. I got to go to my church. My pastor is a G. Bishop Noel Jones, a preacher in Compton.
Are you two close?
Yeah, spiritual guidance is key. Whenever I have a problem or come to a place in my life where I’m between a rock and a hard space, I just call him or text. That’s how cool and how dope he is.
You revealed in a 2006 interview that you had suicidal thoughts. Did spirituality play a role in you overcoming that?
[Suicide] didn’t happen, so I think it played a role—not necessarily something that had to exist for me to change my mind. When I [used to] get down—which is never these days—I’d just use my kids to fuel my fire. Whenever I think about my kids, I just think about life, longevity, love, and things like that. It’ll bring you out of that slump every time.
Are there lessons that you instill in your kids?
My kids are young, the oldest one being nine years old. It’s not really about teaching them lessons yet; it’s about letting them have fun, keeping them safe and financially taken care of and in good schools. The life lessons are taught later on when their brain starts to fully form and they can comprehend [more complex] things. They’re kids, they mess up, and you just got to let them be kids.
What did Harlem say when you played him “Like Father, Like Son”?
He never heard it.
Nah, and it’s funny that you ask because yesterday I was playing him “California Dream” [from The R.E.D. Album], the song about his sister. And he was like, “Is that really Cali being born at the end of the [song]?” I was like “Yeah, and you have a song.” I didn’t have The Documentary in the car, so I told him to go home and download “Like Father, Like Son.” I recorded that song so one day he’d hear it and know how much he changed my life. If I didn’t have Harlem, I would be in a box dead. That kid changed my life.
Who’s the tough guy in the relationship, you or your fiancée, Tiffney?
She’s tough. I spoil them. She spoils them, too, but she’ll spank ’em. I’ve never spanked or whooped my kids. She’s old school, so she feels like kids need a good spanking sometimes when they mess up. When I get mad, my facial expressions alone make my kids cry. So I straighten it out that way. But for the most part, I’m giving my kids whatever they want. I love ’em to death. I just want them to be happy.
What advice did T.I. give you about shooting your family-focused reality TV show, Marrying The Game?
He said, “Listen, patna, you have no idea what you’re up for. It’s a lot of work, and people are gonna be all up in your face and in your business. So make sure you’re ready.” He was right. I wasn’t prepared for it, but it became a regularity in my life, and the kids and Tiff got used to it. [Tiffney and I] went into the show perfectly fine; and after the show was done, we were damn-near enemies. Reality is reality. I don’t know about anybody else’s show, but when people see ours, they’re going to really understand that the balance between family, the streets, music and religion is crazy. Everything ’s not always perfect, even when you're in the limelight.
After you got shot in 2001 you studied classics like ice Cube’s Death Certificate and Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt. What are the classics of the 2000s a kid coming up now might look to?
I don’t know. Not to shit on anybody, but I’m so engulfed in my ’90s music that I think we lost the art of making classics when it came to 2000s. There are some good albums, but I can’t think of any that were classic, that would change my life.
Not even Get Rich or Die Tryin’?
Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was a great album. I’ll leave calling that a classic to you guys.
When you had the infamous, peace-making press conference with 50 in 2005, did you think it was genuine? What do you remember about the moment?
I felt that it was authentic and genuine. He looked genuine. Then as soon as I got back home, he was whoofin’ again.
Were you surprised to see him and Fat Joe squash their beef at the BET awards?
I think beef should be squashed. If you’re not going to kill each other, why be mad? It was big on both of their parts.
Do you ever think about what you want to do after music?
Nah, I’m just floating through it. I’m living a good life right now. I’m multifaceted, so I could end up anywhere: in radio, running a label, acting. Anywhere.
Was it weird watching yourself in Waist Deep?
Nah. It was actually pretty cool. I think I’m a natural when it comes to acting.
Some said you reviving Belly, for Belly 2, was blasphemous.
When I did that movie it wasn’t called Belly until it got sold to Lionsgate. They changed the name. I guess that was their selling point. When I first did it, it was called "Millionaire Boyz Club."
Were you cool with the name change?
I didn’t care what they did after I got my money. They could’ve changed it to the "Flintstones 2," it didn’t matter.
In 2008, just before the release of L.A.X., you said you planned to retire from hip-hop because it didn’t reflect the political, take-charge voice of the past. In 2012, are you proud to be part of hip-hop?
Hip-hop is in a good space right now. There’s a lot of good music. The lyrical content is up to par, it’s colorful. I love the fashion aspect, the range of artists and the different styles. It's fun. I like where hip-hop is at right now. [Vibe]
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