For about two hours on a recent Friday in August, the Compton, Calif., sheriff's station was bombarded with calls. But the flurry of activity wasn't due to a catastrophic emergency. It was due to a tweet.
At 5:23 p.m. on Aug. 12, a tweet was sent from the account of Los Angeles-based rapper Game (@thegame). He encouraged his followers to call a certain number if interested in an internship with him. The number was in fact for the "help" line at the Compton Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. While the sherrif's department explores its legal options, Game, who has a Los Angeles Dodgers logo tattooed on his face and more than 580,000 Twitter followers, has denied responsibility, claiming that his Twitter account had been hacked at the time of the tweet. It was just the latest squall of controversy in Game's stormy career.
A month before the Twitter fiasco, Game released his Hood Morning (No Typo): Candy Coronas mixtape, a precursor to his fourth studio set, The R.E.D. Album (Aug. 23, Geffen). The mixtape featured the song "Uncle Otis," a scathing diss track that piggybacked on the buzz for "Otis," the lead single from Jay-Z and Kanye West's chart-topping collaborative album, Watch the Throne. In "Uncle Otis," Game verbally assaults longtime target Jay-Z and name-checks a laundry list of stars, more than half of whom he's previously collaborated with: West; Big Sean; Kelly Rowland; viral sensation Kreayshawn; DJ Khaled; Odd Future's Tyler, the Creator; Lupe Fiasco; Jennifer Lopez; Marc Anthony; Morris Chestnut; Nicki Minaj; Frank Ocean; Wiz Khalifa; and Amber Rose.
For Game, the name-dropping and trash talking are all part of his MO. "What kills me is that people pretend or act like they don't know what Game is about," says the rapper, born Jayceon Taylor. "I'm never changing. [The] only thing that will change is that I evolve as a man, and get [wiser], become more full of life as far as my family and everything is concerned, [and] maybe a more seasoned MC. But the core of who I am is not changing. So the shot in the dark at Jay or whoever on 'Uncle Otis,' you might get another one in six months or a year."
Just three weeks later, Game released "500 Bars," a 20-minute freestyle in the tradition of his earlier 200-, 300- and 400-bar marathon rap sessions (bars being individual rap couplets) calling out about as many names as he could fit into rhyme.
Game earned his audacity the hard way. After attracting the attention of Dr. Dre with a string of impressive mixtapes in 2004, he landed a deal with Dre's Aftermath Entertainment and a billing as a member of 50 Cent's G-Unit. But shortly after dropping his 2005 debut The Documentary (G-Unit/Aftermath/Interscope), Game was ousted from G-Unit for what 50 termed "disloyalty." And yet, Game survived the rift, fan base intact, and his subsequent albums, 2006's Doctor's Advocate (Geffen) and 2008's LAX (Geffen), both of which featured numerous guest appearances, would debut at Nos. 1 and 2 on the Billboard 200, respectively, and go on to sell a combined 1.8 million units, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
The rollout for The R.E.D. Album has also been rocky. Initially rumored to be a holiday 2009 release, the album has had its release date repeatedly pushed back for reasons that remain unclear. Today, Game says the delays were deliberate. "I been working on [the album] for a long time but I kept delaying it because I wanted to drop right in the middle of Watch the Throne and [Lil Wayne's] Tha Carter IV," he says. "That's my own ingenious plan."
But the delays haven't been the only problem. The album's first single "Red Nation," produced by Cool & Dre and featuring Lil Wayne, and extolling the virtues of life as a member of the Bloods gang, failed to chart, and the song's highly stylized, apocalyptic video was rumored to have been banned by BET and MTV. Follow-up single "Pot of Gold" has fared only slightly better. Produced by the Futuristiks and featuring Chris Brown, "Gold" adheres dutifully to a growing trend of hip-hop acts using singles to lament the intangible woes of fame. Over the chorus' meditative guitar plucks Brown sings, "The spotlight is not for me." The song is No. 62 after five weeks on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
Still, despite the delays and the lack of a hit single, Interscope director of marketing Jason Sangerman points to Game's connection to his fans as the thing that sets him apart. "The R.E.D. Album has been in the works for a long time and Game's fan base has remained loyal, so we want to make sure they get what they deserve," he says. "Game's fans are loyal to him because he is loyal to his fans."
Game says he feels the same love in the music industry. "I got a good rapport with most hip-hop artists and I just been such a real dude my entire career [that] it's nothing for me to reach out to get a [16-bar verse] or a hook," he says.
True to his word, The R.E.D. Album is packed with guests including Lil Wayne, Drake, Snoop Dogg, Young Jeezy, Rick Ross and Nelly Furtado. Most surprising, though, is a guest verse from Dr. Dre on the DJ Khalil-produced West Coast anthem "Drug Test" (also featuring Snoop). Although earlier rumors suggesting that The R.E.D. Album would appear on Dre's Aftermath proved untrue, the song marks the first time Dre has rapped alongside Game on any of the latter's albums.
And yet, despite the high-profile guests and fan adoration, Game says he still feels like he's at square one. "When I hit the studio now, I hit the studio like a dude that ain't got a deal," he says. "I be so happy and hungry to get on the mic and really just do my thing, and something sparks in me and I get all over-excited again. And I'm back full throttle, like it's the beginning."