Review Summary: A solid album that could REALLY cut down on the tracks and cameos.
Game may not have the once-successful hit single formulas at his disposal much anymore (i.e. a track with 50, Dr. Dre, or Lil Wayne), but one thing is for sure: his mouth still works. From calling out Jay for the umpteenth time to calling Lil B the worst rapper ever, Game still has that backup plan of letting the superstar speak when the artist cannot. Game had not one, not two, but five singles that failed to create a huge impact on the charts. Five singles.
Now it doesn't mean that R.E.D. is an automatic failure. It is a great album that nonetheless is long and messy with its many positives outweighing its many negatives. First off, if an album has more than 20 tracks, expect some filler. And there is a lot of filler in the R.E.D. album. The first half contains some memorable tracks but the second half contains a cluster of filler with some hardly unique production. Quite a shame considering the first half contains some really great beats like the energetic "The City" and the intense Boyz-N-Tha-Hood ode "Ricky". In fact, the only memorable cuts from the second half are produced by Maestro (the paranoid and bombastic "Paramedics") and of course, the king of NY hip hop, DJ Premier ("Born In the Trap"). You would wonder why Dr. Dre couldn't help out a little more beyond one track and a bunch of pointless skits. Really, the album has no actual theme or story attached, so why do it?
Collaborations are another impediment but not in the way one would usually characterize as. While Game holds his own against the other MCs, the whole comes as a mixed result. Either he sounds less dominant ("The City" and "Paramedics"), or he ends up taking a piece of their style. Some work ("Martians vs Goblins") and some don't ("Speakers on Blast" with a poor imitation of Big Boi's flow).
Nonetheless, Game sounds as hungry as ever on R.E.D., maybe as hungry as he was on Doctor's Advocate. He hasn't stopped the name-dropping but he has bettered it. He sounds funnier when he name-drops in "Martians vs Goblins" ("Sniff a ***ing unemployment line of cocaine/ Tie Lil B up to a full tank of propane/ Swag, now watch him cook.. and just stand there and look/ Have a bonfire with old Harry Potter books"). Even though he commits the occasional mistake (confusing Captain America as a DC superhero), he sounds more calculated with his name-dropping even when initially "It got old like Betty White" sounds straight up stupid till he says the next line.
"Red Nation" is another great ode to his former gang with the brilliant Cool and Dre flipping another dance record for the gangsta rap audience. "Heavy Artillery" stands as the best collaboration with Rick Ross, Game, and Beanie Sigel going hard over the ominous beat and chorus. The short but sweet "Drug Test" is one of those tracks to make an old West Coast hip hop fan smile. The album's most anticipated track ("Born In The Trap") however best represents Game with its poignant insight delivered with Game's usual style that comes close to Nas'.
"So what's going on with you f*ggots?
And what you gonna do when your swag no longer matters?
And your bitch ain't the baddest cause she in her mid-40s
And your Phantom played out so you hating on the shorties...
"Go to Haiti and feed to the Bahamas and breathe
On the way back, to my nigga Sean from Belize, you know
Sometimes I feel like this rap *** is heaven sent
Then I get a high, feel like it's irrelevant"
Despite its flawed moments (in which case there are several), R.E.D. is still a great release that shows Game bettering himself while still sticking to the script that has brought him fame and respect for years. And while the script itself does get old, Game keeps it fresh with his better rhymes. It could be trimmed but at least Jimmy Iovine didn't shelve this.