“I’m far from religious but I got beliefs/So I put canary yellow diamonds in my Jesus piece.”
- Game, “The Documentary,” 2005.
Jayceon Taylor has been on a long personal journey to find peace. This has been well-documented on and off the mic. With Jesus Piece, Game attempts to infuse his gangsta persona with his faith in God. While the attempt is a noble one, the album itself is a hit-or-miss affair. Those hoping for this album to sound like early Kanye will be disappointed. Unlike the “Jesus Walks” rapper, Game is not very adept at mixing the spiritual with the secular. No matter one’s religion, there is no denying the cheap feel of songs like “Church,” which compares church to a strip club. “You don’t bounce that ass like ‘Oh, Lord!’, then climb back up the pole to meet Christ” is not only distasteful, it’s also lame. Elsewhere, an anonymous man declares on “Ali Bomaye”: “Don’t ever question my religion. I just put 50 stacks on Jesus’ face!”
- Game, “The Documentary,” 2005.
Game is still name-dropping. He probably always will. It’s tiring to hear him rap about the same rappers- Jay-Z, 2Pac, Biggie, Dr. Dre and Nas- over and over again. If you’re going to name-drop, at least have some variety. Still, Game’s delivery and flow are on point- when he’s being Game. As he’s been doing his past few albums, Game adopts his flow and voice to sound like the rapper featured on a given song. Where this worked on The R.E.D. Album, Game made bad choices here with who he imitated. He sounds painfully bad when rapping like Meek Mill on “Scared Now,” even worse when imitating 2 Chainz on “Ali Bomaye” and cringe-inducing when he attempts to rap like Kanye on the title track. And those are just the first three tracks. By the time he successfully masters J Cole’s style on the memorable “Pray,” he has worn out his welcome as a chameleon. Speaking of J Cole, NC’s finest upstages Game on his own song. This also happens with Common on the title track and Pusha T on “Name Me King,” though Game holds his own with Kendrick Lamar on “See No Evil.”
It’s not all bad. Jesus Piece has enough gems to keep it from being a complete dud. Some of the better songs are actually ones that stray from the concept, such as the self-explaining “Blood Diamonds” and “All That (Lady).” And when Game connects with a spiritual song, it’s awesome. “Can’t Get Right,” “See No Evil,” “Celebration” and “Freedom” are all excellent. On “Can’t Get Right,” Game avoids the weak comparisons of flash with God and raps honestly about his life. “I smoke weed, pop pills, but I’m thinkin’ it’s time for me to chill/’Cause I ain’t tryna go to hell,” he raps. These songs are bittersweet; I can only imagine how awesome this album would have been had there been more songs in the same vein.
For the most part, the production is very good. Most of the songs are either soulful or bombastic, or a mix of both. The soulful “Freedom” is a clear musical standout. Even weaker songs like “Ali Bomaye” and “Hallelujah” sport dope beats. The one clear misstep in production is “Scared Now.” The song was clearly intended to have the feel of a Meek Mill joint, but Game sounds out of place on the track.
I admire Game’s creative attempt with Jesus Piece. There is also clear growth here, as a man and an artist, as well as some playlist-worthy songs. Unfortunately, there are too many tasteless songs and poor imitations from Game for Jesus Piece to be anything more than mediocre.