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Rapstreet boys
50 Cent and the Game diss and tell
Bullet by bullet

A 50 Cent/Game primer

ē 1999: Queens rapper 50 Cent emerges as the new face of gangsta rap with the single "How To Rob." The song upsets several NY thieves, who believe stealing is a sort of "street magic."

ē 2000: 50 Cent shot nine times in his grandmotherís front yard; citing jealousy as a motive, local police debate arresting the US Treasury Department.

ē 2002: Eminem and Dr. Dre take 50 and his G-Unit crew under their wing and release the chartbusting No Mercy, No Fear. A secret mix tape, Mercy, Fear, is indefinitely delayed.

ē 2004: Compton-bred the Game emerges as 50ís G-Unit protégé and in January of 2005 makes his official debut with The Documentary. Shortly after, "Weird" Al Yankovic announces The Mockumentary, a Game parody album.

ē 2005: Just in time for the release of 50 Centís The Massacre, 50 kicks a disloyal Game out of G-Unit. That leads to gun violence. Then a week later, 50 asks Game to rejoin. That leads to G-Unity, a bi-coastal youth charity. G-Mail, the official e-mail client of G-Unit, celebrates by offering all users 1000 megs of G-Unit desktop wallpaper.

ó NS

Yawn. Before all the bread and circuses, I had this great stolen bit about how G-Unit were the prefab Backstreet Boys of rap ó a test-tube crew, boy-band cosmo, geographically and stylistically diverse but with no overarching local-crew character. Now, with all the guns and disses that have taken place between the Unitís two biggest stars, 50 Cent and the Game, including a shooting allegedly related to the feud that took place outside NYCís Hot 97 radio station in late February followed by a well-timed "G-Unity" happy ending, shitís way too off the top rope for Nick Carter jokes. G-Unit are more Wrestlemania than ever.

Forget all the corporate conspiracies, too ó any 13-year-old from Newton can tell you that the stage was set for new albums by both 50 Cent and the Game to sell hard with or without Hot 97 fireworks. (The Gameís The Documentary debuted at #1 with close to 600,000 sales the first week after its release on January 18; 50ís new The Massacre moved 1.1 million units after debuting at #1 the first week of March.) The bigger question is this: outside the WWE, whatís the last time such a massively unimportant feud occurred between two jacked dudes with stage names, shifty alliances, and self-mythologies that are way more entertaining than their actual skills? When did bullet count become more important than sales, and rapthenticity more compelling than solid rhymes?

The Answer (somehow not the name of a G-Unit rapper) is all purple hazy. But G-Unit, if they havenít contributed to that shift, are certainly the kings of it at this point: put a good beat and an indubitably rags-to-riches story behind a rapper and kids donít care what he says.

Check the Game. From the artist name to the album name (The Documentary, on Aftermath) to the rap-industry filosofizin intro ("The quality of your living depends entirely on your ability to play the game"), has there ever been a release whose very form ó the faceless collaborative rap blockbuster ó is so openly its content? Game is maybe the most unwittingly meta rapper ever.

And thatís assuming he even considers himself anything more than the rap carpetbagger he is. "Iíve only been rapping for a year and a half," he says on "Donít Need Your Love." Dudeís about making money before he claims to have any purely artistic interest in hip-hop. Rap is his stepping stone, and the Game is willing to play along in order to get rich: "The hell if I care, Iím just here to get my cash/Bougie ass bitches, you can kiss my ass."

G-Unit know that local identity counts for a lot, though, and early on in The Documentary, the Game makes a point of name-dropping Compton. Even before popping the disc, we see the town name emblazoned on the back-cover art ó shouldnít we just know heís West Coast from how he sounds and what he says? Remember, though, formís content here, and songs like "Westside Story" exist less for the Game to wax local and more to align him with previous West Coast successes ó namely, N.W.A, Dr. Dre, and Snoop. Only on The Documentary could the story of how Game "jumped on Dreís back" be something to brag about.

Underscoring the empty ring of his Compton claims, Game doesnít pit West versus East ó itís a bad business decision to hate on potential collaborators, and anyway, nobody cares about the coast rivalry anymore. "Westside!" peppers the disc, but in terms of style, Game is "Rapside," an all-yous-my-heroes sponge whose identity lies in his vacuousness, his lack of identity. The title track chorus is one big name-dropping pastiche: "Iím ready to die/Without a reasonable doubt/Smoke chronic and hittin/Doggy style before I go out/Until they sign my death certificate/All eyez on me/Iím still at it, illmatic/And thatís the documentary."

Familiarity is essential to the Game. The Documentary is a complete blueprint for making a commercially successful gangsta rap album by distilling the essences of the most critically and commercially successful gangsta rap albums of all time. G-Unit have bottled the rapper as thug, and anyone who hasnít sold drugs, gangbanged, and spent time in a hospital with gun wounds just sounds unconvincing. Game knows well his story is none too new: " . . . and your Jesus piece is sim-u-lar to Biggieís/And your life storyís sim-u-lar to Fiftyís." At least he knows his history.

When rap personalities blur, beats bear the burden. Speaking to both Gameís vacuity and the strength of the production on The Documentary is the fact that he used no fewer than 17 different producers for the discís 18 tracks ó from Scott Storch to Cool & Dre to Timbo to Kanye to Dr. Dre to Hi-Tek to Swizz Beatz. The shit pops, and the variety distracts from Gameís huffy flow ó the best thing G-Unit could ever do for the guy. Gameís along for the ride, a face to pull things together, and as long as he gets a check, the whole thingís fine by him.

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Issue Date: March 18 - 24, 2005
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