“Born 2 Rap”: Analyzing the best foreign hip-hop album of 2019
Okay, so I’m 18 and I love hip-hop and I like to think I’m one of a few my age who still believe in classic hip-hop, the bars, the rap, the culture as a whole and whatnot.
But I must confess, the years that I was five, seven, nine and so, I wasn’t fed hip-hop, not at all. My knowledge is limited to what I’ve found on my own, in the last three or four years since I found my way online.
That said. I know the name, The Game, I’ve definitely read a couple things about him, maybe on DJBooth or HipHopDX and other places where I constantly consume pieces about the culture, outside of Nigeria (where, for the record, I’ve lived all my life.)
Unlike my country, the hip-hop scene in America has kind of evolved, over the years, with the new guys leaving little or no space for ’em old G’s. At least, that’s what it looks like, from a foreigner’s POV. I never really got to listen to The Game.
Then, I started hearing about “Born 2 Rap” and I knew if I didn’t get off my ass and stream that album, my privileges to the continental might be revoked. Since I’m always screaming that I’m real hippie and I understand the game, I can as well just listen to The Game and see if the ‘old man’ really got game. So, without listening to any song by The Game before, I set out to listen to “Born 2 Rap.”
Already the tracklist along with the guest features, is robust and if the album isn’t good, that has gotta be one of the most cataclysmic events that has ever happened to hip-hop. Orchestrated by someone named The Game? “Tarrh. That will never happen,” I assured myself.
From the “City of Sin” intro by Ed Sheeran, with all the piano notes dancing all over as the Brit sings a few lines, leaving the instrumentation to flow on, you know whoever got this is on to something. Needless to say, it is a nod to the city of California. “City of Angels” is Los Angeles, by the way.
Then the drum rolls rush in as the man whose voice sounds like Nipsey’s come in, bridging the gap between mumble rap and these killers. He rhymes, and he’s got the OG voice. But what’s especially cool about “No Smoke” is the drums, and the never ending rolls and cymbal crashings that laces the voice of Game as he soldiers on his bars. Miguel‘s hook is top-notch, not less than what you’d expect, anyday. Still, the beat took this one.
Dom Kennedy‘s disturbing sound comes in on a hard note. Why it’s particularly disturbing is, I don’t know what I’d say, is he rapping or singing that shit? “LA niggas with the bullshit, you better not step to me wrong.” Is The Game trying to bring back the Biggie storytelling vibe? Because a lot of niggas rap, but he was born to do it?
Samples, are mad, when they’re right. And this one on “The Light” is just perfect. The Game came in, asking young G’s to step in his light. How a nigga like The Game namedrop Drake, Cole, Dot, Travis, Future and Chance? These niggas supposed to be kids to him, right? At least he didn’t throw any shade like Eminem.
I’d call “Carmen Electra” electric boom bap (yes, that’s made up) and it’s all rap and rap, and then there was the hook that’s just plain dope. And on “Dead Homies”, Red Café set the scene for Game, to do some rhyming. Behind their voice, heavy 808s, some unconventional kicks, is that a bass I hear? Oh damn, who cares.
“Gold Daytonas” has Dom again, doing the kind of hook he did earlier, sing-rapping for The Game. “West Side” is something you could have expected, what he did on here isn’t spectacular, but the energy is kinda contagious. And the fact that he did his “west side, west side” hook like ’em Pac’s usually did, is something, too.
Fifteen years of greatness, that’s what he had to practice. “40 Ounce Love” has a storyline, and talks a lot about jail. “Gucci Flip Flops” has a R&B sample too, and the kicks are heavier than anything so far. It’s like you could get bored here, if you’re not picking up the lines so fast.
But “Born 2 Rap”, well well well. This is Game’s story, about the time before he was a big shot. “I sit alone, in my room, in my zone writing classics, who rap better than me?” You could list names, but hey, after an album like this, don’t you really think this man might just be the Best Rapper Alive?
Now, the banger, “Welcome Home” featuring the late Nipsey Hussle. The Game spits some truth on here, welcoming us to his last album, and Nipsey came in with his ‘chorus’. “And who thought what happened to Pac would happen to Big?” And Nipsey, too? Damn! Nigga got a verse, at the end. Now that I think of it, it’s Nipsey that sounds a lot like The Game.
The interlude “Help Me” won’t help you do anything! At least, it didn’t help me. Why would it help you? Durrh.
Then like it’s the second part of the album, “I Didn’t Wanna Write This Song” leans on the vocals of Marsha Ambrosius for the vibe. The bass and the piano sync so perfectly you’d think it’s some kind of orchestra work. And there really isn’t any kick or snare on this one. Classic hip-hop, if you think about it.
“21 Savage? Really?” That was my first reaction to this. Maybe just to spice things up, a little? Perhaps. Whatever is happening though, The Game isn’t mumbling shit. 21 Savage wasn’t bad too. Game said the thing he misses about hip-hop most is the storytelling, and then went on tell stories. Fucking legend!
The rest of the album has songs led by big R&B guys, who did more than just choruses for The Game, they all did take over the song. Even the progression on those songs sounds more like what those guest artists dictated, Game was just playing along.
Talk about “Stay Down” with Bryson Tiller, we could reverse the credits to Tiller ft. The Game and no one would ask, “but..” nah. Bryson took everything. How about the Anderson .Paak jam, “Stainless”, that’s just some good vibes with Anderson doing his thing the way he would normally.
Then there is “Gangstas Make The Girls Go Wild” with Chris Brown and the strings on the instrumental gotta mean something. And the constant triple kicks, are for Chris Breezy, definitely. “Blood Thicker Than Water” is even better as it has Trey Songz delivering a perfect chorus for The Game to rap on. G rapped real life bars, OT, you gotta listen over and over. Trey did a good job, on the adlibs, man!
There are other rap tracks like “Rewind II” and “Ask For Me”, solo jams that made the album longer than it probably should be. But they’re not bad, for fillers. “Cross on Jesus Back” is The Game giving up the spot for someone else, he even did the hook and let D Smoke take the first verse. “But I can put you on!”
“One Life” has saxophones that instantly throws you into a kind of mood, even as Game raps. The chorus, is short you could call it a vamp, but it’s important for the track to be whole. There’s even a sax interlude. Really, the track is complete!
“Hug The Block” is Track 17 and it’s my best off the album yeah. Partly cause it told a story everyone can relate to and partly because he said “over a bitch, dawg?” I mean, “bitch” and “dawg” in the same line? Only a genius can do that!
The album ended on a high note. The Game dropping introspective bars, talking about life, and the loved ones he’s lost. Ed Sheeran is just mEd! He did his chorus over and over, did a vamp. Finished the track. Actually, the album!
I have listened to many American hip-hop albums this year, and I’ve rated some so highly, I think they’re better than all other albums I’ve heard this year. But, wait. The Game‘s got something here. Something mad, yeah.
As a Nigerian or African, I strongly think “Born 2 Rap” is the best foreign hip-hop piece you’ll hear this year. Or, since Game won’t be rapping anymore, ever? I can’t but agree that, The Game is the definition of classic!