"Doctor's Advocate," the second album from best-selling rapper The Game, is, essentially, a break-up record.
But instead of chronicling a failed romance, The Game (born Jayceon Taylor) is singlemindedly preoccupied with the deterioration of his relationship with Dr. Dre, his mentor and executive producer of his multiplatinum 2005 debut "The Documentary." After The Game's feud with fellow Dre protege 50 Cent, the young MC bolted Dre's Aftermath imprint for sister label Geffen.
Subsequently, the godfather of gangsta rap doesn't contribute a note to the new album, out today, yet his presence looms large. Not only do the lyrics of almost all 16 tracks reference the good Dr. incessantly, but the production makes it clear that The Game still wants to party like it's 1994.
Classic G-funk trademarks litter the album like discarded 40 - ounce bottles in a crack house, whether on tracks produced by current hitmakers Scott Storch, will.I.am of the Black Eyed Peas, or Just Blaze. Stabbing piano riffs, reverbed out to haunted-house proportions, and slow-rolling beats -- variations on the sonic palette of Dre's "The Chronic" and Snoop Dogg's "Doggystyle" -- still have the power to move. Lyrically it's all hot ladies, hot cars, smoking guns, and smoking weed.
Just as a friend nattering on about a lost love grows wearisome, Game's rapping almost exclusively about how he's "the heir to the Aftermath dynasty " -- unwisely comparing himself to Tupac, Biggie, and Snoop -- turns into a case of "Chronic" fatigue syndrome.
It doesn't help that his delivery, while crisp, only sporadically flows across a metaphor that is either evocative or comic.
A few of the hired hands step up the proceedings. Kanye West co pilots the crude but catchy dis of rap video vixens "Wouldn't Get Far," a follow-up to his own "Gold Digger." Snoop Dogg and Xzibit enliven the playfully retro "California Vacation." And Busta Rhymes plays defense attorney on the album's inarguable centerpiece, the pleading title track.
Although The Game has spent most of the album boasting, "I never fall off even without the Doc," on this teary ballad he give s thanks and praise and wonders "what . . . am I without a Dre track?"
The answer? A rhymer with decent skills but a lot of borrowed attitude.