Q&A with The Game
Westword (James Mayo): Why does hip-hop need the Game?
The Game: I don't know if it needs me, but it needs something. At this point, I don't even know if we should call it hip-hop; I think we should try to find another name for it. The more we call it hip-hop, the more we are deteriorating what the true meaning of hip-hop is. And you know what it used to be about: It used to be about culture, somewhere where you could go, where you could always be comfortable. It was a culture, where it was about music; it wasn't about money and cars, bitches, chains, egos. It was about coming together the best you could just to make music. I think we've lost that.
WW: How would you compare LAX to the rest of your records?
TG: I don't compare my records; that's what you guys are for. I just make them. My favorite is Doctor's Advocate. That's the more West Coast-orientated record. I don't think either of the other two compare for me. LAX, The Documentary, Doctor's Advocate -- they're all good albums.
WW: You dedicated the record to Shannon Johnson. Can you say a little about her?
TG: That's my cousin. She passed tragically, and I don't want to touch base on that.
WW: What did you want to say with the opening cut, "LAX Files?"
TG: "LAX Files" is just me giving a chance to walk my listeners through Compton. It is more of a braggadocio track, just me separating myself from the Hollywood aspects that hip-hop has been about. J.R. Rotem wrote and produced the track. I just try to go in there and do my thing. It's got this double-time rhyme scheme; I kind of speed it up and slow it down. I like to start my albums off with tracks that come out banging. I've always done that, and "LAX Files" carries on that legacy.
WW: What are your thoughts on the mainstreaming of gang culture? It's as if gangbanging is now accepted and glorified by the mainstream media. Snoop has his own reality TV show, and every time you see Lil Wayne, he's toting a red flag. Do you feel any responsibility on what message this might communicate to young people?
TG: Personally, people are going to do what they want to do, regardless. People can say that rappers being gang members and glorifying gangbanging on TV is, like, a bad influence on the youth, but I don't necessarily think so. I think the youth has been negatively influenced before gangbanging ever existed, and will be if it didn't exist. People, kids, they are going to do what they want to do. If it's not me or Snoop, then it's Arnold Schwarzenegger or Rambo. It's all entertainment. Once you understand that, you can kind of get a grip on why we're here and what we're doing. It's not any deliberate act, like we're trying to make someone join a gang; we're just trying to shed a light on something that has rendered us hopeless growing up before rap existed.
WW: Is hip-hop a convenient scapegoat for society's ills?
TG: People are always looking for excuses to tear down our expression of our oppression. I'm not going to stop doing what I'm doing to cater to anyone else's opinion on what they think is right.
WW: On "My Life," you say, "Fuck Jesse Jackson, it ain't about race." Why did you want to call out Jesse? It seems like this generation of rappers -- you, Lil Wayne -- have had a lot to say about Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Why do you think that is?
TG: 'Cause he's a fucking hypocrite, and that is just what it is. You can't be going around like you're the God Almighty Reverend and then turn around and you have kids out of wedlock. Just false preachers. I don't understand that, and I'm not an advocate of that, and I just don't respect it. That's me; that's what I feel. I can't speak for Lil Wayne.
WW: What was the concept behind "Never Can Say Goodbye"?
TG: I just wanted to put myself in the shoes of three legendary rappers [Tupac, Biggie, Eazy-E], who are all iconic in their own right, who had untimely demises, and I did the best I could. I think I did a pretty good job. I have always been an MC who followed and stayed with concepts, and that is a concept that I created in the studio. And I was proud of myself on the way it turned out.
WW: How important of an influence is Eazy-E for you?
TG: Eazy-E is why I'm here. If it wasn't for Eazy, you'd be talking to air. Eazy is the man; I appreciate Eazy; he has done a lot for me. He is the reason why I'm here, and for a lot of rappers who are not even from the West Coast or anywhere near Los Angeles -- because modern day hip-hop is a form of gangsta rap, no matter how you look at it. You got all these rappers talking about what they're going to do and who they're going to shoot -- I mean, that is gangsta rap at its finest. Nobody was talking about guns or weapons until NWA, and who was NWA? Eazy was behind NWA; he created it, started it, founded it, you know, so he's going to get that legendary respect for me.
WW: How was it working with Ice Cube on the track "State of Emergency"?
TG: Working with Ice Cube was a dream come true. I really appreciated the opportunity. He's a friend of mine now. Working with Ice Cube was real, real, real big for me, big for my career, big for my mental, big for my psyche. He is the ultimate dude. I remember having my first bootleg, the Boyz N the Hood tape, and watching it and being scared, you know Dough Boy. It was just crazy working with Ice Cube. Every time people ask me that, I get a smile on my face; that's something you never see on a regular basis from Game.
WW: On a recent American Gangster episode, the series profiled a drug kingpin in the Bay Area. One thing that stood out is when they interviewed Mister F.A.B. and he said that he woke up one day and realized he was surrounded by death, from the dead icons on the wall, to the RIP T-shirts, to the countless funerals he had attended. Why does death permeate so much of hip-hop?
TG: All I can say, it is the art form. I think it is because we all come from poverty-stricken neighborhoods, and that is just what we're around. It is just like if we were in the zoo, we'd probably do [and rap about] the same thing, because you have animals killing each other all day. That's just our reality.
WW: From this same episode, one thing that also stood out was that the Black Panthers/political activism and the drug dealers/gangs both struggled for the heart and soul of the community, and the Panthers and political activism lost. This situation also parallels what happened in L.A. Do you agree with this, and if so, why do you think this happened?
TG: I don't really agree. Tell you the truth, I don't have any answers on why or how it happened. Sometimes shit just happens, and sometimes there is no reason, and you can say it's life. You can give the blame to the devil or Jesus Christ himself; sometimes things happen and there is nothing you can do about it except accept the reality. That's what I do a lot in my life, and it keeps me from tearing up and blaming myself for feeling bad most of the time, when things like what you're saying render us hopeless. When I say that, I'm speaking not only for myself, but for all people who struggle.
WW: The record closes with "Letter to the King." How does Coretta Scott King serve as an inspiration for you?
TG: The wife of the legend for my people. Someone who held her husband down even after his death. Martin Luther King died, and he didn't get a chance to raise his kids, but his wife was there, and his kids seemed to stay on the right path and turned out to be something that I'm pretty sure he would have approved of.
WW: How important are your kids to you, and how does having your two kids make you want to raise your family differently or similarly from the way you were raised?
TG: I know that going through my childhood, if I ever had a child, I would raise my family differently, and that's just what I'm going to do. If I would have had a wonderful childhood, it would have been the same way. I understand fatherhood. I know that when you have a child, you accept the responsibility whether you like it or not; it's just what it is. If you're going to have children, you have to take care of your kids. Me, I'm a father figure. I'm great at displaying affection for my children, and I show them how much I love them all the time.
WW: Do you feel that you didn't have a childhood?
TG: I don't even go back to thinking about my childhood. I live my childhood through my children.
WW: What are the plans for the upcoming tour?
TG: I'm just going to grab the mike, and there ain't no telling what I'm going to do. I'm not like other hip-hop artists -- I don't have a band; I don't practice. It's just raw; just give me the microphone and tell me to go.
WW: Any truth to the rumor that you're trying to put together a record with other legends of West Coast rap?
TG: Anything is possible. That's what I've been taught.