At 29, the Game (aka Jayceon Terrell Taylor) is a battle-scarred vet. After getting shot five times in 2001, he recuperated by studying the styles of rap's finest and coming up with a West Coast meets East Coast flow that attracted the attention of Dr. Dre, who produced his 2005 multi-platinum debut, The Documentary. Although he's released three solid records, Game's ascension to the top has been far from drama-free. In the process of becoming one of rap's distinct voices, he has been involved in notorious conflicts with 50 Cent, G-Unit and Suge Knight, and has faced legal issues. When we caught up with him, he'd just been slapped with a $1.5 million lawsuit stemming from an alleged violent incident during a pick-up basketball game. Undeterred and focused on his upcoming tour, Game speaks about his latest record, LAX, and his respect for historical icons.
Westword: On "LAX Files," you reference Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy for their alleged gang affiliation.
The Game: Basically, Weezy and Jeezy have caught some flak toting rags — you know, Jeezy wearing a blue rag, trying to be a Crip, and Weezy wearing a red rag. So I thought I'd let everyone know this gangbanging shit out here, it's just not that easy; you don't just put on a rag and you're just automatically the most banged-out person in gangbanging history. I always like to spin a little something, make sure people are listening to me.
In "Never Can Say Goodbye," you take on the personas of Tupac, Biggie and Eazy-E. What can we learn from these tragic deaths?
We can learn a lot from the lives, not the deaths, of Tupac, Biggie and Eazy and what they brought. Each brought something individually to hip-hop that you can never take away, which is tons of music. Today — knock on wood — if some of these rappers die today, I don't think people will listen to their music years from now and say they're icons or anything of that nature. You know what Biggie and 'Pac bring to this shit? They were here and they were legends. They're kind of like hip-hop apostles, if you think about it.
You close the record with "Letter to the King." How does Coretta Scott King serve as an inspiration?
I have a lot of respect for her as a mother, a role model and a person of color who has accomplished a lot and been through a lot.
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How do you think Dr. King would view hip-hop?
I didn't know him, but I know one thing for sure: I know that he would have approved of hip-hop, because it is just good for his people. He would have had certain things to say about it; I definitely don't think he would have liked everything that hip-hop is about, but he definitely would have approved of it for uniting his people and providing an opportunity for jobs.
What are your thoughts on Obama getting elected?
Oh, man. Say it loud — I'm black and I'm proud. James Brown.