It's January 15, and Game is pursuing the American Dream with a vengeance. He's in the studio with DJ Toomp and a gang of homies and women, and he's working on his third album, L.A.X. The kid from Compton has filled his résumé with potent, poignant raps, shaking up the mixtape circuit and parlaying his skills into multiplatinum sales.Because it's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, tributes to the civil-rights leader, who was assassinated four decades ago, are showing constantly on the television screen. Amid the celebrations comes a disgrace: a news report about a shooting on Los Angeles' Crenshaw Boulevard during a MLK Day parade. The Game looks around and sees that almost everything he's doing is contradictory to King's legendary "dream." There's blunt smoke in the air and all types of liquor, and the scenario has the Game a little unsettled. At the same time, he's inspired. After kicking everyone out, he places a call to Hi-Tek and gives him instructions for making a beat.
" 'Take me back to '65,' " he recalled instructing Tek. " 'Martin Luther King is getting dressed in the morning. Coretta Scott King is dusting his shoulders off. He's about to go out. The dude waiting in the car, I'm him. I don't know if I'm his homie; I'm just gonna drive him to where he's going, and I'm gonna talk to him.' Then he came with [the track]. When we heard that beat, we went nuts. I immediately wrote three verses."
The instrumental that Tek provided, for a song that would be called "Letter to the King," turned out to be as soulful as lunch after Sunday church service. He wanted to add to the record with a guest spot and thought of Common and Nas. Since Common was already on an L.A.X. track called "Angel," his good friend Nas was an easy choice. As it happened, Nas was right around the corner from the studio.
"I called Nas, he came through, knocked it out," Game said. "So many people tried to take that record off the album. This record is a hip-hop must. That record, 'Never Can Say Goodbye' and 'Angel,' those are the meat and potatoes of what hip-hop is about."
Indeed, "Letter to the King" is one of the most provocative album cuts you'll hear this year. It is definitely a song you'll have to rewind a few times, especially Game's last verse.
"The word 'n---er'/ Is nothin' like 'n---a,' " Game rapped on Tuesday during a visit to MTV's New York offices. "Don't sound sh-- alike/ Like Game, like Jigga/ ... One is slang for 'my brotha'/ One is 'hang and take his picture/ The rope ain't tight enough/ He's still alive, go fix it/ Pour some gasoline on him/ Call his daughters black bitches/ Make him pick cotton/ While they mama cleanin' up the kitchen.' "
"When I first wrote it, man, that was ill," Game said. "I don't even believe I be writing sh-- like that sometimes. When I'm in the zone, man, I'm in the zone."
"I need Rihanna's umbrella/ For Coretta Scott's teardrops/ When she got the phone call that/ The future just took a f---in' head shot/ I wonder why Jesse Jackson didn't catch him/ Before his body drop/ Would he give me the answer?/ Probably not."
Game explained his fiery words to us.
"Jesse Jackson, all the things he's done great for our people, you commend him for it. But the way he spoke about Obama, Jesse Jackson was wrong for what he did," the rapper said, referring to Jackson's videotaped comment that he wanted to "cut [Obama's] n--s off." "I wanted to expose a little of his dark side. Don't forget he had a baby out of wedlock awhile back. Everybody is imperfect. But when you do something like that, disrespect a situation that's affecting us all on an everyday basis, people like me with voices gotta step in.
"Jesse Jackson is always in pictures with Martin Luther King, and he's always talking about Martin Luther King in his speeches," Game continued. "On the day King got shot, he wasn't there. [Editor's note: Jackson was present at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, when King was assassinated in April 1968, but he was not on the balcony with King when he was shot.] When I say, 'How come you couldn't catch your man's body when it dropped?,' it's because you couldn't if you wanted to. You was somewhere else. You claimed to be his man. Where were you that day?"
Game has some advice for Jackson on how to respond to his provocations. "I wasn't even born then, but I'm real knowledgeable," he said. "You can't get it over on me. I don't mind letting you slide until you do some crazy ish. Then I have to give you a bar or two. [Jackson] got one on 'My Life.' That was a little brash, Hurricane Game. Then he got one that was real Game, real conscious, real hip-hop, on 'Letter to the King.' But it was well-deserved. If I was him, I would take it on the chin and walk away."