Doctor's Advocate

Artist: The GameTitle: Doctor's AdvocateRating: 4 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Conan Milne

If adversity were to be personified, its daunting presence would stand face-to-face with a weary Jayceon Taylor. Compton's own has been through it all in the past year: label defections, family turmoil, and intense musical feuds. All as the media watched and noted. Fanning the flames of a controversial past year, Game tries to banish his demons with his intended victory song, Doctor's Advocate (Geffen).

The album's crowning achievement is its title track. The treatise offers a compelling insight into the MC's world by highlighting Game's emotional instability. Adopting the same off-kilter flow that made "Start From Scratch" arguably the pinnacle of his debut The Documentary, the troubled star pleads with Dr. Dre to understand his erratic antics over the past year. While Game's desperation to make amends may come across as pathetic on paper, the cut's overbearingly personal verses transpire as nothing short of riveting. Busta Rhymes, meanwhile, plays guidance counselor over J.R. Rotem's similarly thoughtful keys, attempting to bridge the gap between reserved mentor and scorned protege. It is a fascinating, yet sadly brief, trip into our subject's psyche.

Besides the above and a handful of others, most of Doctor's Advocate can be interpreted at a surface level. That's not necessarily a bad thing since The Documentary was equally straightforward, although Game does lapse into providing repetitive Dre homage's at times, with the street rhythm "It's Okay (One Blood)" coming to mind. When this occurs the artists commanding vocals, or verses or beats from Hip-Hop's most bankable, normally save tracks from the above-average ranks. The reliable Kanye West provides the backdrop for "Wouldn't Get Far", an entertaining ode to the video girl, which sees 'Kanyeezy' and 'Chuck Taylor' disparage these aspiring female superstars. Here, Game stands his ground next to a cocksure Mr. West. Over the familiar Los Angeles synthesizers of "Family Vacation", however, our subject seems somewhat out of his depth when placed alongside the iconic Snoop Dogg and a menacingly on-form Xzibit. Meanwhile, on "Scream On 'Em", the delivery of the Black Wall Street boss gets lost amidst producer Swizz Beatz' relentless energy.

Ironically, although average bars are worthy of criticism, it is his interesting personal foibles that catch the public's eyes and ears. Like Eminem before him, Game has allowed people a great scope of his world through his music and he's unapologetic about everything you see. This man remains wary of Mr. Jackson, idolizes Dr. Dre, and continues to poke away at some of the genre's heavyweights, while seemingly determined to prove himself at least their equal. Lyrically, he's not there just yet, but his conflicted personality salvages plenty. After all, his plight is intriguing: "Move bitch, you know who they came to see," he raps on "Let's Ride". He knows too, and Game will inevitably receive the attention he seeks..

With his latest album, "the heir to the Aftermath dynasty" has not strayed from the blueprint that made The Documentary so enthralling. He has worked meticulously to recreate that vibe minus a certain pair of accomplices and in that goal he has succeeded, for better or worse. True, the general formula imbedded in his debut still sounds relatively fresh, but the artist hasn't produced the lyrical upgrade required to stand unchallenged among Hip-Hop's elite. Doctor's Advocate leads the listener to conclude the Cali king won't stop until all his foes-artistic or critical, real or imagined-are vanquished.

Game may have knocked adversity down a peg or two, and on this occasion some powerful jabs ensure he's in no danger of suffering a second round KO.