The other night I got to do a little bit of genre jumping by way of two very different Los Angeles-based acts, In This Moment and The Game. The former is a hard rock act fronted by tattooed Marilyn Monroe acolyte Maria Brink, who definitely brings the star quality, but the rest of the band pretty much sounds like a more concise Lacuna Coil [not really a compliment]. The latter, of course, is the much hyped one-time saviour of West Coast hip-hop best known for his never-ending beef with former affiliate 50 Cent and his G-Unit crew.
Starting out the night with some vodka cocktails at In This Moment's showcase, we were treated to a short set highlighting tracks from their forthcoming sophomore release, The Dream. Threatening to blow out the venue's sound system with their sheer volume, ITM belted out new single "Forever," plus a few other refined songs with notably more "clean" singing than their 2007 Century Media debut, Beautiful Tragedy.
Photo by Theo Wargo
From there, it was on to see The Game headline the venue formerly known as Irving Plaza on the evening his make-it-or-break-it record, LAX, dropped. I looked forward to this particularly because I'd never seen Game live before and hip-hop live concerts aren't always known for their... ahem... dynamics.
Getting there in time to watch DJ Clue perform his set before a half-packed house of white dudes who looked like Turtle from Entourage, my expectations remained low. The air was already heavy with the smell of good weed when Young Joc—doing that same damn dance he was doing three years ago—started out what would be a long night of walk-on appearances and claustrophobia-inducing overcrowding on the stage.
Finally, The Game appeared onstage in front of no less than a 35-man-thick wall of miscellaneous characters who did nothing more than bob their heads and seemingly anticipate phone calls. Onstage. Actually, there was one roadie who actually worked—it was his duty to change The Game's chains and mics between songs. Other than this single chiseled valet, the rest of the white T and wifebeater-clad crew didn't move, didn't lift their shirts, didn't do any vaguely homoerotic [PAUSE] Pretty Ricky dances. Nothing. Not a goddamn thing. In fact, after seeing a grinning Irv Gotti peacock around the stage during the first three songs, I was tempted to leave, annoyed and distracted by his attention-hungry presence.
Dropping plenty of "G-U-NOT"s, Game ran through several songs off of his critically-acclaimed debut, The Documentary, while constantly sidestepping lyrics originally shouting out 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo—yet oddly still used the original tracks with 50 on the hook. I quickly realized this wasn't a night celebrating Game's music and career, it was his opportunity to ingratiate himself to his New York hip-hop colleagues. "I'm gonna get tired of bowing to ni**as tonight," Game said after dropping to his knees before Kool Herc, moments after sharing the mic with the Steve Guttenberg of rap, Dana Dane.
These legends were followed by a parade of the East Coast hip-hop scenesters who all dropped a few verses of their own hit records—Fat Joe rocked "Lean Back," Joe Budden dropped "Pump It Up," plus Ghostface Killah and Raekwon were invited to freestyle [Stuff White People Like: The Wu-Tang Clan]—even Maino and Jim Jones got in on the act. With each successive artist, the stage became more and more crowded with each's crews. Really? Did the ENTIRE Terror Squad need to be up there?
The coup of the night came when Young Buck came out for a little catharsis, as he and Game each experienced their own very fallouts with 50 Cent. Couldn't they come up with better wordplay than only offering the remaining members of G-Unit resolution through fellatio? ("Lloyd Banks can suck my dick..." Is that really the best you guys could do?) Stranger still, Game seemed to suspend Rap M.O. Rule #1: Braggadocio; barely mentioning his new album or promoting it with any sense of enthusiasm. Is Black Wall Street really that lucrative? I hope so.
Always one to root for the underdog, it's a shame to see The Game forfeit so easily.