Album review: 'L.A.X.,' by The Game

Patrick Varine

Is it a bad omen when your album opens with a prayer by… DMX?

Well, it should be. And yet, throughout the course of "L.A.X.," The Game’s gruff bark punctuates an unexpected variety of sounds that, even when they’re a little too slow, keep things rolling on an even and interesting keel.

After DMX rebukes Satan in the name of Jesus (not a joke) “LAX Files” opens the disc with Game flexing hard on the corner over a forlorn piano, skittery hi-hats and a rat-a-tat beat. Ice Cube drops the chorus on the neck-snapping “State of Emergency,” and it’s almost like a passing of the West-Coast torch: where Cube’s new disc, "Raw Footage," is the work of a movie star reminiscing on his youthful gangsta indiscretions, The Game is still in his prime, and he tears into many of "L.A.X.’s" tracks with the zeal of a young Oshea Jackson Jr.

Unlike Cube’s new record, however, a smorgasbord of top-shelf producers – Kanye West, Cool & Dre, DJ Hi-Tek and Scott Storch among them – provides The Game with a wide range of beats that have a lot of moves you just don’t see on the average mainsteam rap record: a plucky guitar and the sweet croon of R&B singer Bilal drive the bouncy “Cali Sunshine,” a skittery beat that could be a J. Dilla b-side and a Ludacris cameo propel “Ya Heard” and former Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker provides live percussion for “Dope Boys.”

There are several obligatory R&B club jams, with Keyshia Cola, Ne-Yo and Raheem DeVaughn, and the first five tracks start things off a little too slow before kicking into high gear, but unlike fellow chart-topper 50 Cent (who recently released the decent-but-forgettable "Terminate on Sight"), The Game seems to put a little more time and effort into picking his beats and making his rhymes.

Sussex Countian