No one said it was easy being a gangster. Just ask Jayceon "Game" Taylor. Ever since his debut, it seems like the California rapper has constantly been involved in some kind of beef, controversy, or general fuckery. As of late, though, it's been quite the opposite. Game swears he won't dis anyone on his upcoming, oft-delayed The R.E.D. Album. He's made amends with his old label, Aftermath, as well as his old mentor, Dr. Dre. He's even made some new friends by entering a partnership with Pharrell.
And although he still gets pulled into the gutter on occasion (like when someone recently threw beer at him and his kids) he's been level-headed enough to steer clear. The new and improved Game might actually be older, wiser, and more mature...but there's a problem. His music isn't connecting.
A slew of new material has been released or leaked this year, but whether it be the Justin Timberlake-assisted "Ain't No Doubt About It" or the Robin Thicke collaboration "Pushin' It," none of the songs have managed to chart. With his new mixtape, Brake Lights, currently lighting up the Internet and The R.E.D. Album still without a firm release date, we got on the horn with Game to talk about when his album will actually come out, what it'll take for him to kill you, and why he's still just one hit away.
Interview by Insanul "Incilin" Ahmed
Complex: Brake Lights came out this week. All the songs are produced by Cool & Dre. How did you get them to give you such a big batch of beats for free?
Game: Basically Cool & Dre, those are like my brothers. We been getting down since The Documentary. For some reason, they always come through with the good joints that put my album where it needs to be right at the end, like "My Life," "Hate It or Love It," and "Big Dreams." So when it came to the mixtape, we were working on a song for my album that I did with Drake. And then they were like, "You should do a mixtape and let us do all the beats." They was like, "We'll give you as many as we can. We're gonna make 'em all fresh and give 'em to you. You kill 'em and let Skee host it." And I think it would happen, you know what I'm saying? I've never dropped a tape that's all original beats.
Complex: You have a lot of features on the record from a lot of big artists; Akon, Nas, and Rick Ross are all on there. How did you secure that many dope features on a mixtape?
Game: I just sort of reached out and asked for mixtape verses and hooks, and people got back to me quick. I'm not a new cat, so you know I'm well-respected. And I have a lot of camaraderie with a lot of these artists, at least a lot of the good ones and some of the fresh ones. It's like when I reached out for the "One Blood" remix, you know everybody was getting back to me.
Complex: And as far as the songs themselves, are there songs that you recorded for The R.E.D. Album and then decided, "Oh, I'll just put this on a mixtape"?
Game: Nah, all of these songs are fresh. Everything that you hear me saying is like brand-new. I didn't take anything old, or anything that was for anything else and put it on this tape. I just went in for about a week straight and recorded a bunch of new stuff. There might be two songs that I had, that I never put out that. I think I went in and finished them and sort of put them on the tape as bonuses.
Complex: So as far as The R.E.D. Album, you've had a lot of pushbacks. Is the August 24th release date definitely going to happen?
Game: I think I should stop saying when the album is gonna be released and just say "when it's released, just pick it up," man. And I think that no matter how long people wait, we're not gonna get into a Detox situation and wait over 10 years for that. Whenever my album drops, people gonna appreciate it being pushed back as far as it's been pushed back. Interscope be having different agendas and they want you to do the shit right. And I think people just need to understand that it's not the artist, it has a lot to do with shipping, packaging, and getting artists the greatest look that they can get.
August 24th was real realistic to me until I started touring. Before I get really locked into it, when I get home on the 8th man...you know, it might still be the 24th once I talk to Jimmy Iovine. He's overseas and he gets back when I get back so I'ma sit down with him and have a meeting and we'll play everything I got. I think I'm missing my huge single like "My Life," or "Hate It or Love It," or "One Blood." And I think I really need to find that.
I swear on my kids that this is the most incredible album that I've ever done in my life. If I'm lying man, may God take them away and I never see them again. You know I got everything from Dr. Dre on this album. Not just the beats—he's on the album vocally. And as far as the new hip-hop is concerned, I got the biggest kid in hip-hop on this album, which is Drake, on a really great Cool & Dre track. I got Just Blaze, Swizz Beats, Kanye, all these dope producers on this album; this album is so classic that I don't wanna throw it away.
My last album did like 270,000 the first week and it really had no buzz and it wasn't pushed and we just threw it out. And "My Life" is what carried it over to platinum. I don't want that to happen with this album. I think that if I threw my album out tomorrow, I got 300,000 fans that'll go get my album first week. And that's not shabby during this day and age. But I really wanna push for gold and try to top The Documentary's numbers.
But I don't think I can do that without a huge radio record. And I don't want it to be so radio that it's not street. Like I'm looking for a cross between "One Blood" and "Hate It or Love It." And I think that it wouldn't be successful or right for me if I put my album out before that. I'd be cheating myself and cheating my fans. So when I get back, I'll have a meeting with the label and we'll see what they say. I had a meeting with Steve Berman, the man under Jimmy Iovine, before I left, at a restaurant in Beverly Hills. He assured me that the label would not drop the ball with this album. They just want a hit record. Not saying that I don't have one, but I wanna go in and play everything I got. 'Cause if I get a huge record out I'll fuck around and get Lil Weezy the first week.
Complex: As far as your other songs, you had a lot of singles out. You had "Krazy," "Shake," and "It Must Be Me." Were you not satisfied with...
Game: No, no. It was Pharrell's idea to just throw a bunch of songs out. You know I'm saying like, we threw a bunch of shit out just to you know test the waters. That's it, man.
Complex: So, will those songs still make the album?
Complex: They've been cut from the album?
Game: No, "Krazy," and I think something else, those were for iTunes. Interscope doing a few things where you give songs to iTunes just to let the fans have them earlier and you charge them $.49 for 'em, and that's what those were. We haven't put out any real singles yet. The only thing that was on the album that got put out was the Justin Timberlake record, but that was never supposed to be the first single or anything. That was like a good, last, third or fourth single, but it leaked. The label liked it, radio liked it, so they started spinning it. Then another joint leaked, my joint with Robin Thicke and T.I.. When those joints leaked, man, you just gotta let 'em do what they do. Talk about 'em, push them as much as you can, 'cause they might blow—and if they don't, then it was just a leak. But every time a song leaked I gotta go back in and really give it all I got. I really wish that Robin Thicke and T.I. joint didn't leak, though, 'cause that was one of my favorite songs on the album.
Complex: We saw some screenshots of "Ain't No Doubt About It" a while ago. Will the video be released anytime soon?
Game: Man, I don't know. We shot a video for it; it might be released and it might not. And if it does get released, it might be released after whatever the first or second single is. Just for online purposes only.
Complex: What is Pharrell's contribution on the record now? Is he still the executive producer?
Game: Yeah, Pharrell's the executive producer—probably for every album for the rest of my life. We created sort of a bond and a brotherhood, man, being in the studio for so long together. Now we just call each other every day, talking about music. And that's sort of how it is with Busta Rhymes and Cool & Dre, other cats that I've talked to on the daily man, just about life.
Complex: Is that why you got that Star Trak tattoo?
Game: I got a Star Trak tattoo cause Pharrell helped me out a great deal with this album, and I felt camaraderie and loyalty—plus I don't give a fuck about what I write on myself. I got stars and shit on my face, tats all over my neck. It doesn't really make sense, man, but I'm from Compton, who gives a fuck?
Complex: But you've had bad luck with the tattoos in the past. You had that G-Unit tattoo and then you got the G-Unot tattoo. You're not worried about like if you guys don't stay cool with each other, or he decides to retire, or whatever else might happen?
Game: I mean, if Pharrell decides to retire, what does that have to do with an inch-and-a-half-long tattoo on my arm? It ain't like I'm walking down the street every day with a magnifying glass on and it streams on YouTube every single day for somebody to be worried about my arm, man. If you paying too much attention to my tattoos every single day of your life, then you doing something wrong.
Complex: We had actually heard a version of the album and we did a write-up on it. Is that the same version of the album or are you gonna start re-arranging the tracks?
Game: If you heard any version of my album, then it can't be nowhere near the same tracklist or even songs, it keeps changing. The more time they give me to record, the crazier I'm gonna make it and the better the songs are gonna fit with the other songs. Yeah, man, it's definitely not the way you heard it. If you haven't heard it yesterday, it's definitely not the way you heard it.
Complex: A story that popped up not too long ago is Desperado Entertainment claiming that they were gonna sue Aftermath because they weren't paid for your publishing. I didn't understand the situation completely; can you break it down?
Game: I can't 'cause I don't know what that's about. They said they're gonna sue Aftermath. I'm not Aftermath, I'm Game. So I don't know about what's going on with Aftermath lawsuits.
Complex: Basically, they were saying that they owned your publishing from before you signed with Dre, and that they were owed a lot of money for your albums that they never got.
Game: Well, fuck it, man, I own fucking Buddy Holly's publishing. Who do I sue?
Complex: [Laughs.] Right. So no one has brought that to you like "Yo, you know this happened?" You're not worried about that at all?
Game: Man, people threaten to sue and do shit all day. You trip over a rock and somebody wanna sue you for tripping over a rock in front of their baby. I don't fucking know, man, people always suing, that's the cool thing to do.
Complex: Recently when you were talking with MTV, you said your album won't have any disses on it. Is that still true?
Game: My album won't have no disses on it, man. I'm 30 now, and I'm far past that. But if anybody fucks with me in the future, I'll definitely put their fire out. I mean, let's still recognize who I am and my capabilities. But at this point in my life, I just wanna make music and feed my kids and that's it.
Complex: Why did you decide to move away from dissing people?
Game: You don't move away, you just get older. Boxers retire, fighters retire. Everybody that does shit where they're going up against somebody or there's some type of competition; that shit gets old. Mike Tyson's not boxing anymore, neither is Lennox Lewis, neither is Muhammad Ali. But they were great when they were doing it, everybody respects them for that. So I'm not gonna lose no respect for not dissing nobody, everybody knows what I did and if they don't recognize or understand it yet, then when I'm gone—when I'm five years out of hip-hop—people will look back and see what I did.
Complex: When your last album was coming out there was a lot of talk saying that you would retire and that it would be your last album. Obviously it wasn't. Do you think you're gonna retire and go away after this album?
Game: Who knows, man? I'm just gonna make music 'til I get tired of making music.
Complex: This is your first album back on Aftermath. How do you feel the situation is compared with your last record when you were saying that the label put it out with no buzz?
Game: I got a chance to be in the studio with Dre for two months, letting him oversee my project and really make it better. And Dre, his contribution to this album was a lot more than it was to The Documentary, which is the reason why I think this is such a great album. The things that changed from from the last album to this are simply the things that changed. Back with Aftermath, Pharrell producing. I've re-found my grind, my lyrical content is up to par.
Complex: Did you and Dre ever get a chance to talk about all the stuff that went down before with the Doctor's Advocate album or even the song "Doctor's Advocate?"
Game: Yeah. But anything that me and Dre talk about personally, what goes down between us, it kind of stays between us. And I think that's what keeps our relationship golden. I don't really talk about Dr. Dre except other than giving him props for taking me from between a rock and a hard spot and giving me the chance to be a millionaire, and feed my family.
Complex: Speaking of your family, recently there was some footage where you were on stage performing and someone threw beer at your kids. What was the situation there?
Game: Yeah, that's another thing I ain't gonna talk about. You know it happened, you know every now and then if you believe in God, you gotta believe in the Devil. Sometimes shit happens and you just kind of have to look it off. If it was 2005 that dude would've been in the hospital and I'd have been sued for a million dollars by now. But it ain't. And the beer didn't really hit my kids, he just threw it our way, it hit me, but I aint tripping off that. But if anything happens to my kids, those are my kids. I will die for them and kill you for them. Point blank, period. When it comes to my kids, everything else goes out the window, out the world, and just out of my life and I don't give a fuck. When it comes to my kids I will definitely kill you, by myself.
Complex: That's the thing I felt just watching the video; it was like, "why would anyone do that?"
Game: Man, why would fucking Charlie Manson kill all those people, why would Jim Jones make everybody drink fucking poison Kool-Aid, why would people throw beers? Its just some people are ignorant, they do shit like that and that's just what it is and it happened, and it's gone.
Complex: It's interesting to me you mentioned "if this was 2005"—talking to you now, you seem much more mature. Are you realizing that you're too grown to get into those kind of shenanigans?
Game: I'm pretty sure you're not doing the same things you were doing when you were 15, right? You just get older. The only thing that sounds feasible about explaining how you got older, how you get wiser, is simply to say that you're older and you're wiser. And it just happens in time. Nobody when they're 20 is doing the same exact thing when they're 30. You gotta have some sense or else you're gonna get looked at like an asshole. If I was fucking selling crack, shooting people, and still out there actually gang-banging, throwing up Blood every single day and shooting Crips in the face, would you think I was smart then? Being Game, putting out albums and having my kids? Nah, that would be the dumb thing to do. So I'm not on that. There are kids out there that are 17 and 18 that will put a bullet in your fucking head at the drop of a dime. And I think that if they went to jail for 20 years, after being in jail they'd wish they'd never done it. When I went to jail the coldest killers in life would tell you, nobody in jail wants to be there a day after they're checked in.
All these people thinking they're gangsta. And after the Rick Ross song everybody thinking they're Big Meech again, Larry Hoover. Nobody really should wanna be that or aspire to be that 'cause you're gonna end up in a coffin. And trust me, man, most of these rappers, outside of me, 50, and maybe Waka Flocka and some other muthafuckas, ain't never felt bullets man, ain't never had a brush with really actually having your life erased. So a lot of these rappers out here playing, man; that's just not the message I'm trying to send across no more.
Complex: Does that ever bother you as far as other rappers doing that? I mean you mentioned Rick Ross, he's on your record, isn't he?
Complex: Does it bother you that he's kind of a phony?
Game: I mean, that's you talking, not me. But to each his own man. You got opinions and I got mine. Mine, I don't want to address it and then my second comment about it is to each his own. I mean let's be 100% real just between me and you, how many rappers are really fucking Big Meech and Larry Hoover, man? Absolutely none. How many rappers outside of John Forte from the Fugees are really moving birds? [Laughs.] Like, come on, man, and that was sort of an R&Bish rapper type of cat and he was really moving birds. I know when I first read that I was like, "Damn!" [Laughs.] We just rappers, man. It's a lifestyle. And even if you used to chop crack you wasn't really moving no major major fucking Pablo Escobar weight. So let's just calm down with all that and get back to music, man. It's a facade. And I can't say anything except that I'm a part of it, too. There was a time where I would put 17 bullets in a glock, tie my rag around my face, and do what I had to do to survive. And now, I'm walking into Starbucks, I'm getting me some tea and I'm getting ready to do a show. It's a long time and a long space and there's room for a lot of change and a lot of growing up shit that happened in my career from that time 'til now. Now these days, if I'm still pressed or I'm pushed to my limit I don't think there's no difference from me being a gangsta rapper than a guy who's in a fucking post office, gets mad and pulls out an AK on everybody at his job. I think that anybody pushed to a limit will go to the max about their family, their kids, and their lifestyle. So everybody's sort of gangsta in the world, 'cause who won't go there if they need to?
Complex: But will that gangsta stuff still be in your music, though?
Game: That's what people are waiting for, so they can just wait to hear what's still in my music. And they can criticize and judge and analyze and praise at that point, and not a second sooner. If people don't wanna wait, then don't wait. If you don't wanna buy my album or you're mad cause I pushed it back and you feel like you're not a Game fan 'cause I'm not fulfilling my obligation, then don't fucking buy my record, I don't give a fuck. I'm out here doing shows, I still get paid $50,000 a night. Without being disrespectful to any hardcore fans out there, I'm just tryna make the best record possible and I won't put out my album until then. Not saying it's pushed back yet, just saying that if it does, then don't be so fucking butthurt.
Complex: [Laughs.] People gotta be patient.
Game: People get all wrapped up in album dates and they don't really understand that there's a lot that has to happen. If someone says the album's coming out on this date, they really want it to come out on that date. Now when it goes into the fact that, they haven't done a photo shoot yet or they haven't turned in their "Thank Yous" yet, or they haven't turned in their tracklisting or maybe they can't get a song cleared, and they really wanna get it cleared, they really wanna put out an album. Then shit starts to happen that delays the album, you know what I'm saying? And there's a lot that goes into it and a fan would never understand unless they become an artist.
Complex: Speaking of artwork, there's R.E.D. Album cover art that's been floating around the Internet for a while. Is that the official cover?
Game: Nah, that was the cover, I thought it was a dope cover, I really loved it. But that's gone, man. I changed it. You gonna absolutely love the new cover. [Unlike previous covers] the new artwork has nothing to do with my children at this point, other then taking care of them by putting it out. But this album is strictly for hardcore Game fans. This album, I'm telling you, this album is gonna be a dope album. And anybody that doesn't like me or is a critic and can't wait to say the album is trash, you won't even be able to say it, guarantee.
Complex: I like the confidence.
Game: It ain't confidence, it is what it is. All my albums have been great albums and this one won't stop. How many people even get a chance to put out four fucking albums? How many people got three albums that went over platinum? How many rappers that are rapping now will get to their second album or get to a platinum album? Exactly. I been here for a while and I ain't going nowhere. I'm a figure in West Coast hip-hop and nothing or nobody can ever change that. I'm Game. And it's gon' be that way until I die.
RELATED: Album Preview: Game's The R.E.D. Album (May 2010)