This week, Game made headlines for the controversial artwork for his fifth album, Jesus Piece. Yes, the combination of religious and gang imagery is stirring, but according to the Compton MC, it's for good reason. He promises that Jesus Piece is the best album of his career.

Game recently got on the phone with Complex to talk about the album's theme, as well its featured guests, but the conversation drifted to far more than his own music. He went into detail about why he feels Nas' Life Is Good is the best release of the year, and what he thinks about the artists in L.A.'s thriving, young hip-hop scene, including man of the week, Kendrick Lamar.

Plus, what's Game's relationship like with Dr. Dre these days and what is comedian Kevin Hart doing on Jesus Piece? Those answers and more in our full dialogue below.

Interview by Ernest Baker (@newbornrodeo)

How did the new single “Celebration” come together? You have four superstars on it.
Actually, five. I consider myself a superstar as well.

[Laughs.] Four featured superstars then.
Yeah, yeah. You're trying to leave me out. I’m on you. [Laughs.] Nah, man. Look. From the early stages of my career until now I think people respect what I do—as far as my credentials is concerned, which is the music. At the end of the day, I'm a cool dude. Along the way, I kind of became friends with pretty much every artist in hip-hop. New and old. So whenever I reach out to people to do a record, it’s almost instantaneous to get it back.

I got the record. Me, SAP, and Cool & Dre produced it. I always wanted to re-do “1st of tha Month.” All of the producers over the years who've tried it, it didn’t come out too well. Dr. Dre started [a beat sampling "1st of tha Month"] a long time ago for me, right after The Documentary, but he never got around to finishing it. One day I was thinking, "Man, I just want to try it today." We tried it, and we added the dope drums to do it. We made it a little bit livelier than the original beat.

Then, I called Chris and I asked him if he could sing this hook that I thought of, which was one of Krayzie’s lines in his verse: “Celebration, I love to stay high.” And after that I sent it to Tyga and he killed it. And I sent it to Wayne, and Wayne bodied it. And I did my verse, and the song was done. But I was recording with Wiz, and Wiz was like, "Yo, let me hear your single." So I play him “Celebration” and Wiz went crazy. He was like, "Yo, I need to get on this, man." So I’m like, "There ain’t no room." He was like, "Man, I’m about to make room." So he took four bars and he did his thing. So that was dope.

On Jesus Piece, you have a song featuring and produced by Kanye West. You have a song with Young Jeezy and Future. You have a song with Master P produced by Premier. What can we expect when this music finally comes out?
I like the fact that everything is sort of floating around. I just come out the mouth with all things I can give you without blowing the lid on the handle. Number one, the best album out to me is Nas’ Life Is Good. I’m still going through Cruel Summer and feeling it out. I’m only three tracks in, like really putting my ear to it. So I’ll get through that and put it up against Life Is Good and we’ll see what it does, but I think Jesus Piecewill be the best album of the year.

 

I got people like Trey Songz and DJ Premier and Lil Wayne and John Legend and Meek Mill and Rick Ross and 2 Chainz on the album.

 

It’s a hidden concept on this album. It’s a conceptual album that falls exactly under the name. Everybody from DJ Premier to Kanye West to Cool & Dre to DJ Khalil, we got a bunch of dope producers that have been doing it for years. And then we got a bunch of new guys like SAP who produced “Celebration” with Cool & Dre. And K. Roosevelt that was under Hit-Boy. And then Hit-Boy. The beats are there. I’ve always been the one to have a good ear for the beats.

The album is simply like this, man. We wear Jesus pieces, right? We be rocking Jesus pieces. We be iced out. We don’t necessarily have a relationship with Jesus. I don’t even know if people wear Jesus pieces really believe in Jesus all the time. I just think that it’s become a trend in hip-hop and that’s what we do. I got into that and breaking that down and saying, "How you going to spend $50,000 on a Jesus piece but you won’t go to church and put $100 and paid your ties?” What are we doing out here?

I got songs on there that talk about my experience when I'm in church. I go to church. I believe in God. I believe in Christ. I sit there. I take in the sermon. I got a Bible with my name on it that my girl got me a long time ago. I got another one that my grandma got me a long time ago and I don’t necessarily read it every day. I take it to church with me but I be sitting there looking around thinking like, "Man, half of these people don’t know better than me."

I smoke weed. I drink. I go to strip clubs. I have fun in my life but I still believe in God. So basically, in church, it's a bunch of hypocrites sometimes and people there sinning just as much as people outside the church. It’s about that.

I got songs on there that’s about true belief. Like, real Christians. I put that up against people that are really in the street that might have more faith and believe in God a little bit more than people in church. It’s just a big old pot of concepts, man. What’s dope about is I got people like Trey Songz and DJ Premier and Lil Wayne and John Legend and Meek Mill and Rick Ross and 2 Chainz playing these roles on the album.

Then I got this Kevin Hart skit. I got Kevin Hart to come to the studio and do a bunch of skits, just being himself, [talking] about his own experiences growing up with church. Battling how to do the right thing and the wrong thing and his beliefs. Every time you bring up Jesus, there’s always going to be some type of debate because we all have different beliefs. Bible stories, scripture, life, living, all of that. That’s what the album is about. The concept is crazy. I think you would love it.

 

The Jesus Piece album, it’s my best work lyrically since Doctor’s Advocate, which is the best album of my career. Everybody says The Documentary, but I think The Documentary was titled such a classic because that was my first album.

 

Yeah, we put it on our list of the most anticipated albums for the rest of the year. We have high expectations for it. I hope it lives up to them.
The Jesus Piece album, it’s my best work lyrically since Doctor’s Advocate, which is the best album of my career. Everybody says The Documentary, but I think The Documentary was titled such a classic because that was my first album. As was Illmatic to Nas or Reasonable Doubt to Jay-Z or Ready to Die to Biggie, but still, Life After Death was the shit for Big. I actually like Life After Death more than Ready to Die.

It’s like that with It Was Written and Illmatic. Illmatic is a whole different conversation, but It Was Written was still underrated because of the legend that surrounded his debut. I feel like it’s kind of the same with you.
Exactly. I think Jesus Piece takes the cake from all five of my albums. I’m not going to get into an argument with my fans. They are probably listening and saying, "Nah, man. You crazy. The Documentary—" I’m not going to do all that. I’ve invested so much of my talent and so much of my resources and my hip-hop friends and producers and guitarists and pianists. I got dudes who play trumpet in the studio every night. We creating these beats and that magic to make it real. And lyrically, right now, I am in a whole another arena. I am killing shit lyrically.

I wouldn’t toot my horn. Everybody know that I can rap. I’ve been around. This my fifth album. This Jesus Piece album is going to be the best album of the year. I can guarantee it.

You're such a fan of the rap shit. You're like one of us.
I think the reason I'm able to get these features and then, give such great interviews and relate to artists such as yourself, writers, is because I’m just a regular, chill dude. I be chilling, man.

I don’t wear chains unless I’m on stage and that’s not every time. I don’t match my hat with my shoes. I’m not a rapper, dude. I’m just a human being with a cool craft that appreciates even being in hip-hop this long. Everybody doesn’t get a chance to have even two albums. I’m on my fifth one just blessed and humbled and cool and chill.

I think what people get misconstrued about me is that, at the end of the day I’m a real nigga. So if a problem comes up, I’m gonna have to fight or you might see Game acting a fool. I get mad like everybody else. I’m not a buster. I ain’t a punk. I’m a real nigga. But on the same accord, I’m the coolest guy on the fucking Earth, which is why you made the statement you made.

As far as music is concerned and hip-hop, I’m a fan of everybody. I listen to everything. I watch. I really listen, from A$AP Rocky to Kool G Rap. Nigga, that’s how far, that’s how deep my hip-hop love goes in the music. I’m just happy to be able to put an album out for the fifth time in seven years. This is way cool, man. I’m glad that the album is even crazy.

I would be happy to put out a wack ass album out. But to put a classic album out in this day and age where everybody is skipping through classics day and not really taking the time to format albums. You get niggas a radio single or some shit on iTunes. They shit playing on the radio. You buy the album and the album is trash. Let’s keep it 100.

Did that happen to you recently? Was there anything you were excited about because the single was hot and the album disappointed you?
Yeah, that happened recently. I won’t say no names. That’s gonna start something and gonna have me doing 600 bars on a nigga.

 

I’m listening to Life Is Good because that’s the most current, dope album to me.

 

[Laughs.] Oh, man.
But it’s all good, man. I’m just basically in my car every day and I’m listening to one thing. I’m listening to Life Is Good because that’s the most current, dope album to me so I'm just listening to that. I just downloaded Cruel Summer so I’m still trying to go to the studio every night and find myself alert and aware and awake enough on the way home to get it in because that’s the only time I’m in the car. I like to listen to my albums in the car. I can’t find that zone anywhere else.

Why do you say Jesus Piece is on a different level lyrically? What are you doing, technically, that’s better?
I mean, I’m rapping my ass off, man. I got like every style you could appreciate in hip-hop today. I channel those styles. I’m just in my motherfucking lyric bag. You’ll see. By the time you get to number four on the CD, you already know what you're dealing with. By track number four you're going to know that my album is killing everything out. Period.

 

Right now you sound so excited about the music you're making, but just the other day, I was watching the video where you were crying because you were upset about the state of hip-hop. Then you were talking about retiring after L.A.X. Obviously, you put out The R.E.D. Album last year, so that didn’t happen. How did you go from being over rap to feeling so rejuvenated?
A whole bunch of things happened in the last 12 months in my life. Number one, my manager and one of my best friends, Jimmy Henchman, went down in a court battle and he lost that. That kind of killed me for a minute. I was down. I wasn’t really recording then.

Then, all of a sudden, I got with my homie Stat Quo and Cool & Dre. They just moved out here, basically. They came to my crib. It was like some old school hip-hop shit. Came to my crib and was like, "Yo, I’m going to Interscope." My budget wasn’t even open. We did a couple shows. I took like $200,000 and I bought my own studio with top of the line everything. Had the guitars, pianos, everything. I did that.

It was off the inspiration of Dre coming to my crib. Cool & Dre, Dre. Just like, "Man, we gotta make music. Dog, you are one of the dopest niggas in the world and you just sitting here playing Madden in this big ass mansion." So we started. Once we started it just got so cool and so fun. It made me feel like I was working on The Documentary. I'm so anxious for everybody to hear this record. I’m excited. It’s my music.

 

This is the only album in my career that I'm excited about people hearing.

 

This is the only album in my career that I'm excited about people hearing. The Documentary, I was just like happy to be on. I was just happy to be a rapper. It was cool. It was fun, but I was young. I was still shooting, fighting, robbing shit. I was still selling drugs. When The Documentary album dropped, dog, I was still selling crack on my same block in my same crib, dude. I was young and dumb.

Doctor’s Advocate, I was mad at Dre, 50, Interscope. L.A.X., I was kind of lost, but my fans were pleased. R.E.D. was, "I’m still here and it's fourth album." But this album right here is me. This album defines me. If I had a choice, I would say fuck L.A.X. and R.E.D. because I was kind of lost in trying to re-find the love for hip-hop. I would just have three albums. It would be Documentary, Doctor’s Advocate, and Jesus Piece. Jesus Piece is just the music, the features, the producers, the artists. This shit is all so cool. I can’t wait for people to hear the album. “Celebration” is doing so well on radio and the Internet that I can’t even put out my second fucking single, which is crazy.

That’s going to be the street record, right?
Yeah, it’s coming. The crazy thing about the second record is I'ma throw it out and I'ma put the video out. You're not going to be able to get the audio for weeks. I'ma throw it up on WorldStar and BET or YouTube or Vevo or whoever want it first and want to premiere it and get them hits. But the video is going to be crazy. I promise a million views in one day. Guaranteed.

What's the song and who’s on it?
The song is “I Don’t Remember.” It leaked on Tyga’s mixtape which is all good because that’s my homie and he did a version. But the real song is me, Jeezy, and Future. It’s crazy. Like, crazy.

Are you very critical of your previous work? Do you care about when people have negative things to say or is it like, "I'm still rich, I’m still in my mansion"?
I’m the type of nigga if you give me a one-bedroom apartment—matter fact, two bedrooms, at least a room for my kids. Give me a two-bedroom apartment and some fucking Internet and maybe one couch and I’m straight. Fuck this mansion. Fuck these cars. I would jump back in a Cutlass tomorrow, man. I don’t care about this materialistic shit. You can’t fit none of this in a casket.

But I don’t think there’s ever a point in my career where I fell off. All my albums are No. 1 albums. I’m just saying, I strive for perfection. I felt like The Documentary was perfect, I felt like Doctor’s Advocate was perfect, and I feel like Jesus Piece is perfect. I just didn’t feel like L.A.X. and R.E.D. were perfect albums by my standards. I got fans out there that will fucking kill you if you say Doctor’s Advocate is better than the R.E.D.album. But that’s just them.

 

Fuck this mansion. Fuck these cars. I would jump back in a Cutlass tomorrow, man. I don’t care about this materialistic shit. You can’t fit none of this in a casket.

 

We can’t go into everybody’s Dre Beats and talk to them one-by-one and influence them differently. But I don’t think there’s a point where I ever fell off. That’s why I'm still here and I'm having fun. If you think about man, I haven’t been associated with any clique or anything to keep me going or give me that push since the first album. I’ve been solo, doing shit by myself for four albums, bro and I'm still here. Everybody else that is doing shit is tied into a clique or a crew. It’s just Game out here and I'm getting this shit done.

Why do you think Life Is Good is so great. What's your review on that?
Number one, I got a daughter. Nas’ “Daughters” was a leak off the album that caught me early on. "Oh, Nas. He’s back on his Nas shit." His real Nasty Nas shit. You know, talking to his daughter and then talking to her boyfriend. It’s just that conceptual shit. When I heard “Daughters,” I felt the same respect that I felt when I had first heard “Rewind.” Of course, it’s nothing like “Rewind” but it made me feel that Nas was on his shit when I heard “Daughters.”

Then I heard another leaked track and it was “Accident Murderers.” I was like, "Damn, how genius is that for him to say niggas is accident murderers." You don’t really want to kill nobody, but everybody out here saying they killing, they shooting. That concept was dope and putting Ross on it was like Nas showing homage to the nigga doing it now like B.I.G. was doing it. Ross—no matter what you say—Ross is the big, black, fat nigga that’s getting it in and he’s reminiscent to Biggie. He’s wearing that fly shit and doing that. I thought that was dope.

Sitting on front of the album cover with Kelis’ wedding dress. We all know Nas and his album covers be on some other shit, but that just took the cake, man. That shit was ill. And just the title. After all of that. Going through a divorce and exposing that to the world. Then sitting on the couch with the wedding dress and with his lap with no woman in it is just ill in itself. So before I heard anything else, I was like, "Oh, this shit gotta be ill." He's on his Nas shit.

Then when Nas was in L.A., I kicked it with him for about a day. We chopped it up. He let me know where his mind is. When I heard the album—as a friend and a fan—I was taken back. It’s lyrically insane. It’s dope. It’s the Nas of the old and I think it’s a good listen for everybody. Especially, if you appreciate true hip-hop.

What’s your relationship with Dr. Dre these days?
Me and Dre, we good. Last time I seen Dre, we good. We always said this thing with each other like, "Don’t worry what you hear about me." Me saying that to him and him saying that to me. We were basically saying that we're always going to be good the last time we talked. The last time I talked with Dre, we was good.

I haven’t talked to him for over a year. I’ve been doing my family shit and been doing me and he’s been doing him. Of course, he’s good. He’s got the Beats. Me, I got my fans and my heart and love for this music, so me and Dre 100, man.

L.A. hip-hop is having a huge moment. Everyone is talking about Kendrick Lamar right now. 
Kendrick came a long way. I watched him from the beginning all the way to now. I helped him get into that Dr. Dre school. I remember talking to K. Dot in my crib and telling him, "They're not going to recognize you. They're going to be like, 'What is a K.Dot?’" I told him to change his name to Kendrick Lamar. The best thing I've ever told him, he did. He listened. He’s always been a student of hip-hop as well a good listener and a dope lyricist.

Anything he ever need from me, he’s always got it. Anything I need from him, it’s nothing. K. Dot will turn around a verse in hours, no matter where he is on the Earth, for me. That’s my little homie. I love him. Not to say that anybody is going to diss him or speak bad on him, but if you ever do—number one, he's gonna lyrically annihilate your ass. Number two—I'm not even having that, man. Nothing but love for him and all the success in the world for my dude.

 

I feel like if there had to be a Nas and a Jay on the West Coast. Then I would be the Jay and Kendrick would be the Nas.

 

I feel like if there had to be a Nas and a Jay on the West Coast. Then I would be the Jay and Kendrick would be the Nas. That’s just how it goes. That’s how I looked at in my eyes. Without the beef or differences, of course. But K. Dot is doing his thing.

Odd Future, man. Their wave of skateboards and crazy fucks Tyler and Taco and all those young guys. Frank Ocean, man. Salute Frank Ocean for coming out and saying he is who he is. I think it takes a real man to do that, no matter what people say or how they feel about gay people. I’ve never been a gay basher or anybody against gays. I feel like people can live free and do whatever they want, so much love to him.

Nipsey is still out here doing his thing, and everybody else. We got a good thing.

Tyga was someone who people looked at like he was a lame. Now, he’s that dude.
If you had to put him in a category as far as being flashy and his club presence and his feature presence, I feel like Tyga is our West Coast Fabolous. Everybody is falling in their lanes. Dom Kennedy is on his way up. I appreciate it. Crooked I and Slaughterhouse. They just put out their album. Everybody is doing their thing. Los Angeles. We on the rise again.

RELATED: The Making of Game's The Documentary