Game opens his fourth album by setting up a classic comeback narrative. On “The City,” he acknowledges the lukewarm response to 2008’s LAX and makes clear his intent to create a five-mic masterpiece this time. Like his re-christening (he’s dropped the “The” from his alias), that declaration seems to promise a creative re-invention, or at least a return to the drawing board, but The R.E.D. Album is neither. Instead, it’s LAX’s faithful sequel, another clumsy ox of an album weighed down by erratic mood shifts and an overreaching track list bloated with guest spots.
Among the 16 rappers and singers who receive feature billing are commercial heavyweights like Drake, Rick Ross, and Chris Brown, and independent luminaries Kendrik Lamar and Tyler, The Creator, who’s paired with Lil Wayne on the album’s most high-concept misfire, “Martians Vs. Goblins.” There may be a great song to be made by pitting those rappers’ divergent strains of madness against each other, but it would require a real verse from Wayne, whose meager interjections here seem to have been stitched together from recycled scraps of other songs. As with much of The R.E.D. Album, the seeds of a winning idea are there, but the execution is somehow mangled.
The Young Jeezy feature “Paramedics” wastes its usually spotlight-stealing guest on an uninspired rewrite of his single “I Luv It,” while the promising Dr. Dre/Snoop Dogg pairing “Drug Test” is a non-event, a cloddish party anthem that mostly lowers expectations for Detox. Even more disconcerting is “Born In The Trap,” where Game reveals himself as one of the rarest things: a rapper who isn’t flattered by contrast with DJ Premier. He falls behind Premier’s beat, as if struggling to keep his breath. Game can’t be faulted for lack of effort. Throughout The R.E.D. Album, he runs himself ragged trying to realize the masterpiece he pictures in his head, but he just doesn’t have the coordination to pull it off.