After The Game (Jayceon Taylor) dropped 2005's best hip hop album, The Documentary, the young Blood from Compton promptly tattooed a butterfly on his face (which he then covered with a LA Dodgers logo), refused to endorse label-mate 50 Cent's beef against Ja Rule and Fat Joe (violating the transitive "my enemy must be your enemy" property of intra-crew rap beef), split with mentor Dr. Dre, and was revealed to have previously paid bills as a male stripper.
But don't sleep. Doctor's Advocate is, beat for beat and rhyme for rhyme, an even better album than his debut. Superstar producers Kanye West, Just Blaze, the Neptunes and will.i.am guest not as hired guns so much as genuine collaborators, and The Game has elevated his rhymes to meet their dazzling cinematics. Ever criticized for dropping names and referencing rap trivia, it's now clear that second-hand fame was a secondary motive. When The Game speaks on personal tumult here, it is with sincerity and rare candor, and when summoning the spirit of California, his imagistic approach maintains an evocative specificity, never once lapsing into gangsta-caricature.
-- ANDREW MATSON
Glitch, break-beats, space sounds and synth create a poppy, upbeat, sciencey backdrop to make some rather dour lyrical oscillations early on the Blow's fourth album. Drifting between sentimentality (on cuddling: "When you're holding me / we make a pair of parentheses.") and cynicism (on one night stands: "Pardon me but wasn't that your heart / that I felt on the bed / in the bed in between the sheets?"). The pendulum swings, eventually slows, settling decidedly on the broken hearted, the sardonic and the profane.
Jona Bechtolt, artist and beat-monkey, most recently the drummer in residence for Devendra Banhart's European tour, has crafted a decidedly percussive sound, from the marching snares on "The Long List of Girls" to the breaks of "Pile of Gold," marking time beneath the lilting, occasionally gorgeous vocal melodies of singer Khaela Maricich.
It's an eminently listenable album, and an eminently danceable one.