Jayceon Taylor seems to be a very conflicted man. With his flair for the dramatic, The Game has managed to become a West Coast fixture despite being kicked out of G-Unitand being abandoned by Dr. Dre. But where Doctor’s Advocate showcased Hurricane Game’s ability to stand on his own, his latest – L.A.X. – gets by with a lil’ help from his friends.

Things start off interestingly enough with Wal-Mart’s public enemy #1, DMX, rebuking the devil in the name of Jesus with a God awful prayer. Game sluggishly segues from this into “L.A.X. Files.” Spittin’ an aggressive double-time flow, an awkwardly sounding Jayceon loses the listener with this one, but manages to throw a few curious barbs at Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy with:

“Look at what the Bloods did to Weezy/Look at what the Crips did to Jeezy/This gangbangin’ shit ain’t nothin’ to play with/Me and Snoop Dogg just made it look easy…”

The Game then tries to channel old N.W.A. with “State of Emergency,” a noteworthy track because of the Ice Cube feature, but skippable nonetheless. Starting off 0-for-3 (intro included), Murda Game finally surfaces to cook up some crack music with the Chef, Raekwon. Going back and forth over a Jellyroll-produced track, the West and East come together to provide that nightmare soundtrack for the streets to bump to.

Even the Lil Wayne featured “My Life” – which will do much to blow up on TRL and 106 & Park – suffers from what the start of this album has a lot of: somber music. Skippable after you’ve heard it for a few times, indeed. After commiserating for five tracks, a ray of happiness finally appears with “California Sunshine” featuring Bilal.Nottz gives Game an all-right track to name drop, dis 50 Cent and insert a few West Coast staples (Wilshire Blvd., Dodgers, you know…).

Nottz returns to flip Newcleus’s “Jam On It” into a Dilla-inspired “Ya Heard.” One of the better beats on the album, it provides the energetic lift needed to really allow you to enjoy L.A.X. Ludacris guest stars on the track and outshines The Game with a montage of witty barbs that leaves the Cali King sticking to his formulaic approach (name dropping, Dre, 50 dis – get the picture?).

The tracks for the ladies (“Gentleman’s Affair,” “Touchdown,” and “Angel”), are backed by the likes of Ne-YoRaheem DeVaughn, and Common. Ironically, Game spits his best lines to the metaphoric lady in his life,  reminiscing over H.E.R. with lines like:

“She got me open, so I even had to fuck her/But I used a rubber/’Cause she was married to Rakim/So, I bought me a gold chain, pretendin’ that I was him…”

The second half of the album brings the album full circle with better songs (“Dope Boys” and “Game’s Pain”), interestingly unique concepts on the last day of our fallen soldiers (“Never Can Say Goodbye”) and a strong political statement made alongside one of the game’s – pun not intended – most controversial wordsmiths (“Letter to the King” featuring Nas).

But somewhere, 50 Cent is getting the last laugh. The G-Unit General said that Jayceon couldn’t make a hit without him and it seems to be the point proven on his latest.You’ll be as amped as DMX is as the outro barks out of your speakers, but L.A.X. is its own bundle of dark thoughts, with a mix of hope for a better day and the love for hip-hop in its purest form. Jayceon may not have another The Documentary on his hands, but this album is finally The Game’s – even if he has a few friends along for the ride.

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