By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
We've all encountered a big- talking blowhard like Jayceon Taylor before. He's the guy who crashes your party with a burst of grating false bravado, gesturing too excitedly, speaking too loudly, and helplessly exaggerating every story he tells. No one likes him; everyone tolerates him. Unfortunately, these days, that's the Game. He spends his third album as he spent his first two, endlessly reciting and revising his constantly shifting allegiances, kicking rappers out of his treehouse for good or electing them Infinity-President-for-Life—depending on his mood.
Here, his new best friend (predictably) is Lil Wayne; the Game sidles up to Weezy with the same unsettling zeal he demonstrated when 50 Cent was still his benefactor. Other big-brother figures this time around include Nas (who, oddly, sounds less compelling as he grows more introspective) and Ice Cube, who merely glowers authoritatively in the background, providing LAX with some earned, justified bravado for a change. For Taylor, confidence and charisma are borrowed commodities, based entirely on affiliation: "More scars on my face than the original Scarface/Or the homey Scarface," he rhymes on "LAX Files," and it could be the perfect Game lyric, with its awkward, unnecessary repetition and tiresome evocation of rap legends, all easily mistaken for the shrill, desperate boasting of a hyperactive eight-year-old.
Taylor's best assets remain his compellingly ruined wheeze of a voice, relentless delivery, and uncanny ear for beats. Unfortunately, the production this time around lacks either the sumptuous sheen of 2005's The Documentary or the brute, gut-punch effectiveness of 2006's Doctor's Advocate. This one manages a couple of vivid threats ("Leave you leakin' like a project sink"), a couple moments of squirm-inducing candor ("I needed my father, but he needed a needle"), and, unfortunately, a surplus of forehead-slapping quotables: "All we know is rocks and presidents, like Mount Rushmore"; "Hated on so much, Passion of the Christ need a sequel." Somehow, the Game is still coasting on wispy, West Coast–nostalgia fumes—chronic, red rags, lolos, etc.—but the goodwill, at this point, has pretty much exhausted itself.