The Documentary is the debut album by West Coast rapper The Game, released on January 18 2005 through Interscope Records. After recovering from a shooting in late 2001, The Game pursued a rap career and was discovered by Dr. Dre who signed him to his Aftermath Entertainment label. It features production provided by but not limited to Dr. Dre, Kanye West, and Timbaland, and guest vocals from 50 Cent, Nate Dogg, and Faith Evans
The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 586,000 units in the first week. The Recording Industry Association of America certified The Documentary two times platinum in March 2005 and it sold over five million copies worldwide. Music critics praised the album's production, but some panned The Game for constantly namedropping high profile musicians. Since the album's release, The Game is considered to be a driving force in reviving the West Coast hip hop scene, which had been overshadowed by artists from the East and South.
In October 2001, The Game was shot five times and put in a three day coma after being attacked by three assailants in his drug dealing area. While recovering in hospital, he studied seminal hip hop albums such as Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt, The Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready to Die, Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle, and Tupac Shakur's All Eyez on Me. Five months later, he was discovered by Dr. Dre who listened to a mixtape produced by his brother. The Game spent the next two-and-a-half years working on the album and being mentored by Dr. Dre who signed him to his Aftermath Entertainment label. In late 2003, Interscope Records CEO Jimmy Iovine decided to have The Game join G-Unit and be signed under a joint venture with Aftermath Entertainment and G-Unit Records.
The album's title was originally "Nigga Witta Attitude Vol. 1" (a reference to N.W.A), but was changed to "The Documentary" due to legal issues. It was set for a late 2004 release, but since other high profile albums including Eminem's Encore was to be released around the same time, it pushed back to January 18 2005. The Game worked on the album with the goal of reviving the West Coast hip hop scene, which had been overshadowed in the past few years by artists from the East and South.
After The Game signed with G-Unit, he recorded nine tracks with 50 Cent in his home studio in Farmington, Connecticut. He then went back to Los Angeles and finished up the album with Dr. Dre. In a 2005 Vibe magazine interview, 50 Cent stated he was brought in by Interscope Records to work on the album, which he claimed was on the verge of being shelved and The Game being dropped from the label. However, in an interview with Funkmaster Flex, The Game said his status was never uncertain nor was he close to being dropped. 50 Cent also claimed he wrote six of The Documentary's eighteen tracks—"Hate It or Love It", "How We Do", "Church for Thugs", "Special", "Higher", and "Westside Story"—and was not receiving proper credit for his work. The Game denied the claim, saying 50 Cent wrote two songs.
The Game recorded tracks based on his life experiences from his childhood to his success as a rapper. When asked about the album, he stated:
I grew up in a boys home and I was taken away from my parents when I was like 8 years old... Here I am, 24. When my album drops I will be 25 so that's 17 years I have been going through my struggle by myself. There are 17 tracks on my album and every track sheds light on a different situation I went through the last 17 years.The rapper commented on the album's perception before its release, saying "I know everybody was expecting gang-bang, 40-ounce, low-rider music, but that's not what I gave them... I'm telling a real story, and maybe there are people out there who can relate to my experiences." Rolling Stone observed that "every song has a well-massaged hook and some immediate appeal, and verses that don't waste a lot of time getting to the point."
The Documentary's big budget production from high profile hip hop producers was well received from critics. The first half of the album contains "upbeat, gangsta boogie" tracks with the other half relegating "smoothed out R&B maneuvers". At seven tracks, Dr. Dre co-executive produced the album with his "stripped-down cinematic" approach. "Westside Story" contains an "evil sounding piano plink", "Dreams" has a "simultaneously smooth and eerie" beat, and "Hate It or Love It" unveils a "smoothed out R&B funk vibe". "Higher" revolves around a pounding synth blast and "How We Do" contains syncopated hand claps with a beat described as "a hypnotic blast of sinister seduction powered by a deliciously primitive 808 pattern and a slinky synth." "Don't Need Your Love" samples Mary J. Blige's "Not Gon Cry" and is one the album's more soulful songs. "Church for Thugs" delivers a "sing-song stylee over an accentuated sonic bed" and "Put You on the Game" is a club track containing "dark dirge[s] of synth".
Although "Start from Scratch" features R&B singer Marsha Ambrosius, the beat "eschews the traditional R&B vibes" for more "aural intimidation". IGN called it "the most haunting inclusion on the album." "The Documentary" features a "busy backing track" of "crashing symphonics and tinny flares of synth", which one critic believed overshadowed the lyrics. "Runnin'" is a "dark, Stygian tune augmented by tinges of R&B mellowness." "No More Fun and Games" has a fast-paced beat that takes inspiration from early 1990s production. "We Ain't", which samples Dr. Dre's "The Watcher", takes Eminem's "chug laden synth gurgle" and is described as "one of the most menacingly catchy numbers on the entire album." Nate Dogg features on two "smoothed out" tracks; "Special" and the g-funk-inspired "Where I'm From". "Don't Worry" is an R&B flavored track and despite its "minimal production", one reviewer wrote the song "still hits hard." The final track, "Like Father, Like Son", is driven by a "melodramatic, string-laden" beat.
The first single, "Westside Story", peaked at ninety-three on the Billboard Hot 100. Rolling Stone described it as "a kind of L.A. version of "In Da Club" with "a simple keyboard part, a spare 808 beat and strings that manage to sound both stressed-out and catchy." "Hate It or Love It" was the most popular single, peaking at number two on the Hot 100. At the 2006 Grammy Awards, it was nominated for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group and Best Rap Song. The music video, which was directed by the Saline Project, was nominated at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards for Best Rap Video, but lost to Ludacris' "Number One Spot". "Put You on the Game" was the lowest charting single, reaching only ninety-six on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. Entertainment Weekly called it a "club track so crunkalicious, it's almost shocking that a California newbie — not a Ludacris — was the recipient of its deep-fried Southern charms." The music video was directed by Damon Johnson.
"How We Do" peaked at number four on the Hot 100 for four weeks. It was also moderately successful worldwide, reaching the top twenty in most countries. The music video was directed by Hype Williams. The final single, "Dreams", is dedicated to Yetunde Price who was shot dead in 2003. It peaked at number thirty-two on the Hot 100. One critic wrote The Game "sews together a soulful Martin Luther King Jr. type speech with the acerbic wit and hustler charm of Malcolm X." Phillip Atwell directed the music video.
The Documentary received mostly favorable reviews from music critics. Pitchfork Media called it "the best West Coast street-rap album since DJ Quik's 2002 LP Under tha Influence" and described the production as "a rich, triumphant sonic tapestry". All Music Guide wrote the album was an "excellent debut" that "hints at a lot of potential" and observed the "most remarkable aspect of the Game is how he can be such a blatant product of gangsta rap... and leave a mark so fast." Rolling Stone noted The Game was "going for emotional impact rather than dazzling wordplay or laughs" and PopMatters described him as "a self-conscious, malicious, nihilistic gangsta rapper with a heart and lyrical content". On the other hand, Robert Christgau believed the album was "dull even when he isn't describing his medical problems, this no-talent is masscult rock at its most brazen". The A.V. Club praised the production for being "a sonic classic of slow-rolling G-funk and glossy hyper-soul", but panned The Game for his name dropping, suggesting if he "cut all the references to rappers and albums... it'd be a good 15 to 20 minutes shorter—and probably a lot more compelling." Billboard declared it "one of the best rap albums of the year" and Entertainment Weekly suggested "with the brightest hip-hop stars aligning for him, the Game may have willed himself a popular masterpiece."
IGN criticized the large number of guest appearances, stating "the propensity of guest artists makes it hard to actually get a grasp on the rising star's own voice." OMH Media observed "like many rap albums The Documentary is too long, but it maintains a high level of interest" and overall, it was "an impressive effort" that "introduces a strong presence to the West Coast". Stylus Magazine wrote "no one disappoints" and despite the record being "so obviously and deeply grounded in marketing, it’s still an outstandingly solid and enjoyable" debut. The New York Times noted The Game's "tough but straightforward rhyme style is appealing but not, usually, enthralling... This is a rapper who almost never forgets himself, who almost never loses himself in syllables just for the fun of it." The Village Voice criticized the rapper's lyrical skills, saying "the Game's rhymes are about six degrees from totally artless". Yahoo! Music also panned the lyrics for "almost totally lacking in shock value, humour or insight", but praised the production, writing that "musically, this is probably the greatest major label hip-hop album of recent years – a near faultless succession of hi-tech beats and ominously catchy hooks".
The Game is often credited as a driving force in bringing the West Coast hip hop scene back to recognition. Before its release, he expressed his desire to have high opening week sales, saying "I want to sell a million albums in my first week. And if I only sell one album the following week, I'm good." He also admitted feeling nervous about not being able to live up to the industry expectations, saying "Yeah, I've got some butterflies. I'm worried about my first-week numbers, and I'm worried about living up to the hype." The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 586,000 copies in the first week. The RIAA certified the album two times platinum on March 23 2005 and it was the tenth best-selling record of the year. The album has since sold over 2.5 million units in the United States.
The Documentary peaked at the top fifteen in most European charts it entered. It peaked at number seven on the UK Albums Chart and remained on the chart for thirty-three weeks. It reached the top ten in the Netherlands, France, Ireland, Switzerland, and the top twenty in Belgium, Germany, and Norway. The album topped the Canadian Albums Chart for three weeks and on March 8 2005, it was certified platinum with 100,000 units shipped. The record peaked at number one on the United World Chart for two weeks and remained on the chart for twenty weeks. It has since sold over five million copies worldwide.
|1||"Intro"||Dr. Dre, Che Vicious||"Down into the Magic" by Donald Kerr||0:32|
|2||"Westside Story"||Dr. Dre, Scott Storch||50 Cent||3:43|
|3||"Dreams"||Kanye West||"No Money Down" by Jerry Butler||4:46|
|4||"Hate It or Love It"||Cool & Dre||50 Cent||"Rubberband" by The Trammps||3:26|
|5||"Higher"||Dr. Dre, Mark Batson||Natasha Mathis||4:05|
|6||"How We Do"||Dr. Dre, Mike Elizondo||50 Cent||3:55|
|7||"Don't Need Your Love"||Havoc, Dr. Dre||Faith Evans||"Not Gon Cry" by Mary J. Blige||4:26|
|8||"Church for Thugs"||Just Blaze||4:00|
|9||"Put You on the Game"||Timbaland, co-produced by Danja||Timbaland||4:14|
|10||"Start from Scratch"||Dr. Dre, Scott Storch||Marsha Ambrosius||4:07|
|11||"The Documentary"||Jeff Bhasker, co-produced by Jeff Reed||Contains an audio excerpt from the film Livin' tha Life||4:11|
|12||"Runnin'"||Hi-Tek||Tony Yayo, Dion||4:26|
|13||"No More Fun and Games"||Just Blaze||"Gangsta, Gangsta" by N.W.A||2:37|
|14||"We Ain't"||Eminem, co-produced by Luis Resto||Eminem||"The Watcher" by Dr. Dre, "One Day at a Time" by Tupac Shakur, and "Patiently Waiting" by 50 Cent||4:46|
|15||"Where I'm From"||Focus||Nate Dogg||"Amanda" by Dionne Warwick||3:08|
|16||"Special"||Needlz||Nate Dogg||"Catherine Howard" by Rick Wakeman||3:57|
|17||"Don't Worry"||Dr. Dre, Mike Elizondo||Mary J. Blige||4:11|
|18||"Like Father, Like Son"||Buckwild||Busta Rhymes||"Mariya" by The Family Circle||5:27|
|Australian Albums Chart||42|
|Austrian Albums Chart||44|
|Belgium Albums Chart||17|
|Canadian Albums Chart||1|
|Dutch Albums Chart||10|
|French Albums Chart||7|
|German Albums Chart||11|
|Irish Albums Chart||6|
|New Zealand Albums Chart||3|
|Norwegian Albums Chart||11|
|Swiss Albums Chart||8|
|UK Albums Chart||7|
|United World Chart||1|
|U.S. Billboard 200||1|
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