Explosive and self-destructive tendencies have been as much a part of The Game’s life and lyrics as name-dropping and low riding. Almost a decade removed from the first time the world saw him sitting on gold Daytons on the cover of The Documentary, the man and the artist have learned to take things more gradually. Additionally, his entrepreneurial spirit has manifested in to a new label, Blood Money Entertainment, with up-and-coming DUBB and the already buzzing Skeme serving as cornerstones. Their first official offering, Blood Moon: The Year of the Wolf , however, is a project that is as fragmented and meandering as Game’s public persona can seem to be. Torn between proving his veteran status and his investment in new trends; torn between Blood Money’s style and the heavy features; the album ultimately fails in establishing a balance and plunges into unfocused aggression.

“Bigger Than Me,” produced by Mosley is the song that first set the tone for fans’ expectations and it’s appropriately placed as track one. It is Game in his natural element — disrespectful, brazen and loving every minute of it. More essential though, is the several criticisms he makes over the sample of Polica’s “Warrior Lord”. Among his muting of BET cyphers and kicking people out of his VIP section, Game is overall dismayed by a “soft,” disingenuous new school that is unable to put real numbers on the board. This is the beginning of his goal to establish a clear line between himself and other rappers. 

Along with a slight diss to G-Unit on the following “F.U.N.” and addressing more serious street beef on “Really”, Game successfully conveys a feeling of distance and division between the Rap world and the real one. Essentially, he’s stating that “there’s levels to this,” and at this point his argument — as well as the music — is rock solid. 

The same can’t be said for the rest of the album, but as far as mishaps go, the worst of them are the muddled messages. It’s hard to digest auto-tune on the Lil’ Wayne assisted “Fuck Your Feelings” after being told that the “industry is soft.” Additionally, other major feature songs such as “Best Head Ever” featuring Tyga and Eric Bellinger, “On One” featuring King Marie and Ty Dolla Sign, and “Married to the Game” featuring DUBB, French Montana, and Sam Hook, offer little beyond the same old two-step charges he leveled at his competitors earlier in the album. Characterized by big R&B-style hooks, club-pandering and average lyricism, the album loses its cohesiveness and identity, turning it’s back on what initially made it excel. 

Though, some features do actually resonate. Bobby Schmurda, Skeme, Freddie Gibbs and Game, propelled by Amedeus’ production, are a kick in the face in “Hit ‘Em Hard”. 

Really, Year of the Wolf is an album split into three acts. As aforementioned, the audience becomes quickly acquainted (and enamored) with Game’s narrative through his take-no-prisoners tracks. Act two leads to a swath of superfluous and ill-timed features. Then, in act three, the last storyline passes the baton to Game’s BME signees, DUBB and Skeme.

“Food “For My Stomach” is the most obvious example of DUBB and Skeme’s chemistry. DUBB raps with zeal and conviction, almost to the point of desperation. “Funeral home on a speed dial / When God call your number, man, trust me there won’t be a re-dial,” he threatens. Skeme takes the second verse, switching the rhyme scheme with confidence. “Blood Money rider, keep the chopper right beside ’em / F&N fully-loaded, that’s for any nigga want It/ This shit sound like I got the shit perfected, don’t it?” It is clear that they hold their end on the project. 

On his previous Jesus Piece, Game was able to take Trap, heavy features, new trends and weave them into an overarching theme of a thug persona struggling with his faith. Now, with most of these very same components, he finds himself lost. The wolf motif is not far from the religious iconography that persisted in his last album. As evident by the raw emotion in “Bigger Than Me,” the empathy on “Purge,” and the album cover showing the wolf submitting to his daughter. Game seems to be trying to find a balance, but in an attempt to purge Rap and his album of any “softness,” he instead finds himself submitting to the pressures of having a hit single, thereby rendering his own project’s pursuits moot.