A chart-topping rapper takes on the concept of religion

 “I just feel free,” says the Game. “I’ve got good friends, I’m eating right, working out, doing my music. That’s how I feel.” That’s pretty good for the Compton, Calif., native, who was nearly shot to death when a drug deal went awry in 2001. Even after being signed by Dr. Dre in 2003, the artist born Jayceon Taylor feuded with 50 Cent, Jay-Z and Dre, leaving the rapper alone to make his way in the hip-hop world—which is exactly what he did, selling millions of records in the process. The Game’s new concept album, Jesus Piece, features Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and Jamie Foxx.

Why a concept album?

I had to scrap my initial album, F.I.V.E., after Trey Songz came out with Chapter V. And the only song I really liked on it was “Jesus Piece” with Kanye [West]. It just set the tone for the entire album, and it became the album’s title. But the song itself isn’t conceptual—I brought up some heavy subjects, but I was just rappin’.

What’s the record’s message? 

The overall message is this: I’ve chosen a religion—to be closer to God, Jesus, Buddha, Allah, whatever you call it. There’s a higher power—and I’m grateful for it, I pray to it and I appreciate it. Just getting myself closer and better in my relationship with God. But that doesn’t mean I want to stop smoking weed or kicking it with the homies.

What’s your writing process? 

My writing process is pretty simple, man. I don’t write, I just type it in my phone. You can ask any hip-hop artist you interview if I’m the fastest when it comes to writing verse, and they’ll tell you, “Yeah.” It only takes me like 10 minutes to write a verse, 30 minutes to write the whole song. People ask me if I have some ingenious writing scheme,but it’s not that.

Tell us about the song “Ali Bomaye.” 

I remember seeing Will Smith play Muhammad Ali in the movie, and thinking he did a great job. That’s when I first heard the Ali Bomaye chant. When I was in the studio recording that track, I had the 2 Chainz verse and my verse, but I was looking for a hook. So I turned on HBO and Ali was on with the kids running in the streets saying, “Ali Bomaye,” and I was like “OK, let’s go.”

What are your thoughts on East Coast-West Coast hip-hop rivalry?

I’m a fan of all rap. I know I’m from California and this is the West Coast, but I hate when people section off hip-hop. That right there is what killed Biggie and Tupac—they made it an East Coast-West Coast thing. And they were just 24 and 25 when they died.

What other artists influence you?

Amy Winehouse. I just love her, man. Her untimely demise was so tragic. I was really rooting for her to get it together. I hate to call it a wasted talent, but damn it, that’s what it is.

Who have you been listening to lately?

I’ve been listening to Ed Sheeran. He’s new, he’s young and I like his voice. For anything musical, it starts with the voice. You love Erykah Badu’s voice, Stevie Wonder’s voice, Busta Rhymes’ voice. Ed Sheeran has a good voice. I recently tweeted something about Jesus Piece on Twitter and he retweeted it, then I sent him a message to let him know I’ve been listening to his music, too. He was like, “Man, I’m a huge fan.” But I’m diggin’ his music. And I’m not afraid to say so.

–Christopher Pilny

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