Despite this site's recently established 'No Demos, No CD-R's' policy, it is always possible that a reviewer winds up weighing a professionally packaged and a homemade CD against each other and decides to trash the former and cover the latter. Such was the case with Point Game's "The Game Gets Deeper" and its losing opponent, who shall remain anonymous for now. Of course this doesn't say much about the quality of the victorious CD. If the question was merely which of the two is worse, chances are they were both pretty bad. And truth be told, indeed neither candidate lived up to set standards. Ultimately, the decision came down to one simple question: Who has has more potential? While the neatly packaged artist seemed to have already exhausted his limited capacity, Point Game's effort was the proverbial diamond in the rough, not yet fully reflecting the rapper's true potential but nevertheless valuable.
Some features on "The Game Gets Deeper" are definitely not part of that potential. As much as Tony Montana is revered in hip-hop circles, sampling dialogue from _Scarface_ isn't a particularly innovative idea, even less so when Point Game's own beat for "The Bad Guy" consists of a slowed down version of Mobb Deep's _Scarface_-inspired "It's Mine". The same goes for high-pitched soul samples and battle rhymes along the lines of "you couldn't get your album leaked inside a weak faucet," which all too quickly give off the impression of a freshman trying to party with the graduates.
If trying to fit in was what Point Game is about, he'd simply be another blurry carbon-copy of an original script. But Point Game isn't trying to fit in anywhere. Even so, he's perfectly at home in rap music with his extended middle finger. The South Carolina MC celebrates his bad mood and outsider status on various occasions. It's a shtick that can lead listeners to speculate about a rapper's mental well-being, and if we wouldn't know any better, we'd wish he'd find some playmates soon when he pleads, "I'm a OutKast, Dre and Big Boi, holla if you need a third."
In rap, what you hear on a record is largely the result of the MC persona someone creates for himself. There are various degrees to which that persona can reflect the artist's real life personality. And while in the category populated by thugs and the like, long debates are being held over who's real and who's not, there's a school of emceeing where persona and personality aren't played off against each other that much. In both cases, MC's duel with words, trying to upstage each other in their boasts. But in the division Point Game fights in, the adversaries get down and dirty. Just parading around like a peacock won't do. You have to circle your opponent and hit him with lyrical jabs, hooks and uppercuts, hoping to deliver that knockout blow. You have to create a monster, a frightening Mr. Hyde, and if in reality you are a peacable Dr. Jeckyll, people will congratulate you on your creation, they won't accuse you of fraud.
Still the fact remains that those rappers who mostly talk about themselves (which would be the majority) are and always will be a caricature of their true self. They exaggerate some personality traits in favor of others. Whether this is done in the name of art or to sell more records, it remains one of the main characteristics of rap music, and most crucial to its understanding. Point Game reflects on that situation when he says: "Hate the fact I murdered Brandon just to get where I'm at / he was compassionate, now I'm just a bastard that raps / willing to step on anybody to get to that stack." And now that very bastard haunts many of Brandon Burris's songs. He's sarcastic, arrogant, misantropic, desperate, bad-tempered, etc. Usually, this type of rapper tolerates no partner in rhyme, like a cynical stand-up comic his act working best when it's him against the world, and so it comes as no surprise that Point Game is a solo artist.
As the album's outro will reveal, though, PG's steez is mainly a method to cast out these nasty inner demons, in other words a good old fashioned catharsis: "I say a lot of negative shit because I have to / if you don't spit it, the reality'll grab you." Until this cleansing of the mind is achieved, the listener is hit with more verbal vomit than the priests in _The Exorcist_. What else would you expect after an opener like this:
"Sweatin' in the heat of the night, fiendin' to write
with a sharp razor bleedin' precise
from cuts to my arm, duckin' the bomb, brain functionin' wrong
With my mindset nothin' the shrink said stuck in long
And I don't really trust them, dog
If I can't fuck the world, I'ma fuck this song
So I'm rappin' right now, dick out, eyes red
Dresser full of empty beer cans and pill bottle heads"
But as all rappers with a tendency to exaggerate eventually find out, you can't take outrageousness from one extreme to the next. Point Game is aware of the vicious circle of trying to find the ultimate punchline when he quips, "You wantin' punchlines? / I'm fistin' Michael Irvin in the nose after the most coke ever snorted in one time," but obviously he can't escape it either. So while songs such as "U a Fool", "He Aint Hard", "Game Is Game", "Crazy Now" and "I Leave Mics" successfully feed the Point Game mystique (with often fitting musical background), there are other efforts that reveal different layers of Point Game's potential, part of which is an ear for beats and the musical genius to use Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" to create a rap song ("Lie Awake in Bed").
But it's the songwriting where Point Game scores his extra points. "Just Be Yourself" is a well spun tale of the girl who does anything to get accepted. "Never Be Right" embarks on a soul-searching mission with touching observations like "If you include my thoughts, I'm probably the biggest sinner on earth" and "If lovin' God wrong, then ironically I'm the wrongest nigga since Satan." "Don't U Remember" finds an apologetic Game offering up explanations for a failed relationship. Finally, the songwriting ambition peaks on "The N Word", where Point Game speaks as what is known as the 'n word', tracing the term's evolution throughout history. While lines like "I'ma murder every coward around / till every candle in the world's lit like the power is out" are likely what made Point Game advance to the final round of a Hot 97 Spit Fire contest, it's the penmanship displayed on these songs that makes him truly noteworthy.
Point Game is currently pursuing indie labels to release "The Game Gets Deeper", and it certainly wouldn't be the worst idea to have somebody cut this diamond in the rough to bring out its many sparkling facets. But just in case the metamorphosis from black-and-white to high-gloss never materializes, the CD-R on which this review is based is proof that many interesting things happen on self-distributed projects with limited range.
Music Vibes: 4.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 5.5 of 10
Originally posted: January 20, 2004