To say Jayceon “The Game” Taylor is a man of many contradictions is an understatement. An example: He grew up in Compton, CA, gangbanging with the Bloods even though his own mom was once affiliated with the Crips. He’s a cocky son-of-a-bitch who’s never been afraid to publicly champion himself as the greatest rapper alive. At the same time, he exhibits near-monk-like humility when it comes to thanking his friends, family, and hip-hop predecessors for paving the path of his success.
Even The Game’s trajectory from Compton delinquent to international rap star has been riddled with paradox. He’s as hardcore a representation of West Coast as they come, and yet his first album, The Documentary, was a collaborative lovefest between geographical opposites Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Kanye West, Nate Dogg, and Just Blaze. Despite such diplomacy, The Game is probably best known—at least in the mainstream—for his very legendary and very public beef with 50 Cent and G-Unit, a squabble he had memorialized in ink with a tattoo that reads “G-Unot” on his elbow.
In fact, Game’s whole attitude towards tattooing is at odds. Some of the work he’s had done is incredibly profound—particularly the pieces dedicated to his fallen rap heroes. Others seem to be of little or no importance to him at all. When asked about the “L.A.” emblazoned on his right cheek, the best The Game could offer was, “I don’t know. I’m from L.A. Go figure.”
INKED: How many tattoos do you have these days? Do you even know?
THE GAME: Actually, the other day I was like, ‘How many tattoos do I have?’ So, I counted them up and I have 49. That’s some freak shit. I messed up counting a couple of times because some of those shits are connected. I had to keep recounting, but I got it: 49 total. I’m going to get number 50 tomorrow— me and Travis Barker.
You’re pals with Travis Barker?
Yeah, we’re both just crazy tatters—that’s my boy. So, tomorrow I’m going to his house. We’re going to have the tattoo guy come over and whatever happens happens.
How did you and Travis hook up?
Shit, you know, we’re both musicians. I’m a big fan of his and he’s a fan of mine. We met years ago, and that’s been my dog ever since.
He’s covered, man. He’s got you beat.
Yeah, but once you’re covered, you’re covered. I’m going to catch up.
When did you start getting tatted up?
I got my first tattoo when I was in the eighth grade. But some of my first tatts you can no longer see. You get older and those tattoos get whack, plus you start getting real work done by real people and you cover them shits up. My first one was on my right arm—a man holding a globe in his hand.
And what was the significance of that?
That the world is mine. But you covered it up? Yeah, cuz I figured out that the world wasn’t mine. I had to share it with three billion other people, so I covered it up. I have a mural of Tupac on there now.
You’re big on tribute tatts.
The right arm is the tribute arm—that’s just the way it turned out. I have a bunch of rappers that have passed on: I got Eazy-E, Big Pun, Biggie, Jam Master Jay.
What does ink mean to you, then? On one hand, you’re a guy who gets all of these meaningful tributes. On the other hand, you just said that tomorrow with Travis, “whatever happens happens.”
It’s all my grandmother’s fault, man. When I was younger, she told me that tattoos weren’t all that bad because your skin is just a costume you borrow from God while you’re here on earth. As soon as you leave, you gotta give God his costume back. So, she told me I could write whatever I wanted on mine, I’d just have to return it with scribbling on it. That’s a crazy analogy, but if anybody calls my Grandmother crazy, we’re going to have a problem.
Do you get all your work done by the same dude?
I don’t give a fuck who does it. I’ll just walk into a tattoo shop off the street and say, ‘My name is Game and I want a fucking tattoo. Now, which one of you bastards can do it?’
If an INKED reader wanted to get a tattoo on his or her face, what advice would you give?
Don’t do it. You’ll never get a job with a tattoo on your face. To get a face tatt, you gotta be a rebel, you gotta be worth millions of dollars, and you gotta not give a fuck anymore. Know what I’m saying? My tattoos on my face make me who I am. I’m worth millions and millions of dollars, I’ve sold millions of records and I’m a fucking superstar entertainer. It’s not for everybody. You can’t get a tattoo on your face and then get into Harvard. That’s not how it works. But, if you win the lotto, go and write whatever the fuck you want on your face.
Before you sold millions and millions, what records did you come up on?
NWA’s Straight Outta Compton, Ice Cube’s Lethal Injection, DJ Quik’s Quik is the Name, Doggystyle, The Chronic, Paid in Full album, the Life After Death double-disc, Makaveli. The same albums everyone came up on.
It must have blown you away when Dr. Dre called and wanted to work with you early on.
Shit, it was astounding, man. I love Dr. Dre for every part he played in the early stage of my career. I’m always going to be indebted to him for giving me a shot. I’m just happy that I was able to outlast all of the bullshit and still be standing as one of the more potent figures in hip-hop today.
How did you come up with your name?
Well, I’ve always been Game. That’s been my nickname since I was five years old because I was always so active. I played basketball, baseball, football, golf, and tennis. I ran track and I swam. I used to jump off of roofs on my skateboard and make slingshots out of two by fours. My grandmother—she’s old-school, from the South—she used to say that I was game for anything. So, that’s how the name came up. When I became a rapper I added the “The.” It’s sort of like “PhD” to a doctor, but I added T-H-E. It’s like my “Mister.” Instead of Mr. Game you got The Game.
What’s the whackest MC name you’ve ever encountered?
That would have to be Vanilla Ice. You ever think about what the fuck that means? What the fuck does a piece of vanilla ice look like? What does it taste like? I don’t want that shit in my lemonade.
Your recent role in the Los Angeles-based cop flick Street Kings was pretty memorable. Is there an acting career in your future?
Man, I didn’t even get to go to that premiere because I was working in the studio and couldn’t get out. I did see it, though—on a bootleg. I know that’s fucked up, but I couldn’t help it and I really wanted to see the movie. I thought it was phenomenal. My little part was great and Common’s part was great, too. I thought Keanu Reeves was dope.
Keanu’s character kicked your ass with a phone book in that. Is it true they don’t leave bruises?
Phone books do leave bruises. And if you thought I got hit enough times in the movie, imagine doing take after take after 30 fucking takes of getting smashed with a phone book. I had a headache that was out of this world. But, I was my own stunt man—I’m like the black Jackie Chan.
How did you like acting compared to rapping?
Acting is harder than being a musician, I’ll tell you that. The workload will kick your fucking ass like Andre the Giant’s foot. But, the paychecks are bigger, so that’s what I like about it.
Your third album, L.A.X., is set to drop any day now. Why should people go out and buy it?
People shouldn’t go out and buy it. They should do something else with their money.
That’s not much of a sales pitch.
I’m not trying to sell anybody anything. I just make good music. If you want to buy it, buy it. If you don’t want to buy it, then buy the album next to it. Who cares? I have a core fan base. They love me and I love them. If you really want to listen to dope hip-hop, then you’ll take my album home from the store and listen to it. Or you can leave it there.
Then, what can we expect from L.A.X. if we bring it home?
You can expect one of the dopest, modern-day rap artists to deliver another dope hip-hop album. I’ve sold eight million records to date. That’s eight-times platinum on two albums, and everybody is saying L.A.X. is my best one yet. I think it’s a dope album, but my favorite is still Doctor’s Advocate. That’s the one where I was fighting a lot of turmoil and beefs and had to prove that I could overcome the sophomore jinx, which I think I did. It didn’t sell as much as The Documentary, but anything over platinum pleases me. L.A.X. is going to be a fun album. You’ve never heard Game like this.
Well, since you made mention of beefs, would you consider yourself a troublemaker or a peacemaker in the hip-hop game?
I’m in the middle of both. I never start shit—that’s my thing. I always wind up with my back against the wall having to throw punches to defend myself or to make sure nobody tarnishes my rap legacy. So, sometimes it might seem like I’m a troublemaker, but that’s because once you turn my light on I’m fucking going until we burn out.
You’ve already worked with heavies like Dre, Kanye, and Timbaland—and, obviously, G-Unit before the beef. If you could choose anyone in the world to collaborate with next, who would it be?
If I could work with anybody today, I’d work with Curtis Jackson.
50 Cent? Are you serious?
Yeah. I would. We had our beefs, but now that’s over. I don’t have any problem with the dude anymore. We made dope music when we were working together and we could probably make a billion dollars if we fucking reunited. I don’t know, maybe this article will help inspire the dude. I’d love to work with Curtis again.
No shit? Your “G-Unot” tattoo might make that a little difficult.
Hey, when I got that tatt done, that’s just how I was feeling that day. Whatever I’m feeling on a given day is just how it fucking is. I’m day by day.