LOS ANGELES - Myth-making can be as important as musicianship in the gangsta rap world.
Tupac Shakur was known as the thoughtful son of a Black Panther activist. Eazy-E was a hustler who once sold tapes out of the trunk of his car. And so The Game, who carefully studied their careers, introduces himself with this tale:
Raised largely in foster care and beat up daily when he wore Blood red to Crip-dominated Compton High School, he still managed to nab a basketball scholarship to Washington State - only to be kicked out for selling drugs on campus. Uninterested in music at the time, he turned to stealing cars and other crimes, but was shot five times in 2001 when thieves invaded his drug-selling spot. Twenty-three hours later, he says, "I woke up from a coma and I had the gift of rap."
Appearances on underground mixtapes rapidly led to a deal with super-producer Dr. Dre, who tutored The Game and oversaw his debut, The Documentary. Released Tuesday, it's expected to be among the year's top-sellers. It could move up to 600,000 copies in its first week.
A collaboration with 50 Cent, How We Do, climbed to No. 6 on the most recent Billboard singles chart. Another song, Westside Story, gives the short version of Game's life: "Sold crack, got jacked. Got shot, came back, jumped on Dre's back. Payback! Homie, I'm bringing C-A back."
The C-A in question is California, where the seminal gangster rap scene has slumped in popularity recently as Dre looked elsewhere for talent (finding Eminem in Detroit and 50 Cent in New York) while pioneers such as Ice Cube eased out of music.
The calculating, heavily tattooed 25-year-old Game, always ready with a snarl for videos and publicity photos, said he pieced together his style and persona by listening to Cube's AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted," Tupac's All Eyez On Me and other rap landmarks.
"I tried to take everybody who I thought was legendary who I thought had classic material and combine 'em all," he told The Associated Press during a break between filming a movie and a meeting with Interscope Records chairman Jimmy Iovine.
But Game, whose real name is Jayceon Taylor, doesn't even think of himself as primarily a musician.
"I consider myself to be a businessman," he said. "Doing music is a branch on the tree. The other branches are filmmaking and endorsements."