More than any violent videogame or abusive parent, the call of the streets can dramatically influence a child's psyche. For youngsters in the gang-infested, violent blocks of Compton, California, multiply that truth by 10. Gunshots drown out ice-cream-truck melodies, corner drug sales scare away lemonade vendors and the local gang leader is a role model.
Despite his celebrity, Jayceon "The Gameâ€ Taylor stayed in such an environment for a while, as did his infant son, Harlem, but a change of scenery was necessary. Around Thanksgiving of last year, Game relocated to pin-drop quiet Glendale, a good 30 minutes from Compton. Gone were his former three-bedroom "baseâ€ residence and nearby liquor stores; in their places, a plush four-bedroom bachelor pad and friendly, upper-class neighbors.
"I never thought I'd leave my 'hood,â€ Game says. "My mother and grandmother kept beating it into my head: â€˜You have a baby boy and you're still out on the block with him? What the fuck is wrong with you? You're five times platinum!' Once my thick skull was cracked by reality, I decided to relocate my family. Now, I'm like the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.â€
Being a new jack in uncharted territory is old hand for the 26-year-old. When he signed to Dr. Dre's Aftermath label in 2002, a green Game had no in-studio experience other than a two-week recording spree with the Bay area's JT the Bigga Figga earlier that year. Since the January 2005 release of his debut, The Documentary, the gangbanger-gone-good has evolved from potential West Coast savior to global superstar. In a climate where selling 500,000 is cause for bottle popping, The Documentary has moved over five million units.
Along with the platinum plaques, his success also brought existential upgrades, in particular the new homeâ€”the only gated one in the area. Inside, Game's usually raised middle finger stays down. "This picture was the first thing I hung up here,â€ he says, referring to an all-red silk-embroidered image of himself and Harlem, sent by a fan. "This shit is priceless.â€
Since his birth on June 30, 2003, Harlem Caron Taylor has been the fuel to his father's fire. Game deposits all of his "rap moneyâ€ into his son's trust fund, himself living off of "Hollywoodâ€ (his first film, Waist Deep, opened in June) and "sneakerâ€ (his own line, Hurricanes) money. "It's crazy, because my son probably will always know this life,â€ says Game, scanning his pad. "He'll never really know the survival side, struggling in the projects. Ultimately, though, that's what I wanted.â€ What he wanted includes privileges such as Christmas celebrations. Spending last year's holiday with his son, Game was able to decorate his first-ever Christmas tree. It still stands in his doorwayâ€”lights and garland intactâ€”eight months later. As if to defend his untimely interior decorating, Game fires, "I'll kill any motherfucker who tries to steal this tree.â€
Impromptu death threats aside, Harlem betters his father. A ticking time bomb by nature, Game says he has mellowed. "I've lost so much in my life that I had nothing to hold on to, until he was born,â€ says the Sagittarius (born November 29, 1979). "I have to watch my words and actions before I end up like Tupac. My son doesn't need that pain.â€
Continue reading this story in the November â€˜06 issue of KING (#37)