He’s a former drug dealer straight out of Compton, Calif. Word is he was shot five times and survived, and that Dr. Dre signed him within minutes of their first meeting. He counts 50 Cent and Eminem among his boosters. In other words, 25-year-old Jayceon Taylor, whose nom de rap is The Game, has a major-league gangsta pedigree.

His debut album shows that you can believe the hype. On tracks including the Dre-produced “Start From Scratch” and the Kanye West soul jam “Dreams” he rhymes in a gruff, hurried style that suggests he’s constantly watching his back, even as he atones for his sins.

The strongest song on The Documentary is the closing “Like Father, Like Son,” in which he describes the birth of his son with more terror and excitement than he conveyed when describing any stick-up or drive-by. “All I can remember was Lamaze class/ Breathe, baby, 1-2-3-4,” he anxiously recalls.

Anybody can rap about guns and drugs. But busting a rhyme about Lamaze class? That’s hardcore.

Grade: B

© 2005, The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

The Documentary is currently available.