Six gigs, four no-shows: Will The Game come to New Zealand this time?

Six gigs, four no-shows: Will The Game come to New Zealand this time?

Someone is trying to bring The Game to Aotearoa – again. Good luck to them.

Twice. Only two appearances. To date, the only times ungoogleable rapper The Game has performed in New Zealand are in 2009, and again in 2012. At those shows, one in Porirua, the other at the Spark Arena, the aggressive Compton artist known for hits like ‘ Let’s Ride’ and ‘How We Do’ downed an entire bottle of liquor, forgot their own lyrics, berated everyone who left the venue and teased some about their height.

So why do promoters keep trying to bring The Game down? Over the past 15 years, The Game has announced his intention to perform here six separate times, including festivals and his own headlining shows. Yet the man born Jayceon Taylor always has an excuse as to why he can’t make it – from missed flights to “janky” promoters and over zealous customs agents. It’s never his own fault.

He may very well be the most unreliable artist ever scheduled to perform in Aotearoa. But some are trying to do it again. Next year, The Game is scheduled to play two shows. He plays the undercard at a hip-hop festival that also features Cypress Hill and Ice Cube at Christchurch’s Hagley Park on March 31, and again at Auckland’s Trusts Arena on April 1.

Can he make it? Organizers’ room service has one thing going for it – they’ve already achieved two minor local hip-hop miracles, managed to get the country’s five-year ban overturned against Tyler, the creator of his lead slot on Bay Dreams, and they’re the only ones who lured Cardi B to to perform in Aotearoa, although she only played for half an hour.

If anyone can make it happen, they can. But they should probably take a look at The Game’s checkered relationship with New Zealand, because the history books are against them.

Table of Contents

Roc Tha Block, Spark Arena, September 3, 2007

I met the promoter in front of the Spark Arena and he peeled off a single ticket from a large stack he carried around with him. Inside, the room was so empty that you could swing several cats in front of the stage. At Roc Tha Block, The Game was billed to headline a hip-hop festival with Naughty By Nature. It was choppy from the start, changing dates because Akon couldn’t get his Visa sorted, meaning openers Mims and Juelz Santana were replaced by Pitbull and Sisqó. On the day, things got worse when The Game didn’t show up. No one would say why. “There is no official statement,” a Universal Music promotions executive said at the time. At least we got this immortal intro from a NZ Herald review: “It was billed as the ultimate urban experience. It almost became the ultimate urban disaster.”

Te Rauparaha Arena, PoriruaAugust 28, 2009

Due to a lack of interest, The Game’s first New Zealand appearance was downsized from TSB Bank Arena to Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua. There, a Dominion Post critic reported that “twenties” of people arrived for a show that sounded diabolical. “He hacked out delicate rhymes over pre-recorded beats,” wrote the reviewer, who called the rapper “monotone” and “as close to talentless as possible”. Yep.

Roc Tha Block, Spark Arena, February 26, 2012

That review didn’t stop promoters from booking The Game to headline a brand new hip-hop music festival. Here are some sample quotes from the NZ Herald review that ran the next day: “The 32-year-old spent much of his Vector Arena show … scowling, picking on the audience and massaging his own ego by bragging about his achievements … [he] downed most of a bottle of liquor, mocked a small person dancing on stage, cursed at members of his entourage, groped female fans and told the audience to speak during a Nate Dogg memorial… On the Kanye West-produced soul sampler ‘Would’t Get Far’ stunner Game admitted he couldn’t remember the song’s third verse … his ego is out of control.” Who wrote this? Oh. It was me. As for Roc Tha Block, it did not return for a sequel. And this was the last time The Game appeared in Aotearoa.

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The Powerstation, 11 September 2013

Just a year after making it, organizers clearly felt they were in The Game’s good books and scheduled him to perform at Auckland’s best mid-sized live music venue, The Powerstation. To celebrate, he released a bizarre, unfocused promotional video that I must have watched dozens of times. It is incredible. “Auckland … it’s going to be real hard,” declares The Game, slurring his words in a fake Australian accent. Surprise, surprise, this show didn’t happen. Then things got difficult. A note still visible on The Powerstation’s website declares: “The game will not be played on The Powerstation. The terms and conditions for hiring the venue were not completed, as required, by promoters.”

Raggamuffin, Trusts Arena, 20 February 2016

Boos erupted from the crowd gathered at the Trusts Arena when it was announced that The Game would not be making it for his much-hyped performance. But it wasn’t until the following day that the reason became apparent, when a war of words broke out between the festival organizers and the rapper. Raggamuffin claimed he had missed his flight from Dubai and was flying back to Los Angeles. “We honestly thought The Game would honor his commitments to our festival and it wasn’t until we had people at the airport on Saturday to pick him up to play Raggamuffin IX that we found out he didn’t board the plane in Dubai.” In response, The Game denied this, saying: “I didn’t miss my flight, we were refused entry when we landed at customs.” Who is right? Who knows. But Stuff scored an incredible headline out of the situation: “The Game mistakes Australia for New Zealand”.

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Logan Campbell Centre, 25 September 2017

Organizers billed The Game’s 2017 tour as “the last chance for fans to see the rapper in his full glory.” There was nothing brilliant about how this went. Shortly after the dates were announced, The Game warned fans not to buy tickets and called the tour organizers “janky”. “I’m not scheduled to be in Australia until 2018,” The Game said. “And this won’t be my last trip.” Promoters Tour Squad responded by reporting the rapper. “We’re not going to sit here and say ‘OK’ and take this on the chin … We’re not going to let him get away with burning another promoter,” they told the media at the time. The Tour Squad won that case and The Game was ordered to pay $500,000 in damages. In coverage of the ruling, it was revealed that The Game tried to pull out of the tour when the promoters refused to fund a $3 million documentary he planned to make while he was down.

Auckland/Christchurch, March/April, 2023

Will it be sixth time lucky? God knows! I suspect I may be back here, continuing my 15-year odyssey to track the concert confusion surrounding a rapper who seems to believe that contracts and locked-in dates and printed posters and Facebook reminders are mere suggestions of a time when he might or might does not appear to play an intended. My best wishes go out to everyone involved.

* This story has been amended to include The Game’s 2009 show in Porirua, for which he appeared: there is video evidence.

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