(Painting by Ben Smith. Ain’t it cool? Check him out here.)
The Game is probably my favorite rapper based on how many times I have listened to his stuff. I just love the way he tells a story, and nobody can do a diss track as well as him. So…Here’s my ranking of his albums and mixtapes.
I didn’t include Blood Moon because it’s really a compilation record and Game’s not on most of the songs.
25. The G.A.M.E. (2006). Don’t have this one? It’s OK. Game’s former partner, JT the Bigga Figga put it out without Game’s permission (and Game sued him for it). It’s a compilation album with Game appearing on just some of the tracks.
23-24. Live From Compton (2003) and Untold Story Vol. 1&2 (2004&2005), West Coast Resurrection (2006) (mixtapes). Game’s first mixtapes. Lots of partnering with JT the Bigga Figga. They show promise, but are really for completists only.
22. LAX (2008). Not his best work but there are a few good songs. Game’s Pain is solid–albeit a little corny. Letter to the King is okay. But really, this album wasn’t great. After dropping two fantastic records in a row, he earned the right to a misstep. For many rappers, this would have been a very good album–because Game on his worst day is better than most rappers at their best.
I don’t really have any favorite songs off this album. It’s not a good listen.
21. Streets of Compton (2016). The soundtrack to an A&E documentary of the same name, this was purely a money grab by Game. I’m not begrudging him the chance to make TV money, but the songs are pretty mild. I might like it more if I were able to find a copy that wasn’t censored.
20. California Republic (2012 mixtape). A bloated collection of songs full of features. Every single cut has a feature on it, and mostly by big-name rappers, so you will find about a third of a good record here.
Favorite tracks: The Drill by Ace Hood and and Red Bottom Boss with Rick Ross.
19. Hoodmorning (No Typo): Candy Coronas (2011 mixtape). A mixtape hosted by DJ Skee. Like most mixtapes, there’s some stuff here that shouldn’t have seen the light of day, but overall this is a solid entry in Game’s massive discography.
Favorite tracks: Hoodmorning, Monsters In My Head.
18. Ghost Unit (2005 mixtape). From the “I hate G-Unit” era, the second of two mixtapes devoted almost entirely to trashing 50 Cent and his crew.
Favorite tracks: Palm Pilot with Katt Williams going off on Young Gunz (hilarious!), and Walking In the Rain and Old Gunz–both with M.O.B.
17. Block Wars (2016). The soundtrack to a gang-related video game that got shelved. There are some good songs here, mixed in with filler to make a full album.
Favorite tracks: Freeway, Murder, Gutter.
16. Brake Lights (2010 mixtape). Presumably, these are tracks that were not strong enough to get on the R.E.D. album. Still–some good stuff here, spread out through a bunch of filler that could have stayed unreleased.
Favorite tracks: Street Riders, Heels and Dresses.
15. Purp and Patron: The Hangover (2011 mixtape). Much like Documentary 2 and 2.5, Game dumps a shit-ton of content on the world in the space of a few months–this album, and its predecessor. Almost 50 songs in total. Some really great stuff here, lots of songs that are better-than-average, and then, of course, some that we all could have lived without. But when you’re getting four hours of free music, how can you complain?
Favorite tracks: Violin, California.
14. You Know What It Is Volumes 1-4 (2002-2007 mixtapes). A collection of mixtapes that bring together random cuts without themes. I’m assuming many of the songs are outtakes or unused features. There’s a lot of good stuff here, but there’s also a bunch of meh. Still, wading through a bunch of Game songs is always fun on a rainy afternoon. And if you don’t have any other reason to track these down, you must find “Bars and Running” cuts–100 bars in vol 1, 200 bars in vol 2, etc.. In the final entry, Game goes for 14 minutes without a pause, stomping across everything and everyone.
Favorite tracks: 100, 200, and 3000 Bars, Confessions, Cali Niggaz.
13. Purp and Patron (2011 mixtape). 29 full-length original tracks. And this is the second of the 2011 Purp mixtapes. On “History,: Game is alongside Golden Agers Big Daddy Kane, Doug E. Fresh, and KRS-One. On “Can A Drummer Get Some,: he plays pass the mic with Travis Barker, LIl’ Wayne, and Rick Ross. Between these two cuts, he stakes out territory across two eras.
Other favorite tracks: Taylor Made with Whiz Khalifa and R.I.P. Story.
12. The Red Room (2010 mixtape). To hype the R.E.D. album, a feature-heavy mixtape. Vicious, from the late-middle period of Game’s career, when he was comfortable with his own skills but still had the hunger to prove himself. The only weaknesses here are the tracks where Game barely speaks.
Favorite tracks: It Must Be Me with Pharrell, Ha Ha with Nipsey, and Heartbreak Hotel with Diddy.
11. The R.E.D. Album (2011). Game took three years to come back after the disappointing LAX record. R.E.D. is too long, but if you can get through the filler it’s best tracks are very, very strong. It’s underrated, actually. Game’s problem is always that he has had too much to say, so go through this album once and cut a couple dispensable songs and you’ll have a really good album.
The video for Red Nation was banned–deemed to glamorize gangbanging as a lifestyle. Lil’ Wayne’s hook is fucking amazing.
Favorite tracks: Ricky, The City (featuring Kendrick Lamar), Born in the Trap.
10. Stop Snitchin’, Stop Lyin’ (2006). The better of Game’s two mixtapes devoted entirely to trashing his former buddies 50 Cent and G-Unit. The disses are vicious and often hilarious. Dis tapes can get tedious, but Game is one of the best there is at this–he’s constantly surprising and witty. It was his only mixtape to go platinum (which it did in the country of Ireland).
Favorite tracks: 120, Testify, Stop Talking to the Cops.
9. OKE (Operation Kill Everything) (2013 mixtape). Got an official release and placed at 89 on the Billboard charts. Song for song, this is Game’s best mixtape. This album solidified Game’s “comeback” after the dip in the quality of his work during the late 2000s.
Favorite Tracks: Breakfast With Al Pacino, Hollywood, Astronaut P*ssy with Skeme and ScHoolboy Q.
8. Doctor’s Advocate (2006). Game had a lot to prove on his second album. Doctor Dre and 50 Cent, both of whom boosted his debut, were no longer at his side–and the album did suffer from it. It only went gold, and none of the songs were monster hits. And yet, in retrospect, it gets stronger on replay–with a variety of big producers like Swizz Beatz, Kanye West, and Just Blaze. Songs like Compton make it clear that he’s here to rep his hood and get back to his roots.
Favorite Tracks: It’s Okay (One Blood), Wouldn’t Get Far, One Night.
7. Born 2 Rap (2020). Billed as his final album (we’ll see if that ends up being true, Born 2 Rap finds Game ending where he started, only much smarter and with wisdom. He’s still got the hottest producers and guest features. His flow, which by now is “old school,” along with his status, make him a seasoned expert rather than a hungry new jack–but this gives his bars gravitas. In his final album, Game proved he is a master.
6. 1992 (2016). Game pays tribute to a great year in hip hop. I don’t know why this album doesn’t get more love. Maybe it’s because it is the “nicest” of his albums, in the sense that he’s not really beefing or throwing shade–he’s just putting out love for the likes of Ice-T, D.O.C. and the N.W.A. crew, Marvin Gaye, Wu-Tang Clan and others. Or maybe it’s because there’s not a single feature? I don’t know. But it’s a great album–the critics are just wrong. Not every album has to be important. Sometimes, in fact, it’s important to just be fun.
Favorite tracks: All Eyez, 92 Bars, True Colors/It’s On. I actually don’t think there’s a weak song on the entire record.
5. The Documentary 2.5 (2015). The second of two 2015 Documentary albums. Each feature was carefully selected and Game’s own bars wove tightly around the likes of Nas, Busta, Scarface, Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q, E-40, and more of the best rappers from the ’90s to the ’10s. Guys known for grime, hardcore, and pop. And Game proved he could outshine each and every one of them, beating everyone at their own game.
Favorite tracks: Gang Bang Anyway feat. Jay Rock and Schoolboy Q; New York New York; and the spoken word clip where he explains what really happens when his gang traded bullets with 50 Cent on the streets of NYC.
There are only a few tracks that could have been taken out to make this album perfect. Having said that, it’s damn close to perfect.
Favorite tracks: Gold Daytonas and 500 Candles–both with Dom Kennedy, Welcome Home with the late, great Nipsey Hussle–a Game disciple, and Stainless with Anderson .Paak.
4. Jesus Piece (2012). After two mediocre studio albums (and some really good mixtapes), Game finally gets back into his stride with an album full of excellent songs that play off a church motif. The album is full of fire and power. It’s extraordinary.
Favorite cuts: Church featuring Trey Songz, Name Me King with Pusha T, Jesus Piece featuring Kanye West and Common, and See No Evil with Kendrick Lamar.
3. Drillmatic (Heart vs Soul) (2022). I just got this a few days ago, so maybe over time it will go down a bit. But for now, I’m loving it.
2. The Documentary 2 (2015). By the time Game’s career hit double digits, most people (not me) felt his best work was behind him. Then he dropped THREE HOURS of original music with some of the most challenging and varied songs of his career. Documentary 2 was the better of the two 2015 official albums, but only by a little bit. He reunited Dre and Cube, let strong ladies dominate “On Me” featuring Dej Loaf and Sha Sha, grabbed a solid Diddy pop track with Standing On Ferraris, beat J. Cole at his own game with Dollar and a Dream (featuring Ab Soul)…Like The Documentary in 2005, half the songs on this album are instant classics and the rest are pure fire.
Other favorite tracks: New York New York and Mula featuring Kanye West.
1. The Documentary (2005). His first album went double platinum and set him up as the best Compton rapper of his time. In terms of content, Game never evolved much past this style: Name-checking his heroes, shouting out his crew and allies, and attacking anyone who opposed him. And although his later-period records found him better at this same kind of rapping, the hunger on this album will eat you alive. The first five cuts, one after the other, are some of the greatest rap songs ever made.
Favorite Tracks: Westside Story, How We Do, Hate It Or Love It, Dreams, Where I’m From…But every track is a winner on this album.