Ok. This year, The Game became one of the few rappers in history to take on Eminem. The last one was Machine Gun Kelly, who did pretty good against Slim Shady, but ultimately lost. And he lost points for taking shots at a rapper whose career has clearly moved past the point where he needs to get involved in shit like this. Em is a legend, and disputing that just makes you look ridiculous. Still, it’s brave to take the shot because nobody–NOBODY–has beaten Eminem in a war of words.
A 10-minutes dis track. 32 features across 32 songs. TWO HOURS of music. Is Drillmatic just another overstuffed mixtape, or is it, like Game says, the best album of the year?
Well, it’s got Hit-Boy production as a through-line, which gives it a consistent feel and makes it stand apart form so many major-label rap records. Yeah, it’s a long record, but it has an arc with strong production from beginning to end. There is a 10-minute track dissing Eminem (ruthlessly), and it’s not the last song on the album.
Here’s the thing about Game: He will NEVER surprise you. He is still rapping today about the same stuff he rapped about before Documentary: Street life, paying tribute/name dropping/style hopping his favorite rappers, and telling us how much better he is than everyone else. His vocabulary is improved. His presence continues to be one of the best in rap. His flow is strong and direct. But there’s nothing surprising. If you’re looking for growth or change in a big name pro rapper, go look at Jay-Z or Eminem. But if you love ’90s gangsta rap and miss it in its prime, these songs are where you want to be. Actually, Game has changed a bit: His beats are modernized and move through styles more deftly. But overall, he’s still the same dude. And none of this is criticism. He’s in my top 5.
I’d put this album in my top 5 for Game, as well. I updated my rankings of his discography here.
Breaking the album down, track by track:
1. One Time feat Ice-T. This is the first cut on the album and it’s more of an intro than a song. More importantly, it does NOT feature Ice-T. It’s a sample from Colors, screwed slow. But it’s still a good song. Nothing memorable, but good.
2. Eazy featuring Kanye West. This was the advance single. There’s one of these “nobody loves me” songs on each of Game’s albums and it’s like, really, dude? You were platinum with Dr. Dre on album #1. I love Game, but sometimes he feels sorry for himself too hard and too often. There’s an interlude on “What We Not Gon’ Do” with a woman telling him to stop complaining for no reason, so maybe this isn’t a blind spot for Game. Maybe he’s self-aware? OK. I’ll assume he is. But Kanye sure as fuck is NOT. This is one of the album’s lesser songs, and it’s disappointing that it was the lead single. Of course, a relatively weak Game song is better than the vast majority of rap out there. So, there’s that. And Kanye’s bars are fucking hilarious. I mean, laugh out loud funny:
Noncustodial dad, I bought the house next door
What you think the point of really bein’ rich for?
When you give ’em everything, they only want more
Boujee and unruly, y’all need to do some chores
Rich-ass kids, this ain’t yo’ mama house
Climb on your brother’s shoulders, get that Top Ramen out
God saved me from that crash
Just so I can beat Pete Davidson’s ass (who?)
So…One of the weaker songs, with a content theme that feels detached from reality, is still damn good.
3. Burnin’ Checks feat Flivio Foreign. This is good. It’s a got a different sound than what we know of from Game. Brooklyn drill. (Oddly, one of only two drill songs on an album with “drill” in the title.”
4. Voodoo feat BOA QG. One of those “times were hard when I was a kid/we had it rough” songs.
5. Home Invasion. No features here–and an Eminem sample. Wait. Em cleared samples for this album? Is this whole feud just bullshit, created to sell records. It sure looks like it. Especially given how ponderous “Black Slim Shady” is (see below). Home Invasion is one of a few tracks on this album with no features. It’s speed rap. Solid Game stuff–what we expect from him.
7. O.P.P. feat YoungBoy Never Broke Again. I know YoungBoy NBA has his fans. I don’t hate him, I just don’t understand why he’s so great. This is an attempt to make “opp n**ga” a thing. It won’t work. I had hoped it would rearrange or reclaim the Naughty by Nature hit. It didn’t.
7-9. Outside feat YG/La La Land/Change the Game feat Ty$. These represent the “Compton slice of life” section of the album. Very, very good songs–it’s one Game is best at. A fun thing about La-La songs is the education about what all the started caps represent. Caps will come up again on “Black Slim Shady” (see below). Change the Game is ironic–it’s basically Game saying he will never change. Which seems to be true.
10. How Far I Came feat Roddy Ricch. It’s not until track 10 that Drillmatic changes it up. This is a poor-to-famous song. Every Game album has one. Every rapper puts one on every album they make. And this is one of the best of Game’s career (sorry, he’ll never top “Dreams”) and one of the best of its kind.
11. Heart vs. Mind. The title track. No feature. “I usually spaz but Beyonce had to rework them lines/Never know who’s watching/That’s why Malcolm had to jerk them blinds.” OK, the Beyonce reference means Game was still editing this album just last month–despite it having been promised for release months ago and needing to be held for sample clearance.
I think this is one of the best-written songs on the album.
12. No Smoke at the Polo Lounge feat. Jeremih. I don’t love Game’s romance cuts, and that’s kinda what this is. For me, this is one of the album’s weaker cuts.
13. No Man Falls feat. Pusha T and 2 Chainz. I also don’t love 2 Chainz. But I do love Pusha-T. Two of my top 5 rappers on one song. Pusha, like Game, doesn’t change his content or style much, but never disappoints. Game takes a verse after each of his guests, and spits some really great lines. Best one: “Like Mario, we stand on bricks.”
14. Chrome, Slugs & Harmony with Lil’ Wayne and G Herbo. Unlike most of the songs on this album, Game’s featured artist Herbo spits better bars than he does here. A nice tribute to Bone Thugs.
15. Start from Scratch II. Scratch II is a tribute to the fallen rapper Prodigy.
16. What We Not Gon Do. A song about how hard it is to be in a relationship. Yeah, there’s some self-revelation here but…Songs 15 and 16 are the two weakest songs on the album. The production is the star here, with the first song name-dropping Mobb Deep and the second sampling Prodigy.
17. Fortunate featuring Kanye West, Dreezy and CHILLER. Putting this song right after the last two was perfect. Because nobody can whine about all the people who “had it out for me” more than Kanye. It’s a little silly. Dreezy murders both of them on this cut. Produced by Timbaland.
18. Rubi’s Rose feat Twista and Jeremih. Having Twista’s rapid-fire bars over really slow, dreamy beats was brilliant. This is one of the album’s strangest cuts, but it works well. It’s the closest thing Game comes to experimenting.
19. Drake with the Braids. Just Drake’s phone message making excuses for not agreeing to feature for Game. Funny to include this.
20/21. Nikki Beach (feat. French Montana & Tory Lanez)Talk To Me Nice (feat. Meek Mill, Moneybagg Yo & Blxst). Two summer songs in a row. I don’t like guys who have to rap through voice machines. Don’t love these tracks. Game makes them better–if he wasn’t here, they’d be boring.
22. Money Cash Clothes featuring A$AP Rocky. After those last two songs, we’re back to what we expect from Game: “Shout out to every bad bitch that ever gave me head.” And A$AP brings his A-game–which is nice. He’s one of those guys who, for me, is really hit or miss. But when he hits, he hits hard. Throw in a DMX sample and you’ve got solid boom bap.
23. Killas feat Cam’Ron. Once again, Game shows how carefully he’s curated this album. Following the DMX vibe he takes on The Diplomats’ style–joined by Cam’ron himself. This is the second drill song on the album. It’s odd that he called this album Drillmatic, since it’s all over the map. In fact, it feels like what Born 2 Rap was trying to be: A review of all the styles of hip hop, with Game showing that he can play everyone else’s game better than they can.
24. Black Slim Shady. And here we are. This is the infamous dis track. And yet…There’s nothing really all that offensive here. It’s mostly Game proving, once again, that he can mimic just about anyone and do what they do as good as they can. Yeah, I said it. I like Game more than Em. A lot more.
25. Stupid. Big Sean’s bars: “Invest in a business and some new tits/Bang it out the window, man, this shit goin’ stupid.” This is pure banger. Dope as fuck.
26. .38 Special (feat. Blueface). We’re almost at the end. Another big party song on the album.
27. Twisted. Game starts slowing the album down a little. Good song, not great.
28. World Tours. Another posthumous Nipsey Hussle credit. Another reminisce-the-fallen song. But tributes are something Game does well. For a guy who raps a lot about hate and rage, he really knows how to show love.
29. Save The Best For Last. Game and Rick Ross get sentimental about being in their 40s.
30. A Father’s Prayer. On the surface, this is another “typical” cut for tough guy rappers–to talk to their daughters. Even Em does it. But, like most of the tropes Game explores, this is one of the better ones. Another feature of Game’s writing is an understanding of the link between childhood trauma and present-day violence, and that lyrical depth is in full display for this track. A brilliant closer.
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