Reviewed & Written By: Ronald Grant
Say what you will about Game as an artist, an emcee and a public figure: that he’s not authentic, that he relies far too heavily on past beefs, glories and Hip Hop brand name recognition, or that he’s too much of a hood reality TV star to drop music that’s still relevant. But one thing that’s undeniable is that the man knows the recipe for making superior mix tapes in the social media/everyone-gets-their-15-minutes-of-fame era that Hip Hop is currently in.
It was true with last year’s California Republic, and it continues with O.K.E. (Operation Kill Everything). The thing about Game’s mixtapes, especially, are that they always seem to be chock full of overtly ratchet head-nodders that revel in the purposefully “hoodriffic.” Yet Jayceon Taylor always seems to find a way to make it work.
“Pour Up (Remix)” and “TD” are two prime examples, where Game uses the assistance of Jeezy and Clyde Carson on the former and Problem on the latter to create soundscapes thick with classic California swagger and speaker-knocking production that props up lyrics by Game and his cohorts, perfectly appealing to his severely-loyal core fan base.
“Same Hoes” featuring Nipsey Hussle, dripping with machismo and chauvinism, is a blatant knockoff/ode-to Tupac’s “All About U” but is also it’s own tune, with both emcees displaying their undying love for all things West Coast Hip Hop. The scant but poignant “Five” with Chris Brown and Lil Wayne allows Game to make the most out of his star-studded guest list and recent signing to Cash Money Records, and also finds him spitting some of the sharpest and most emotional lyrics of his career. While his albums are never anything to sneeze at, Game always seems to save many of his best nuggets for his independent projects.
Even more interesting about O.K.E. is that Game gets more experimental than he’s ever been on his beat selections and overall musical composition, especially on the futuristic yet 80’s-inspired sound of “In The City” with Fred Da Godson, the impassioned soulfulness found on “Oh Lord” and “Compton” with Stat Quo, the trap-laden pounding drums of “Super Throwed” with the resurgent Juicy J, and the dubstep-riddled, almost extraterrestrial-sounding “Astronaut Pussy”. The track is curiously coupled with a certain wispy ghostliness found on “Welcome To California”, and Too $hort, Schoolboy Q, Skeme and Stacey Barth all work to make it a more-than-memorable two-part song.
Of course, Game also continues on with his signature Hip Hop and black pop culture name drops (Jay Z, E-40, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Boosie, Floyd Mayweather, Karrueche, Usher, etc.), which at this point is to be expected. But beyond that one crutch he continues to lean on, Game creates a stellar mixtape that’s a curious combination of the exploratory, the vulnerable, the ratchet and the lyrical, pushing O.K.E. into new musical frontiers while still allowing him to sound as dedicated to the West Coast as he ever has.