Game’s first project post-Interscope is an easy contender for mixtape of the year.
Game has held an interesting position in the rap game since his monstrous debut in 2005, The Documentary. He’s acknowledged as one of the premier acts from the West Coast, but he’s been hit-or-miss with his projects since that first album. He’s become known for his chameleon-like style and over-reliance on guest features - issues that have made it difficult to grasp Game’s personal style over the years. He has one of the best ears for beats in the game, but his raps seldom pull their own weight in his records.
To Game’s credit, the criticism derived from these shortcomings has kept him hungry and now we finally have a project that highlights the Compton emcee’s talent.
OKE is one of the Game’s best work - mixtape or otherwise - in at least seven years. Though the credits show little change in the abundance of features in Game’s work, these features are often vocalists for hooks.
Of all the guest features, only Lil Wayne outshines Game with the bars. To be fair though, Lil Wayne’s verse on “FIVE” is probably his best in several years.
Game reaches technical heights on OKE that he’s seldom come close to since his first album. Take, for example, his verse in “Welcome to California.” Game delivers a slew of bars, one after the other, in such a way that the words are easy to follow and the content isn’t sacrificed for technique, as is often the case when rappers attempt the flow Game uses here.
Or look at “Love on Fire,” a powerfully emotional track where Game vents his frustrations about his mother’s coma.
“Love on Fire” is not an easy listen. Game’s lyrics blend intense rage with a feeling of profound helplessness. Frankly, it’s hard to simply discuss a song like this. Take this bar for example - “ Let the lord take me from my fuckin’ mama / I’ma kill myself / Break in heaven / Then it’s gon’ be drama.” That reads completely different from how it sounds. “Love on Fire” is among the most uncomfortable, evocative and humbling rap records in a very long time; right up there with songs like Ab-Soul’s “Book of Soul” or Kanye West’s “Roses.”
The 19-track tape has it’s share of throw-away tracks however. Songs like “Fuck a Bitch” are worth about as much as their title, and Game (and his guest’s) bars are nothing special on “TD” or “Turn Down for What.” These tracks make up a small chunk of the tape that seems dedicated to radio records - which doesn't make much sense since OKE is a mixtape and is mostly free of the pressure to appease radio.
That aside, OKE is a stellar addition to Game’s catalogue. Its production quality and lyrics rival or exceed many mixtapes and even some albums of the past year, even if a song or two warrants a skip.
If this mixtape is any indication, good things are coming from the newest Cash Money signee.