Although they aren’t bound by geographical similarities or align under a common label or crew, The Game and Kanye West have had a long, storied, but not always harmonious, past. Both brought into the public eye in the early 2000s, Ye and Jayceon Taylor have been partially intertwined for many years.
In practical terms, their debut albums were released within a year of each other, both skyrocketing to the upper echelons of the charts. From there, they’ve both largely stayed rooted to the frontlines of the hip-hop establishment– with Kanye crossing over into the highest heights of the mainstream– allowing each of their records to become a major cultural event upon arrival. Beyond that, both men were ushered into the inner sanctum by mentors who are no strangers to each other.
Away from these mirrored aspects of their professional lives, there are plenty of similarities between the two men that have made them unlikely kindred spirits.
For one thing, if anyone can rival Ye’s level of combativeness and volatility in the hip-hop space, it’s a seasoned veteran of beef and controversy such as Game. After all, he boldly faced down accusations of mental health issues and declared that “bipolar is the new swag” long before Ye deemed it to be his superpower.
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Now, in the wake of the pair reconvening on a track for the first time since 2015’s "Mula," it seems only fitting to retrace their collaborations, common experiences, and even narrowly averted conflicts that made their reunion into a noteworthy moment for audiences around the world.
For starters, The Game has been candid about the fact that during the formative years of their career, he lost a battle to Ye in front of esteemed company.
"Before The Documentary came out, Nelly had a party at Niketown, and everybody was there – Dr. Dre, Swizz [Beatz], Pharrell, a bunch of stars," The Game recalled to Vlad TV. "Me and Kanye were kinda rookies and what-not; Kanye was still servicing his beats around, I think he just had signed to Roc-a-Fella. So after the party was over, we’re walking to the parking structure, just walking [with] a bunch of chicks…and everybody was like, ‘Yo, Kanye, why don’t you battle Game? Game, why don't you battle Kanye?’ And we were just two hungry artists, so in the parking structure, [we] just took off. ‘Ye rapped first, and he spit and it was that old College Dropout Kanye, and he got off and he really did his thing."
"I gave him probably about 40 bars," Game continued, "just rapping fire, and then he came and he spit like 40 bars. I took it up, and I ended up rapping for like three or four minutes…I felt like I won, and then Kanye, just out of nowhere, started going in about how I thought I was the ‘savior and watch my behavior’ – he just really started going in, and the chicks started being like, ‘Oooh, aah,’ and once the chicks start chiming in, it’s pretty much over."
Despite being made into adversaries by a star-studded crowd of onlookers, this did little to deter the two from nurturing a healthy rapport. With The Game’s hype gradually amassing just as Ye was beginning to break through with contributions to the Rocafella camp, the Compton MC recalled his early interactions with a young and relentlessly ambitious West as they both sought to catch the ear of executives.
"Ye came in like right before me and I was able to see Ye pre-Kanye," Game reflected back in 2012. "We were in and out of these studios, he was bringing beats and I was just trying to get on stuff. He’d have these CD’s that would just say K. West on them and if he gave you one of those, it just had so many gems. I had like five of them."
Composed just as Ye’s seminal debut album The College Dropout was introducing the world to a new kind of rap superstar, Ye’s revered production chops would be called upon for what would become Game’s similarly lauded opening statement, The Documentary.
Arguably the emotional centerpiece of the album, “Dreams” remains one of his most cherished tracks to date and even references the producer’s own backstory, spitting "It's kinda hard to imagine, like Kanye West, coming back from his fatal accident to beatmakin' and rappin."
In the years that have passed since the project’s 2005 release, Game has disclosed that there was another track in which Ye sung the hook but it "didn’t make the cut."
Now that both men had morphed from burgeoning talents to fully-fledged commercial powers, it was no surprise when Ye would enlist Game’s guttural drawl for 2006’s "Crack Music."
One of the most visceral tracks on a record that was devoted to the orchestral approach in Late Registration, Game’s matter-of-fact hook provided the perfect counterpoint to Ye’s frenzied imagery.
Where the two had previously linked up for more austere tracks, Game’s 2006’s sophomore project The Doctor’s Advocate would quickly inject a dose of lightheartedness into their collabs. Invoking the spirit of Tupac’s "All About U," "Wouldn’t Get Far" saw Game and Ye link up for an examination of so-called "video vixens" in the rap world.
"Game had texted me like, 'Yo, what's up? I'm finishing the album," West informed MTV of the track’s origins. "And you know how [producers usually] send, like, 12 beats? I sent the one beat and said, 'I got this one for you. This is it, right here.' If he had passed on it, I would've used it myself, but I'm happy that Game went ahead and did it."
On-set of the video, Game praised Ye for chipping "away at my gangsta," saying, "He's got so much style and class. He jumps around in the videos. He's saying how all the chicks dig him; they dig me too, [but] he gets a smile on a gangsta's face. Kanye is one of my homies — we both young, black, rich and famous. And we are having fun in California."
Continuing their stellar run, Kanye’s 2007 Freshman Adjustment mixtape saw Ye call upon the services of both Game and Luda for an ode to their hometowns with "Whole City Behind Us." Best known for its incorporation into a Boost Mobile ad that helped popularize the track, its beat would later be taken by Domo Genesis and Tyler, The Creator for a cult favorite remix.
From there, "Angel" from 2008’s LAX featured a funk-accented beat by West and an introductory verse from GOOD Music’s very own Common that stood out as one of the finest tracks on the entire project.
At this stage, the pair reached a fork in the road and despite Game’s insistence that Ye had contributed to 2010’s The R.E.D Album, no offering on the final track bears his name.
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By the time 2012’s Jesus Piece came around, the two were locked back in, though. Alongside his appearance on the famed pre-album posse cut "Rollin’" with Trae Tha Truth, Z-Ro, Paul Wall, and Slim Thug, Ye also arranged the title track for the project, with Game spitting that "It was God that brought Dre to me, even brought the n***a Kanye for me" in its opening verse.
Three years on, Kanye would reprise his position as a featured artist and producer on The Documentary 2 standout "Mula." But from there, the two would enter what can only be described as their wilderness years in which this steady stream of guest appearances abruptly dried up.
Still, Game was eager to let the world know that he had Ye’s back and even offered aid amid Kanye’s infamous and highly publicized 2016 financial crisis. After Ye implored a succession of the world’s wealthiest people to provide the capital for his ideas, Game promptly tweeted, "I'm not Mark Zuckerberg but I got $10,000,000 to invest in his ideas if he comes to Dubai & skydives wit us tomorrow. I'll pay for the flight." Game informed Kanye, "It's 12 noon in #Dubai you got an hour to accept. Call/my phone or tweet #BlackJesus."
Suffice to say, Game’s offer went unacknowledged. However, Taylor remained undeterred in his support for the architect behind some of his most iconic tracks, and in 2018, he sought to minimize the furor around Ye’s reviled "slavery was a choice" comments by taking to Twitter to declare that "Kanye is a genius. People who’ve never achieved greatness are not allowed to question it."
Doubling down later that same week, Game was one of the few who suggested that not only Ye was of sound mind, but that the master tactician was simply back to work again.
"Notice that a week ago the world was silent about Kanye. Now the entire world is in uproar over things he has said or done for the world to see," he declared via email. "Don’t think for a minute that his actions and plan weren’t well thought out and set up for his goal to reach his maximum potential. Kanye will always be a friend of mine & although I might not necessarily agree with his views on certain topics, that is what separates us as individuals. He has gotten great at preying on the minds of people & causing commotion when he sees fit and is a big enough icon for it to have an effect of catastrophic proportion on both people and media which at times go hand & hand. Kanye is Kanye is Kanye !!!!"
At this juncture, it seemed that if anyone was resolutely on Ye’s side, it was The Game. But within a year, the Comptonite decided to add to Ye’s woes with some provocations of his own. During a January 2019 listening party, Game salaciously declared that "I held Kim Kardashian by the throat / made her swallow my kids until she choked.
Said with the caveat that "I should apologize cause Ye my folks," his remarks were in violation of Game’s previous comments on "Heaven’s Arm" from Jesus Piece in which he cautioned that "Kanye with Kim now, I’m happy for that n***a/ Disrespect him or his wifey, I'll slap you for that n***a."
Although initially slated for his "retirement" album Born 2 Rap, the track went unreleased, and while it’s unclear whether Ye– who’d previously warned the hip-hop community to not "speak on my wife"-- stepped in to curtail its emergence, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine.
Nevertheless, it appears that the two were willing to let bygones be bygones and in early January, the pair hooked up with Ye’s former protege turned-enemy Hit-Boy to deliver "Eazy." As expected, these lightning rods for controversy certainly didn’t disappoint.
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On top of disses aimed at members of Kim’s extended family, Ye declared his intention to "beat Pete Davidson’s ass" in a move that has since prompted the comedian and new beau of Kanye’s ex-wife to hire more security. On top of an incendiary verse from Game that reasserted his ferocious lyrical ability, the pair even provoked Ye’s age-old nemeses in PETA with the graphic image of a skinned monkey that adorns the cover.
The Game and Kanye may take different approaches to their craft, but it’s evident that the two have a connection that is both fruitful and almost uncharacteristically peaceful for the two. Whatever your outlook on the pairing, one thing can’t be denied: you’d be hard-pressed to find two rappers that have been so authentically and unflinchingly themselves throughout their careers. So, as both men look towards a new stage of their career, you can likely expect to see them collaborating a few more times before either man rides off into the sunset.