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Drillmatic: Documenting The Game’s Latest Mission

This 30 track opus from the legendary rapper is all frenzies with no filler, as he embarks on an ambitious exploration of internal struggle, and silencing the naysayers.

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“Sign my name on the dotted line, that was vengeance on beats,” The Game raps on ‘Eazy’, his mission statement for 2022. It served as his first single since his 2019 album Born 2 Rap, which he intended to be his last, but ultimately lived up to its title in his return, weaving meaningful wordplay together in a jam-packed but punctuating verse. Fired up and ready to make a monumental comeback, The Game enlisted Kanye for a guest verse, as well as Hit-Boy and DJ Premier on production. The dotted line was his determination, and the vengeance was rooted in proving the naysayers wrong, and reaffirming that he is still that dude.

The thing is—why would The Game feel this way? With mixtapes dating back to 2002, collaborations with everyone from Nate Dogg to Ed Sheeran, a slew of platinum plaques, and timeless classics such as The Documentary, you’d feel like the eagerness to establish himself would be gone. But if you look back at this veteran’s career, vengeance has always been a common factor. When he beefs, it isn’t a simple diss track, but instead an attempted slaughter in the form of 2005’s 50 Cent-aimed ‘300 Bars & Runnin’. When people wondered if he’d amass the same quality of music post-Aftermath and G-Unit records, The whispers of a sophomore slump were slashed with The Doctor’s Advocate. Just this year, The Game took issue with not being included on Rolling Stone’s 200 Greatest Hip-Hop Albums of All Time list, tweeting “I carried an entire coast for 20 years on the back of my 1st album”. His return to rap has been with frustration because the flowers he deserves have been few and far between. On his latest album Drillmatic – Heart Vs. Mind, The Game is snatching them, and continuing to grow his garden.

Understanding the revitalisation of Drillmatic is as simple as just looking at the title. He channels the hunger of a young Nas, looking to life beyond the Queensbridge Houses in his genre-defining debut album. The power of drill runs through him, allowing him to turn adverse battles into braggadocio, like Chief Keef, G.Herbo, Pop Smoke, and a variety of others who define the diverse genre. The Game that appears on this project isn’t jaded or returning from retirement for the sake of revenue, but is instead reminiscent of the version of himself that penned 2004’s ‘Westside Story’: ready to spit, and ravenous with the raps. This hits almost immediately as the album opens with ‘One Time’, which finds The Game delving into the struggle of the streets, inspired by his own experiences in Compton, and further legitimized by a feature from hip-hop pioneer Ice T.

Even at 29 tracks, Drillmatic rarely begins to feel fatigued. Each song is centred around the internal battle of Heart Vs Mind, with The Game scrolling through the chapters of his life in every verse, and troops being lost on both sides in this conceptual war. ‘Home Invasion’ serves as a commentary on one’s intentions when committing a crime, looking at the tug-of-war between emotion and evaluation that goes into decision-making. ‘Twisted’ looks at the tangled web of both being smart and safe in the hood, using personal anecdotes in a quest to find duality. ‘Heart Vs. Mind’ serves as a track itself, exploring the sadness of today’s social media-surveyed society, and how things change when the cameras are off. Passionately posing the question “Can I teach a young heart to show his mind how to love?” in this track, you begin to notice The Game’s newfound insight. The youthful vengeance remains vehement while staying vigilant in a showcase of wisdom.

The paths in which the album’s main question trudges throughout its duration are enhanced by The Game’s versatile approach throughout. Every frenzy of bars he spits exists in different worlds of sound, with production from Mustard, Hit-Boy, DJ Paul, and more orchestrating the style switches. The booming 808s of New York drill music can be heard on tracks like ‘K.I.L.L.A.S’, as The Game effortlessly flows on the chaotic tempo alongside Cam’ron. The vibrant synths of standout tracks like ‘How Far I Came’ set a celebratory tone for The Game to reflect, and for Roddy Ricch to let off ear-catching melodies. Drillmatic’s experimentation also finds companionship in a star-studded feature list, with the likes of ASAP Rocky, Pusha T, Lil Wayne, and more punctuating their perspectives in their respective appearances. The Game’s ability to let off driven raps alongside any contemporary, all while switching lanes wherever necessary, makes his vengeful return a vehicle that’s undeniably full-speed.

As you reach the end of Drillmatic, you realise vengeance is a complex thing. You can find yourself seeking it viscerally, looking to destroy what once hurt you, or it can be sought after in the name of valiance, where you position yourself as the person to face an issue and ensure you represent the needs of others. Much like the battle of heart and mind, The Game embodies both ways on this album. As he stands on the battlefield of these internal wars he raps about, he finds himself wanting to get the flowers he deserves, from the field of music he’s dedicated over 20 years of his life to. He also uses this quest as a way to shed light on the struggles of the neighbourhoods he once called home, sharing his veteran wisdom through the passion in his bars, and assembling a cast of collaborators to help represent this cause on a grander scale. The Game’s return serves as his most selfless collection of art yet, as he strives for a better culture, as opposed to just besting a foe or silencing a naysayer. As I said before, understanding the revitalisation of Drillmatic is as simple as looking at the title because like Nas’ escaping the maze of the Queensbridge houses, or a drill artist using real-life adversity to create new avenues, The Game is looking beyond hip-hop’s present, towards a future that shares its name with this album’s closing statement: ‘Universal Love’.

Follow The Game here for more and stream Drillmatic – Heart Vs. Mind now.

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