The Game’s California Republic mixtape opens with a kiddy-pool-shallow piece of self-aggrandizement that sets the stage almost too well for the tracks to come. Within the space of three lines, “God Speed” has dropped references to Louis Vuitton, clubbing, Maserati coups, and the act of “stuntin’”. Not only are these touchstones about as tired as they come (when was the last time someone claimed they were “stuntin’”?), but they serve as the opening argument for what will become the decisive, exhaustively argued thesis of California Republic: The Game just doesn’t have a lot to say.
In case his PR maneuvers have passed you by unnoticed, let it be known that The Game is a Los Angeles-based rapper made famous by his inclusion in G-Unit, then made even famous-er by his ejection from that self-same collective. He has released four studio albums since 2005 and has a fifth (F.I.V.E.: Fear Is Victory’s Evolution) due later this year.
Even in a crew that was never famous for its insightful treatment of the human condition, The Game (Jayceon Taylor to the IRS) had a reputation as an especially shallow scrivener. He was a paragon of the sort of broad machismo taken seriously only by WWE wrestlers, 14-year-old boys, and other members of G-Unit.
In lieu of lyrical ingenuity, The Game has had to rely on high-profile beefs to attract attention to his releases, but with 50-Cent abandoning the rap game for the life of a thespian, The Game is forced once more to approach his lyrics via their own merits. California Republic serves as a good reminder that this is a mixed bag at best.
Of the 24 tracks on California Republic, there is a nary a one without a “featuring” credit. Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, and Drake all help to make the non-Game portions of California Republic a pretty impressive affair. For a release put out underneath The Game’s “brand”, it’s remarkable how infrequently The Game actually shows up on its tracks.
With a few notable exceptions (“She Wants to Have My Baby” comes to mind), the production on California Republic seems blissfully ignorant of the exciting, innovative cross-pollination going on in such venues as Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music production stable. In at least one case, The Game copies an already-used beat wholesale.
Freestyling over Tyler, the Creator’s “Yonkers” is a bad move to start out with. “Yonkers” has to be one of the most unique and unhinged examples of hip-hop to come out of the past decade and the flaccid rap that The Game lays down on top of that track sounds like a fan’s lazy impression of Tyler, the Creator’s id-based hip-hop confessionals.
“You’re wasted and smack the f**k out of Rihanna,” the Game raps, “guess that’s what you get for your slut persona”. On the next track (“Death Penalty”), the hook is a mumbled loop of, “charged with f**king up the game, you get found guilty / Real n****s sentence you, death penalty”.
Both of these lyrics offer a juvenile impression of masculinity whose only redeeming quality is its ability to sell records, though I’m not sure that counts as a good thing.