As I listened to Game's Documentary 2 last week I felt deluged by name drops. It often felt like Game had simply turned on his phone, opened up his Contacts list and started rapping, and so I wrote about that feeling. But then I began to second guess myself. Did he actually rap that much about other people, or was I using the "Game name drops a lot" stereotype as a crutch, a shortcut, the same way it's just easy to call Drake soft and Kanye crazy even if the truth is far more complex?
People were accusing me of making too big a deal out of his name-dropping, maybe I was. I'd much rather admit that I was wrong than continue to be wrong, and the prospect that I was just parroting a stereotype instead of actually thinking for myself was gnawing away at me.
And then I realized I actually had the very real and very rare chance to find out, completely objectively, mathematically even, if I was exaggerating Game's name drop tendency or not. All it would take was some planning and a little meth to keep me energized some good ol' fashioned hard work.
So I went through the entire first disc of Documentary 2, cataloged every single name drop,and spoiler alert, it turns out that nope, I wasn't exaggerating at all. Game really is hip-hop's most name-dropping rapper by a staggeringly large margin and I can prove it. Here's how.
- I only counted name drops from Game himself, not any name drops from guest artists.
- I skipped over the skits because we're only talking about music here.
- I only counted name drops when they referred to the actual person. For example, when he raps "parked my shit at Ye's house" he means 'Ye as in Kanye West the human being. But when he says, "Put on a fresh pair of Yeezys" he means a shoe, even though that shoe is named after Kanye West the human. It's a fine line, but I wanted to give Game the benefit of the doubt and not counting those instances reduced the overall name drop count.
- I also didn't count non-famous names. When Game raps about hanging out with Dr. Dre that's a classic name drop, the sole intention of that line is to let us know he's friends with an extremely important person. But when he raps about someone named Frog he ran the streets with as a kid, he's also using that name to establish credibility, but not in the true spirit as a famous person name drop. Again, skipping over those names only reduced the overall name count.
- After much debate, I did, however, decide to count name drops of labels and institutions. For example, Game mentions being tight with TDE repeatedly. While TDE is not literally itself a person, the spirit of the name drop is the essentially the same as when he mentions being tight with Kendrick.
- As I just mentioned, the classic name drop is one that lets us know the name dropper is in close proximity to a famous name dropee, and should, therefore, be considered famous themselves. However, I'd also like to argue that there is another level of more indirect name dropping. When Game repeatedly mentions Karuecche Tran, even though he's referencing her more indirectly, he's attempting to place himself in her sphere. He knows she'll find out she was named, she'll likely respond, and he'll benefit from the ensuing wave of publicity. When he mentions loving Nas' music that's only the positive side of the same coin, a way to publicly place himself in Nas' sphere.
As exact as I tried to be, counting name drops on rap songs is an imperfect science, mostly because it's a completely ridiculous science I invented about an hour ago. Maybe I actually should count non-famous names? Maybe I should count his many album title references; after all, isn't mentioning It Was Written essentially the same thing as mentioning Nas? The line between a name drop and a clever reference in a punchline can be razor thin, did I distinguish between them properly?
In other, more closely contested cases those questions may matter more, but as you'll see, in Game's case the results are so clear that questions of nuance just didn't end up statistically mattering much. Now onto the main event....
Total Name Drops: 9
People Named: Kendrick [four times], Dr. Dre, Top Dawg, Erykah Badu, French Montana, TDE
Line: "Ain't no gimmicks 'round here, this Compton, me, Doc and Kendrick"
Total Name Drops: 8
People Named: Mystikal, Dr. Dre, Mobb Deep, Iggy Azalea, Plies, Floyd Mayweather, Karrueche, Jimmy Henchman
Line: "The industry soft when Plies getting slammed and shit / I feel like Mayweather in May weather"
Total Name Drops: 2
People Named: N.W.A., Tony Toni Tone
Line: "Yeah, I grew up to N.W.A, nigga / And my grannies whipping yay-yay, nigga"
Note: Mentions other names like King Frog and Big Face, but I'm not counting them under the non-famous principle.
"Standing on Ferraris"
Total Name Drops: 10
People Named: Peyton Manning, Craig Mack, Rick Rubin, Jay Z, Trey Songz, Dr. Dre, R. Kelly, Jimmy Iovine, French Montana, Khloe Kardashian
Line: "Spit on models, R.Kelly, piss on the center fold / Ever since Doc showed me a billion in a envelope / Love Jimmy, fuck Interscope"
Note: I didn't count the Ric Flair reference, that one felt like more of a pure punchline than a name drop.
"Dollar and a Dream"
Total Name Drops: 14
People Named: Kanye West, Andre 3000, Ab-Soul, Lupe Fiasco, Tupac [twice], 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige, Top Dawg, Kendrick, Big Pun, Biggie, Dr. Dre [twice]
Line: "Move the Yay or kiss the sky, for having dreams that 50 died / Eulogy by Mary Blige"
"Made in America"
Total Name Drops: 21
People Named: Michael Jordan [three times], Dr. Dre [three times], Jimmy Iovine, Rich Porter, Kim Porter, Stephen Curry, Raekwon, Snoop Dogg, Nas, Eazy E, Tupac, Mac Dre, Jacka, JT the Bigga Figga [twice], Biggie, 50 Cent
Line: "Fourteen carat gold Raekwon first album / Nothing but a G thing like when Dre met Calvin"
Total Name Drops: 1
People Named: The Luniz
Line: "Can't hit my mothafuckin' blunt unless yo ass got five nigga / Bumpin' Luniz"
Note: Great example of the line between name drop and clever reference, but since the Luniz are a real, actual group whose members are still alive, I'm counting it.
Total Name Drops: 2
People Named: Kanye West, Rihanna
Line: "Parked my shit at Ye house and hopped in the Uber"
Note: Multiple name drops from Sha Sha, including one of Dr. Dre, of course, but I'm only counting Game's actual lines.
Total Name Drops: 5
People Named: Nicki Minaj, Meek Mill, BG, Turk, Lil Wayne
Line: "Put the flame on a nigga, take chains from a nigga / That will go BG, Turk and Wayne on a nigga"
Note: Didn't count the Huxtables name drop, didn't feel right to count a fictional family.
"Bitch, You Ain't Shit"
Total Name Drops: 3
People Named: Stevie J, Joseline, Drake
Line: "Yellin' at her kids while Joseline and Stevie be arguin / She blocked from Drizzy's page now she all on my dick"
Total Name Drops: 4
People Named: Missy Elliott, Biggie, Tupac, Michael Jordan
Line: "Hop out with my bandana tied around my head like Pac / Westside nigga, never had a problem banging Big"
Total Name Drops: 5
People Named: Alonzo Mourning, Kanye West [twice], 50 Cent, LL Cool J, Eazy-E
Line: "And I got another track from Yeezy / How'd you do that? Like Eric Wright said Eazy"
Note: Not counting D'jango for the same reason I didn't count the Huxtables, and as mentioned above, I'm not counting the multiple "Ye" references because he's referring to the shoe there, not literally Kanye West.
"The Documentary 2"
Total Name Drops: 27
People Named: DJ Premier [twice], Dr. Dre, MC Ren, Future, Klay Thompson, Magic Johnson, Irv Gotti, Suge Knight, Lauryn Hill, The Fugees, Rihanna, Karrueche, Proof, Tupac, Jay Z, Ja Rule, MC Hammer, Eminem, Wu Tang, Rakim, Joakim Noah, Top Dawg, Kendrick, Aftermath, Duke basketball, Kansas basketball
Line: "Suge wouldn't listen, Irv wouldn't listen / So I ran around with Diddy, Aftermath in the Mission"
Note: Didn't count the Bruce Lee reference because Lee's been dead so long it felt like more of a pure punchline reference. Also, didn't count the It Was Written reference as a Nas name drop under the no album titles corollary.
"New York, New York"
Total Name Drops: 5
People Named: Rick Ross, Steph Curry, Magic Johnson, Roc-A-Fella, Golden State Warriors
Line: "No hesitation like Steph, shoot it right in your face / Cause I'm a Golden State warrior strapped with a K"
Note: Didn't count the Farakkhan, Buddha and Jesus mentions because it just didn't feel right to views those as "name drops." Also, didn't count the Dirty Sprite 2 reference as a Future name drop under no album titles corollary.
Total Name Drops: 23
People Named: Black, OB O'Brien, Noah "40 Shebib, Biggie, Didddy, Hush, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne [twice], Birdman [twice], 4 Cent, Lil Snupe, Meek Mill, Tupac, Biggie, Suge Knight, Drake, Pimp C, J. Prince, Bleu Davinci, Jimmy Henchman, OVO
Line: "Cause you a out of town nigga like Biggie / Heard about the shit with Diddy"
Note: Oddly he mentions the Lil Wayne and Birdman shooting incident twice but does so in completely different lines/ways, so I'm counting it twice.
"Just Another Day"
Total Name Drops: 13
People Named: Eazy-E [twice], Steph Curry, Chris Paul, NWA, Aftermath, De La Soul, Faith Evans, Mary J. Blige, Nate Dogg, Amber Rose, Suge Knight, Dr. Dre
Line: "Then I recorded the shit with Faith / I did the BET Awards with Mary J"
Note: The songs hook mentions Eazy-E and Nate Dogg, but since a hook by its nature repeats, I'm only counting those as a singular name drop, although he does mention Eazy again in a verse, so that's two total Eazys on this song. And yes, I'm taking this very seriously.
Total Name Drops: 4
People Named: Aftermath, Jennifer Lopez, Dr. Dre, Jay Z
Line: "The way I spit, niggas'll think I pulled the mack out / I said the way I spit, niggas'll think I blew J-Lo back out"
Total Name Drops: 145
Average Name Drops Per Song: 8.5
Most: 27 on "Documentary 2"
Most Mentioned Names: Dr. Dre's name comes up a total of 11 times on 8 of the 17 songs. Other most mentioned names include Kendrick Lamar, Tupac, Biggie, Suge Knight and some version of N.W.A. (either the group or solo members).
Sweet baby Jesus that's a lot of name drops. Before I started this experiment I obviously expected the number to be high, but I estimated something like...30 names, tops. Even 50 names seemed like a reach, but 145? 145?!?!?!?! Let's take a quick musical break to let the reality of that number sink in.
But in keeping with the scientific spirit of this article, just the stats from Game's album alone aren't enough. We need a control group. 145 names feels like a lot, but we need cold hard facts here, not feels, and so we need to compare Game's name drop rate to the name drop rate of other albums. So I ran through the same process for three other recently released albums that had ties to Documentary 2. Here are those results:
- Dr. Dre's Compton: 11 name drops over 15 songs (.73 name drops per song average)
- Drake's IYRTITL: 4 name drops over 19 songs (.21 name drops per song average)
- Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly: 10 name drops over 16 songs (.625 name drops per song average)
Now, I'm not about to run the numbers on every album released this year because while I'm clearly insane, even I'm not that insane. So can I say with absolute, unshakeable uncertainty that Game is hip-hop's most name dropping rapper? Under oath, no, I cannot. There could be some other rapper out there who name drops more but come on now. Just look at those numbers. None of those three albums, which together are a fair, wide-ranging sample of modern hip-hop, top more than one name drop per song, and Game's pushing 9. It's not even close. I could take away every even borderline name drop, cut Documentary 2's total name drops in half, and it's still more than seven times higher than Kendrick Lamar's, 20 times higher than Drake's.
I'm calling Game hip-hop's most name dropping rapper, and I now that I have the numbers behind me, now that I've seen for myself, I feel comfortable saying it. But in the wise words of a true American hero, knowing is only half the battle, and now comes the important half, understanding. Now that we have this information, what do we do with it? And in thinking about the answer to that question I genuinely began to appreciate Game more as a rapper.
First, I think it's crucial to recognize that this isn't a new development. I went back and looked at the original Documentary, the numbers are (un)surpisingly similar. He drops 28 names into the original "Documentary" track, which is only one off the 28 he drops in "Documentary 2." Quick, without looking it up, was this line from 2005 or 2015?
What happened in hip hop that got Pac and Big shot / The thick blocks, now every rapper claim he let his clip pop
He's always been this way, working other people's names into his rhymes is in his artistic DNA, it's his trademark, his signature. It's not all of who he is as a rapper, but it's a big part. The same way weed is the foundation of Snoop's rhymes and food is the foundation of Action Bronson's raps, names are the foundation of Game's rhymes. And in a way, it's all those names—from Dr. Dre to Melyssa Ford—that have sustained his career. We could call Game rap's biggest name dropper, but we could also call Game hip-hop's biggest fan. More than any other rapper I can think of he's an everyday participant in the culture, he's us. He's a nerd-level fan of the same albums and emcees we are, he can't stop talking about how he's friends with Dr. Dre the same way I would never shut up about being friends with Dr. Dre, he cracks jokes about reality TV stars the way we do with our friends.
At its worst that drive to constantly insert himself into other people's lives and careers can come across as self-serving, provocation as free promotion, and in that respect, he mostly closely resembles his mentor 50 Cent, although to his credit he's also managed to maintain his pure musical relevance much strongly than Fiddy. But at his best Game is a great storyteller, an unfiltered observer of the world around him. He's the anti-Earl Sweatshirt, seemingly always outside, always getting involved in the world.
Ultimately, Game's music is about hip-hop, but not hip-hop in the abstract sense, hip-hop as it's lived by people, people he wants to talk with and talk to. That's his legacy, and it's not one I appreciated until I spent this much time this close to his lyrics, although I think I always knew, I just wasn't conscious of it until I saw the numbers. I always felt it, I just wasn't able to name it.