Ever since he burst on the scene with 2005’s The Documentary, The Game has been one of the most consistent of all West Coast rappers. Full of all-star collaborators and sub-friendly production, his discography also draws from his rough upbringing on the mean streets of Compton to add some gravitas to a career arc many emcees would envy.

Though recent tabloid headline-grabbing antics have drawn a parallel to his former Aftermath cohort 50 Cent, The Game deserves plenty of recognition for his musical accomplishments. Not only is he one of the most effortless talents out there, but he almost singlehandedly snatched the West Coast sound from the depths of irrelevance and made it a chart-topping entity once again. For those new to Game’s music, or fans looking for an extensive trip down memory lane, let’s get started with the countdown of the Cali legend’s Top 25 songs.

Chad Buchanan/Getty Images

25. Undefeated

The bromance between The Game and Busta Rhymes is on full display with “Undefeated,” going so far as to complete each other’s sentences throughout the track. Just Blaze comes through with a driving instrumental, as does Marsha Ambrosius with some expertly modulated work on the hooks. A deeper cut but a highlight nonetheless.


24. Letter To The King

Using Hi-Tek’s harrowing sample to great effect, “Letter to the King” takes a somber and even angry look back at not only Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination but also the sociopolitical climate we live in more than a half-century later. The Game wastes no time calling out some big names either, saying: “If Dr. King marched today would Bill Gates march/I know Obama would, but would Hillary take part?”


23. Still Cruisin

Two generations of Compton rap superstars collide on “Still Cruisin’,” a mixtape cut where The Game pays homage to N.W.A. emcee Eazy-E by sampling the late legend’s classic “Boyz-N-The-Hood” verse. Though some might call those beyond-the-grave production revivals tacky and even exploitative, the Game makes it work here and then some.

Peter Kramer/Getty Images

22. All Eyez

One of the standouts on Game’s 1992 album, “All Eyez” played to some tabloid fodder between him and Chris Brown, seeming to fortify whispers that he had dated Karrueche Tran at some point in 2015. Breezy had even gone off on the Cali rapper for liking a few of Tran’s Instagram pics, a reaction to rumors that this steamy track did nothing to dispel.


21. 300 Bars And Runnin’

An exercise in pure volume, “300 Bars and Runnin’” is basically just a battle of one-upmanship between The Game and 50 Cent, sampling the latter’s classics (along with many others) to form a deluge of pure, unadulterated bar spitting. Sure, there’s plenty of filler here and some lines are sharper than others but, really, as a feat of verbal strength, there are few more eye-opening.


20. Jesus Piece

Linking up with Windy City natives Kanye West and Common, “Jesus Piece” marked an interesting new direction for The Game’s music, using the titular piece of iconography as a means to explore both the spiritual and materialistic side of hip-hop culture. As you might expect, this isn’t a victimless examination, although, with legit references to the New Testament, you know real thought was put in here.


19. Church For Thugs

With enough bounce to fill several West Coast-style instrumental voids, “Church for Thugs” sees The Game teaming with Just Blaze for yet another strong track from the former’s debut album. Overall, The Game proves that he doesn’t care what his enemies think, inviting those making threats against him to follow through at their own risk.


18. Why You Hate The Game

The Doctor’s Advocate closer is a moment for fans to luxuriate in not just The Game’s wealth of sharp rhymes but also Just Blaze’s extremely soulful production work. Once again, crime and its impact on the youth of today take center stage: “Shyne locked in a manhole/And Cam got shot inside his Lambo, it’s ample/Life is a gamble, 15 years old, red rag around my head/My sisters used to laugh and call me Rambo.”

PYMCA/Getty Images

17. Ali Bomaye

“Ali Bomaye” is dark material executed to perfection by a trio of rap royalty. Linking up with Rick Ross and 2 Chainz, the Game and his cohorts spit bars about getting back at a chilling ex-girlfriend by using her seven devils of revenge, imagery that syncs up nicely with the Florence and the Machine sample used in the instrumental.


16. Martians vs Goblins

By the time The R.E.D Album dropped in 2011, fans finally got the collab they had been clamoring for: the Game and Tyler, The Creator on one track. As you’d expect from that bit of hip-hop casting, “Martians vs. Goblins” is definitely a little left of center, with both rappers lobbing supernatural-tinged lyrics in between an infectious Lil Wayne-sampling hook.


15. Put You On The Game

On “Put You on The Game,” the West Coast emcee teams up with production mainstay Timbalandto serve up a cut from The Documentary that’s brimming with confidence. He not only namedrops like crazy – shouting out everyone from Public Enemy to Makaveli – but also touts himself as the heir apparent to the Cali throne with lines like: “I’m Compton’s most wanted when I’m ridin’ with Timbo.”

Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

14. The City

Although he never released it as a single, “The City” was another hit for Game, thanks in no small part to the popularity of its tense, evocative music video. Nearly overshadowing the rapper on his own song is a pre-superstar Kendrick Lamar, whose chorus work and rhyming on the fourth verse gave hip-hop heads a small preview of what was to come from him – a torch-passing moment, perhaps.


13. Dope Boys

The second single from his LAX release, “Dope Boys” is a mishmash of different elements, from the smoothness of DJ Quik to the punk-inspired drums from Blink 182’s Travis Barker. Still, it functions as a gripping Inside Baseball look at how the rapper, presumably culling details from his personal life, went about producing and then peddling cocaine.


12. 100

More than a decade after he first dropped The Documentary, Game followed it up with the first single from the franchise’s sequel, “100.” Featuring some verse and hook work from the Six God himself, the Cali veteran updated his sound for the trap-driven generation of rap music without losing any of that West Coast sparkle that made him a true original in the first place.


11. Wouldn’t Get Far

It’s hard to hear “Wouldn’t Get Far” and not make comparisons to other selections from the Golden Age of Kanye West’s canon, particularly tracks like “Gold Digger” and “Touch the Sky.” Here, The Game uses an instrumental built on sampling Creative Source’s “I’d Find You Anywhere” as a platform to make a biting statement about the gossip-controlled state of celebrity interactions.


10. Doctor’s Advocate

The title track from his 2006 full-length release, Game gets another assist from Busta Rhymes, this time for the most on-the-record confessional we’ll ever get about why he left Aftermath and, by extension, his spot standing in Dr. Dre’s shadow. The rapper lets his mentor know it’s nothing personal, spitting: “Dre, I ain’t mean to turn my back on you/But I’m a man, and sometimes a man, do what he gotta do.”

Chris Weeks/Getty Images

9. Start From Scratch

Riding with another Dre and Scott Storch piece of production, Game uses “Start from Scratch” as an opportunity to reminisce about what he would’ve done differently in life (or not) were he given a chance to start over with a clean slate. Emotional, inebriated, and uncommonly vulnerable, Game remains haunted by those he’s lost – “I got too many dead homies, fuck a rap career/I’d give anything in the world to bring back my n***a Tear/Seem like we was just in Magic City yesterday/If I could bring back my homeboy Charles, he would say.”


8. Dreams

Full of impressive one-liners, “Dreams” is an odd selection from The Documentary. The low-key rumble from Kanye West’s production gives the track a more personal quality, where the Game details his thirst for R&B singer Mya, his comeuppance in the rap world and, perhaps most importantly, his indefatigable desire to be the best (“It’s gon’ take more than a bullet in the heart to hold me back,” he proclaims in one verse). It’s hard not to look at his recent outcries of “I had Kim Kardashian by her throat, n***a, made her swallow my kids until she choke, n***a!” and not pine for simpler times.


7. My Life

Taken from 2008’s LAX, “My Life” is the Game’s attempt to use his life experience to save those who feel like they’ll only leave the hood in handcuffs or a casket. “I need some meditation so I can lead my people,” he raps. “They askin’, ‘Why, why did John Lennon leave The Beatles?’/And why every hood n***a feed off evil?/Answer my question ‘fore this bullet leave this Desert Eagle.”


6. Like Father, Like Son

The Game’s son was born just prior to the release of The Documentary, so it only makes sense that he closed the stunning LP with a tender tribute to his offspring. The track also benefits from a catchy hook, courtesy of another rapper-turned-father, Busta Rhymes, who spits: “I hope you grow up to become that everything you can be/That’s all I wanted for you young’n, like father, like son.”


5. Westside Story

The Documentary’s lead single, “Westside Story” functioned not only as the Game’s silky-smooth introduction to mass audiences but also the track that arguably made West Coast rap a viable commercial property again. Propelled by Dre and Scott Storch production, Game stakes his claim for the Aftermath throne, insisting that reports of the West Coast sound’s demise were greatly exaggerated.


4. Ol’ English

A deep cut that dwells on the rapper’s dark past on the streets of Compton, “Ol’ English” peers around the Game’s bravado and brings listeners some of his most personal material ever. His uncle Greg, a man who served as the emcee’s childhood role model, becomes the central character in a tragic tale of murder and drug culture. The song uses stark imagery to great effect, especially in the context of Hi-Tek’s production work.

Tony Karumba/Getty Images

3. Higher

Another standout from The Documentary, “Higher” went from being a 50 Cent afterthought to one of the Game’s most enduring cuts. The rapper told Complex that the beat was originally intended for Fif, and after his Aftermath colleague passed on the instrumental, Game wrote all three verses right there in the studio. “It probably took like a half-an-hour,” he added. “That sh*t was too easy to rap over.” Let the record show: Lightbulb moments are real.


2. How We Do

One of the most popular club hits from a bygone era of hip-hop, “How We Do” is a perfect storm of Aftermath’s hitmaking prowess. 50 Cent oozes charisma and uses flawless vocal execution to give Game a perfect foil for the call-and-response verse work. The Cali veteran doesn’t let Curtis steal the show though, blending his bars with the booming Dr. Dre beat to make one of the most party-ready songs of the decade.


1. Hate It Or Love It

Gliding effortlessly over a deeply soulful sample from the Trammps, “Hate It Or Love It” uses introspective writing to construct a moving, timeless underdog story. Both the Game and Fif take turns serving up razor-sharp rhymes that detail not only what led to their stumble into street life but also how those types of environments define where they come from and, to a certain degree, where they’re going.

Dan Tuffs/Getty Images