thegamebootlegs.jpgHate him or love him, it’s hard not to listen to The Game. Despite the fact that his sophomore album, The Doctor’s Advocate, hasn’t come close to his spirited debut saleswise, the Compton representative has kept gums flapping. Withstanding constant attacks on his character, Game consistently manages to silence skeptics verbally, a trait that’s been most evident on his You Know What It Is mixtape series with DJ Skee and Nu Jerzey Devil. However, with the fourth installment, Murda Game Chronicles, the usually engaging spitter evokes memories of Dre’s 1996 track “Been There, Done That.”

When taken out of his Cali comfort zone musically, Game comes off invigorated. “Where I’m From,” the atmospheric track originally laced by Jay-Z, coaxes a gloomy hometown thesis out of our host (“Same hood where Game good, see yellow tape and white chalk where the lame stood/On the news, reporters blame Suge”). Staying on his New York shit beatwise, the Black Wall Street CEO rips two DJ Premier gems. “The Pledge” finds him flexing heavy over the keys of Jigga’s “So Ghetto,” while Gang Starr’s “All 4 Tha Ca$h” gets transformed into the menacing “Invisible Felon.” On the latter, Game brags, “Gorilla on mass beats, leave your career in critical condition/Destroy niggas, my mission is the disposition.”

Even at its best, though, Murda Game Chronicles is nothing new. While maintaining his crisp flow and clever punch lines, Game’s topical range stretches to an alligator arm’s reach. Gangbanging death threats and shouts to Dre and Nas abound, while he stays firing venom at G-Unit (“Body Bags”). The one time Chuck Taylor actually does rap out of pocket proves to be the mixtape’s low point—the grating Notorious B.I.G./“Playa Hater”–inspired singsong “T.K.O. (The Hurricanes).”

By disc’s end, Game’s latest mix regurgitates the same stories track after track. Fortunately, the ever-resilient sophomore still has time to take his career off cruise control. —MATT BARONE