• DJ Khaled, "I Changed a Lot" (We the Best/Sony)
• The Game, "The Documentary 2," "The Documentary 2.5" (Blood Money/Fifth Amendment/eOne)
Hip-hop is old and vast, but its institutional memory can be short. Long careers are tough to come by, and the genre's mainstream is zigzagging more quickly than ever. Given that, the continuing success of both the Game and DJ Khaled is striking, precisely because it bucks those trends. They are great aggregators, two artists serving as the genre's internal nostalgists, as concerned with synthesizing its many divergent strains as with securing their own legacies.
DJ Khaled's best moments are a sort of reductio ad absurdum of hip-hop maximalism, consensus songs with consensus ideas: "All I Do Is Win," "I'm So Hood," "I'm on One." He isn't a rapper or a producer in the classic sense — mostly he's a motivational speaker with a phenomenal Rolodex. On his new album, "I Changed a Lot" — his eighth! — the token urgent theme song is "I Don't Play About My Paper," featuring a croaky Future. Apart from a slightly larger than usual emphasis on R&B ("You Mine," the comic "Gold Slugs"), most of this album is an extension of DJ Khaled's tenets of more and louder and still more. That extends to his guest list, as packed as ever: There are great guest appearances here by Boosie Badazz on "I Ride" and Jadakiss and Vado on "Every Time We Come Around."
The Game's consensus is of a different sort. His aesthetic is a purposeful pastiche of hip-hop styles of days gone by. On his earliest albums, he stood out for how willing — nay, how eager — he was to show off his influences. To commemorate the 10th anniversary of his first major-label record, he's released two albums, "The Documentary 2" and "The Documentary 2.5," that hew to the same principles as their namesake inspiration.
The first half of "Documentary 2" alone covers various eras and styles: an Ice Cube reference, a Gang Starr sample, a Mobb Deep shout-out, a Brandy interpolation, a Digable Planets sample, a Notorious B.I.G. remake, a Raekwon shout-out. The Game is literally inseparable from his influences. He doesn't digest them as other rappers might; instead, he wears them like brands.
He, too, is joined by oodles of guests, a striking show of support for a midcareer rapper who's pugnacious to boot. (Lately he's been beefing with eccentric savant Young Thug.) Both Kanye West and Drake appear here, and in strong form. The typically bouncy will.i.am has a cameo on "Don't Trip" rapping about gangs, of all things. And the handful of appearances by Anderson Paak on "Documentary 2.5" feels like a nod to "Compton," the comeback album by Dr. Dre, who is one of the Game's mentors.
Unlike many of his L.A. peers, the Game has always been quick to underscore the importance of New York hip-hop — the title track of "Documentary 2" is even produced by DJ Premier. And that New York traditionalist strain is echoed by DJ Khaled. It's easy to call his albums overstuffed, but at their best — as on "I Lied," a great New York golden era-style posse cut featuring French Montana, Meek Mill, Beanie Sigel and Jadakiss — they capture the long-gone feeling of late 1990s DJ Clue mixtapes, where rappers would all claw for attention on the same beat. Rather than let history overwrite them, both he and the Game have instead chosen to become mainstream preservationists — keepers of everyone else's flame, retaining a little heat for themselves.
JON CARAMANICA, New York Times