Review Summary: The dope game stupid, but the boys still do it. Dope Game Stupid
is an album that works on two levels. When I first encountered Dope Game Stupid
, I interpreted the title as a boastful proclamation, as in Wolf’s dope game [is] stupid – i.e., Wolf sells, or sold, drugs really well. This interpretation is the first level that Dope Game
operates on. The second interpretation of Dope Game Stupid
, which is the actual or intended interpretation, is exactly what it reads as – i.e., the world of selling drugs, and all that comes with it, is stupid. This is the second, deeper level of Dope Game Stupid
The first interpretation of Dope Game
is likely what would be taken away from a passive listen. Wolf made a (successful) career out of selling drugs, and now he’s here to tell the story through an onslaught of punch-lines that are endlessly entertaining and often hilarious. And since punch-lines really are where a lot of this album’s immediate charm stems from, its worth throwing a few of the many highlights out to paint a brief picture:
‘They was laughing, LMAO/It was a miracle how I whipped it, like mayo’ (“Use Me”),
‘And oh yeah, the game starts where it end/So if you get caught, don't you talk, like an imaginary friend’ (“Dope Game $tupid”),
‘But them young boys, they stay posted on the block/Got O's on 'em, like they wearing polka dots’ (“Freak Accident”),
‘Because they dash for those Cartis, bro/And where I’m from we run those glasses like cardio” (“Whip Test”).
Some people may not find these lines to be as amusing as others, but Dope Game
has an endless surplus of them for anyone who does. And with how fun much the surface level of this album can be, it would be easy enough to leave it there and not dive any deeper.
There is a deeper level to Dope Game
, though, and this level is crafted by Wolf’s conscious awareness that behind all that encompasses the ostentatious front, ‘the dope game stupid, but the boys still do it’ (“Dope Game $tupid”). But why do the boys still do it? Certainly not because the boys are stupid, but perhaps for some of the same reasons Wolf himself participated. Instructive here are lines from the opening track, “Thank God”: ‘Humblin beginnings forced me to have tunnel vision/Cop a brick and make decisions’, and, ‘Married to the game, it was an arranged marriage’. In other words, options are limited when you come from Detroit, 'the mecca of hardships', where, 'everybody sell something' ("Middle Men"). Few American cities have been devastated by deindustrialization quite like Detroit, so when a voice says ‘Jobs are not easy to come by’ at the end of “Use Me”, its hard not to take them at their word.
And this deeper current of a criminal life (over)determined by the constraints of a devastated (political)economic reality reaches an estuary with the closing track, “Momma was a Dopefiend”. Over a soulful – weeping – Knxwledge beat, we hear the heart wrenching confessions of a son abandoned in the name of the same addictions he would later feed: 'Can’t trust women, cuz I can’t trust you/it’s a shame I sell the same thing that caused us pain'. Here we have intense moments of self-reflection not at all dissimilar to lines Malice (now No Malice) wrote to close Clipse’s drug slinging opus, Lord Willin
, in 2002. As with the boys who still do it, however, we do not find Wolf blaming his mother for her surrender to the Dope Game: 'Your behavior is a result of the house you grew up in'.
But why did momma grow up in a broken home? Cycles repeat, the Dope Game Stupid