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Game’s ‘The City’ Video: Just Another Chance to Appreciate Kendrick Lamar

Game and Kendrick Lamar

“Now everybody seen that shit,” Kendrick Lamar boasts coolly at the end of “The City,” from Game’s tepidly received summer 2011 release The R.E.D. Album. And everybody really has: The younger of the two West Coast rappers demonstrated his criminally high-wattage star power at SXSW, made the jump to Interscope for his next album, and demonstrated not only impressive technique but also, more importantly, a distinctive conscious-yet-totally-fucked-up perspective to one of last year’s best rap albums, debut Section.80. He also shared the mic with hip-hop up-and-comers from Tech N9ne to Drake (and, more recently, Gunplay).

Lamar’s guest spot on “The City,” for its part, is a passing-of-the-torch moment on an album with only flickers of Game’s old fire. The elder Compton MC is in growly, insecure, and blatantly referential mode over swooning, choir-like production by Cool and Dre, who also lent their laid-back grandeur to Game’s still-vital 50 Cent team-up “Hate It or Love It” way back in 2005. Lamar raps the tongue-twisting hook, neatly suggesting a parallel between the comeback-hungry former champ and the insatiable future star, but the real draw here is Lamar’s closing verse, rhymed a capella in a ferocious double-time flow, a cappella save for a deeply distorted echo.

The track’s new video, directed by previous Game collaborator Matt Alonzo, operates best as an occasion to re-evaluate this pairing of two talented rappers brought up on “California Love.” It’s predictable but well-executed stuff: Lamar and Game stroll shadowy nighttime city streets, crimes are committed, Game recognizes game. That “A.D.H.D.” kid is the one to watch.