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Dr. Dre churns out another superstar with The Game

Tom Horgen

At first, “The Documentary” seems like the strangest title you could come up with for a gangsta rap album.

It comes from The Game, Dr. Dre’s latest protege and a money pit in the making. Dre signed the Compton rapper to Aftermath Records more than a year ago, and the marketing department at parent company Interscope Records didn’t waste time building myth around this young man – almost in the way they assembled 50 Cent and Eminem’s careers before him.

As the story goes, The Game was ambushed in a drug spot in 2001 and took five shots. After signing him, Dre immediately asked 50 Cent to shuffle the 25-year-old into rap’s pre-eminent gangsta supergroup, G-Unit. Even beyond the bullets, the talented rapper has been given phenom status, because he only began rapping after being shot. As myth would have it, The Game studied hip-hop’s classic albums to master his incredible delivery and grimy poetics.

Basically, he’s a gangsta-ass study buddy. Which is good. It shows that even after signing to a stacked record label and appearing on magazine covers without ever releasing an album, he has respect for the people who came before him.

He’s so plugged into the history of gangsta rap that he often references characters from other rappers’ songs, such as 2Pac’s “Brenda” and Nas’ “Ike with the Iverson jersey,” to make a point. And there’s no escaping his constant worship of hip-hop’s deceased – he mentions Eazy-E, Biggie and 2Pac on almost every track.

For this, some people have proudly labeled him a rap historian. But at the same time, he can go a little overboard with the star worship, which sometimes makes him sound like a great red-carpet correspondent.

He is obsessed with kissing important people’s asses.

While it’s understandable he’d want to rap about hanging with Snoop, Eminem and Fiddy, and that he’d buy into the whole hoopla about him resurrecting the West Coast, name-dropping all his new celebrity friends gets kind of old – kind of weird too.

While admirable, he dedicates one of the album’s best songs, “Dreams,” which is about his rap aspirations, to Serena and Venus Williams’ murdered brother. Huh? He also references advice Whitney Houston once gave him, which might lead you to wonder: “Why would you take advice from Whitney Houston?”

These disruptions can get a little tedious, but when The Game is on, rapping furiously over beats by the best in the business – Dre, Kanye West, Timbaland and Just Blaze – he does live up to his name.

So the title, “The Documentary,” fits in a way. This is the story of how a young gangbanger was thrown into the limelight, from the streets of Los Angeles to the ivory tower of Interscope Records. It’s a strange trip. Here’s proof.