Monday, August 30, 2010

7 Best Video Game Influenced Rap Tracks

Note: This article was originally published as part of my time as an Associated Content Featured Contributor to the Video Games Section. Associated Content was later bought by Yahoo! and renamed Yahoo! Voices. Yahoo Voices shut down in July of 2014. This article is being republished here on The Code, backdated to its original date of publication to remain as a record of my writing.

Whether it's rappers taking part in Madden NFL and fighting game tournaments, or Snoop Dogg launching his own Hip Hop Gaming League in 2006, the art and entertainment of rap music and video games have had an interdependent relationship for decades. Today, we look at the top six rap tracks about or influenced by video games.

7. "Human Video Game"
Artist: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince feat. Ready C.
Album: He's The DJ, I'm The Rapper

Fresh off the success of Rock The House, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's follow-up album is mostly remembered for the hit single "Parents Just Don't Understand". However, the last track, "Human Video Game" features Will Smith rapping about how he was a video game addict that spent so much time there patrons "thought that I worked there, and asked me for change". He talks about how his favorite game was Donkey Kong, and how he struck up a friendship with beat-boxing master Ready C. This rap tells how Will Smith and Ready C became friends when Ready C demonstrated how he could imitate all the music and sound effects from the game.

Sample lyrics:
"Ever since I was younger, I was into video games/ Tron or whatever, it didn't matter the name/ Thousands of my dollars have been poured/ Into all types of games, tryin' to get the high score!"

6. "Final Battle"
Artist: Random feat. Loose
Album: Mega Ran

Random is a rapper and producer who has worked with rap and hip-hop luminaries like Talib Kweli, Common, and Immortal Technique. Random is also a huge Mega Man fan, as evidenced by the the release of the album Mega Ran, in which every track samples from a Mega Man game. In "Final Battle", Loose and Random rap over a beat sampled from Mega Man 6. "Final Battle" narrates the struggles of the Mega Ran character with parallels to the Mega Man character, leading into the final track of the album about growing up.

5. "Little Weapon:
Artist: Lupe Fiasco
Album: The Cool

Lupe Fiasco has a reputation for complex, layered rhymes and equally complex lyrical content. "Little Weapon" is no different as it examines the culture of violence that surrounds kids, from child soldiers in Africa to inner-city high school kids. Then Lupe flips the script, showing that something that sounds so sad and oppressive in some parts of the world serves as entertainment in other parts of the world, comparing the violence of war to the violence of video games.

Sample lyrics:
"Imagine if I had to console/ the family of those I slay on game consoles/ ... Press B for the bombs/ press pause for your moms/ make the room silent/ she don't approve of violent games"

4. "It Is Pitch Dark"
Artist: MC Frontalot
Album: Secrets From The Future

Damian Hess, more famously known as MC Frontalot, coined the term "nerdcore" for the style of rap focused on traditionally nerdy subjects like computers or science fiction. So it might not surprise you to learn that MC Frontalot is a fan of interactive text adventures like the classic Infocom game "Zork". The track "It Is Pitch Dark" directly references the horrible monster from Zork, as well as the conventions inherent in text-based adventure games in general.

Sample lyrics:
"You are likely to be eaten by a grue/ If this predicament seems particularly cruel/ Consider whose fault it could be:/ not a torch or a match in your inventory."

3. "Gaming On Ya"
Artist: People Under The Stairs
Album: Fun DMC

People Under The Stairs are part of the west coast underground hip hop scene. They describe themselves as "party rappers" with a sound that is distinctly old-school, so it's appropriate that the track "Gaming On Ya" is chock full of lyrics that not only name drop classic arcade games, but also extensively sample sound effects and tunes from arcade games and NES classics for the track's beat-bed.

Sample lyrics:
"They call me Chubby Cherub/ They kickin' it old school/ She passed me some mushrooms/ Heard she likes Bad Dudes/ We stopped at Burger Time an' snuk into the bathroom"

2. "NES"
Artist: YTCracker
Album: N.E.S.: Nerdrap Entertainment System

YTCracker is the self-proclaimed "original digital gangster" of nerdcore rap, having rapped about his exploits as a former hacker since '96. When he released the album Nerdrap Entertainment System for free in 2007, it took the Internet by storm. While every track has remixed versions of NES music, the track "NES" has the most overt video game references.

Sample lyrics:
"Jump on the cannon/ the brick's where I'm landin '/ gotta get the triforce, gotta beat Gannon / They called him The Wizard in California / Power glove on my wrist just had to warn ya"

1. "Protoculture"
Artist: Del Tha Funkee Homosapien feat. Khaos Unique
Album: Both Sides of the Brain

Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and Khaos Unique rap over a sampled beat from Morrigan's stage in the Capcom fighting game Darkstalkers, but the video game connection doesn't stop there. They recount their lifelong love of video games, from the Collecovision and NES consoles in the 80s to the rise of 16 bit video games, first person shooters, 32-bit consoles, and even importing video games from Japan. "Protoculture" is a love letter to a lifetime of video game enthusiasm, and name checks everything from failed marketing efforts at SEGA to console RPGs like Xenogears and racing games like Daytona USA and SEGA Rally.

Sample lyrics:
"To anyone who knew me better/ Know I chose Saturn first cause it's 2-D heaven/ Bernie Stolar dropped the ball with the RAM cartridge/ X-men Vs. Street Fighter could've expanded the market!" 

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