Over the years, hip hop has crept into many areas of popular culture, from movies and TV shows to skateboarding and fashion. Hip hop has also been highly influential on video games. There’s now an abundance of games that feature hip hop artists and soundtracks. But the music’s culture extends into the gaming industry in many other ways.
Video Games Based on Hip Hop
By the 1990s, hip hop had become mainstream, and video games were becoming more advanced. So, it’s not surprising that the two genres soon met. Two of the earliest video games based on hip hop were Rap Jam: Volume One and PaRappa the Rapper. The former was launched in 1995 for Super Nintendo. The game combined NBA basketball with rap and hip hop. And you could play as various music legends of the time, such as Public Enemy, House of Pain, Coolio, Queen Latifah, and LL Cool J. 1996’s PaRappa the Rapper was intended for a much younger audience. It used cartoon designs to introduce hip hop to children, and was like an early version of Guitar Hero but involving freestyling. The aim of the game was to input buttons in time with the prompts on the screen.
It wasn’t long before games were being made around specific hip hop stars. For instance, in 1999, Wu-Tang Clan starred in their own Shaolin-style game. Other notable games that feature real-life hip hop artists include:
- Knockout Kings 2000, which features Jermaine Dupri and Q‑Tip
- Def Jam Vendetta, which features Method Man, NORE, Ludacris and more
- NBA 2K10, which features Kanye West, The Game, Pitbull and others
There are even slot games that feature hip hop soundtracks, such as the excellent Pimped slot game, which you can play online at Casumo casino.
Hip Hop Soundtracks in Video Games
Although hip hop music featured in video games like those above, it wasn’t until the 2000s that hip hop soundtracks became popular in accompanying video games of various genres. Such games didn’t necessarily include hip hop in the gameplay. But hip hop had become such a phenomenal global sensation by the 21st century, using the music to accompany gritty video games seemed like the obvious choice.
The rise of hip hop music in modern video games was primarily due to 2004’s classic Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. NWA inspired the game’s Grove Street gang. And real-life MCs such as Ice‑T and Big Boy appear throughout the game. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas really summed up ‘90s West Coast hip hop culture, and the soundtrack includes the likes of Too Short, Dr De, and Tupac. Plenty of other games began using hip hop soundtracks. Notable ones include:
- NBA Street V3, which features tracks by MC Lyte and Trina.
- Scarface: The World Is Yours, which features Kurtis Blow, Run DMC, and Public Enemy
- Madden 19, which features the likes of P‑Lo and Creek Boyz.
Hip Hop Artists Directly Influence Games
As well as appearing in video games, hip hop stars have even ventured into the gaming industry. Most notably, in 2012, Jay‑Z became executive producer of NBA 2K13, and he put his own stamp on the game. He also curated the soundtrack, which includes the likes of Nas, Busta Rhymes, 50 Cent, and Mobb Deep. But Jay‑Z’s involvement with the game went much deeper than simply providing the score.
Mix it Yourself
Hip hop wouldn’t be hip hop without mixing. When DJ Hero was released in 2009, as a spin-off from the hugely popular Guitar Hero series of games, it enabled anyone to mix their own tracks to create a new musical work. No longer was hip hop in video games confined to soundtracks and guest appearances by artists. Now, you could become a hip hop star yourself. Using previously recorded songs, sound effects generators, and remix tools, DJ Hero allows you to mash up songs from the likes of Beastie Boys, Grandmaster Flash, Jay‑Z, Eminem, and The Jackson 5. Although it is only just over a decade old, DJ Hero may feel a little retro now. But when it was released, home-mixing technology tools were only starting to become the new norm. So, don’t underestimate the power that DJ Hero had when it was first released. It enabled a whole new generation to mix tracks themselves, and surely many will have gone on to become professional DJs.