If you have been a frequent visitor to TheKoalition.com then you will know by now that we cover both video games and Hip-Hop music. Therefore, some of the team were rather amused when we found out earlier this month that Kanye West had both inspired and took centre stage of a JRPG.
Kanye Quest 3030 holds the Chi-town rapper/producer up as the protagonist of the game which was created by Phenix, using RPG Maker. Kanye has no affiliation, nor has he endorsed the title.
Yeezy isn’t the only rapper to appear in the game. Artists such as Nicki Minaj, Notorious B.I.G, Dr. Dre, 2Pac and LL Cool J and many more all make appearances as “Hip-Hop clones”…oh, and Lil B is there too. All the artists in question also have their music featured in the game, in some form of fashion.
Therefore, myself and our Editor-in-Chief Richard Bailey Jr. have both compiled a list of the top 13 video game franchises which have been influenced by Hip-Hop music.
13. PaRappa The Rapper Series (1996 – 2002)
When Sony Computer Entertainment first published this rhythm game way back in 1996, they had successfully blurred the lines between hip-hop and video games.
While the popular anime character enjoyed a great deal of success in the Japanese market, the series succeeded in gaining even more praise once it finally hit US retailers in 1997. While these games don’t specifically use any popular Hip-Hop music from this time frame, they do deserve to be mentioned just from the standpoint of their historical importance in both Hip-Hop and rhythm game circles.
12. The Need For Speed Series
“Need For Speed: Underground“ (2003) | “Need For Speed: Underground 2” (2004) | “Need For Speed: Most Wanted” (2005)
Before Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul gears up for his role in The Need For Speed film next year, it’s worth acknowledging all the Hip-Hop tunes that were part of the racing game series so far. Need For Speed: Underground featured LA native rappers like Nate Dogg on the track “Keep It Comin” and Dilated Peoples with “Who’s Who”.
Need For Speed: Underground 2 took things a step further by including Snoop Dogg on “Riders On The Storm” and Pimp My Ride host Xzibit on “LAX”. Last but certainly not least, the 2005 release of Need For Speed: Most Wanted featured the likes of Lupe Fiasco on the track “Tilted” and The Roots on “Tao Of The Machine”. While these games all had soundtracks full of diverse artists from different musical genres, it’s hard to ignore the hip-hop acts that were also a part of these compilations.
11. The Tony Hawk Titles
“Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3“ (2001) | “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4“ (2002) | “Tony Hawk’s Underground“ (2003) | “Tony Hawk’s Underground 2“ (2004)
The Tony Hawk games have not only endured a great run throughout most of the early 2000’s, but they have also featured some of the catchiest tunes all the way through. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 had work from notable artists like House of Pain on “I’m A Swing It”, Xzibit on “Paparazzi”, and KRS-One with “Hush”. However, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 brought out it’s fair share of Hip-Hop iconic acts the likes of Run D.M.C. on “My Adidas” and N.W.A. on “Express Yourself”.
The Tony Hawk Underground games dabbled in three different genres of music including Punk, Hip-Hop, and Rock. Tony Hawk Underground featured rap icon Nas on “The World Is Yours” while the sequel had Pete Rock and CL Smooth on the track “Soul Brother #1”.
10. True Crime: Streets of LA (2003)
After being inspired by the Grand Theft Auto series, Activision took it upon themselves to create their own version of a sandbox, third-person shooter by the name of True Crime: Streets of LA.
In addition to offering a great good cop/bad cop storyline, they also gave gamers several memorable tunes as they cruised through the streets of LA. The Westside Connection’s “Terrorist Threats” and Snoop Dogg’s “Dance With Me” are just a few reasons why this soundtrack went on to win a 2004 Billboard Music award for best soundtrack in a video game.
9. Sleeping Dogs (2012)
After being acquired by Square Enix, True Crime: Hong Kong ended up being re-branded as Sleeping Dogs. In the tradition of most sandbox video games, United Front Games created several accessible radio stations in the game to provide all types of entertainment to players.
The Hip-Hop station referred to as “REAL FM” featured the likes of Jadakiss with “Kiss Of Death” and J Dilla and Common on “E=MC2”. While some of these tracks were dated, there is no doubt that some of these songs remain classics to most Hip-Hop fans.
8. NBA 2k Series (1999 – Present)
The infamous 2k Sports basketball series of video games is no stranger to Hip-Hop music. Every annual release comes packed with a soundtrack full of classics tracks from the genre.
When Jay-Z decided to executive produce NBA 2K13 last year, he made sure that a majority of the songs on the track-list where from his own personal choosing. As a result, we heard classics like Eric B. and Rakim’s “I Ain’t No Joke” and Kanye West’s memorable “Amazing” song. Several of these songs were also presented in music video form and ending up creating an interesting dynamic never before seen in a basketball video game.
7. Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure (2006)
One aspect of Hip-Hop which usually gets overlooked by the masses actually got a tonne of attention in this title – graffiti. The main character from Getting Up was a graffiti artist called Trane (voiced by Talib Kweli) who used his tagging skills as a way to rebel against a government who stifles the peoples freedom of expression.
It was somewhat of an open-world game which featured lots of fighting and lots of graffiti.
The direction for the soundtrack could have only headed one way – Hip-Hop music. And plenty of it. Talib Kweli recorded the title track for the game alongside Rakim. Other prominent artists such as The Notorious B.I.G, Fort Minor, Pharoahe Monch, Mobb Deep and Roots Manuva all featured within the soundtrack. One of the gems on this soundtrack came from underground MC PackFM with his track aptly titled “Click, Clack and Spray“.
6. The Saints Row Series
“Saints Row 1“ (2006) | “Saints Row 2“ (2008) | “Saints Row 3“ (2011)
With Saints Row 4 poised to hit retailers in August, we felt it necessary to acknowledge some of the hip-hop influences featured throughout the other entries in the series. The first installment in the series offered up music contributions by Black Sheep, Joe Budden, and MC Lyte.
Big Pun and Fat Joe’s “Twinz” and Lloyd Banks and 50 Cent’s “Hands Up” were just a few of the songs off of the Saints Row 2 soundtrack. 2011’s release of Saints Row 3 featured Tyler The Creator’s “Yonkers” and Mos Def’s “Quiet Dog” just to name a few. Given that Dub-step is featured in Saints Row 4, it will be interesting to see what the soundtrack ends up looking like once the game finally hits stores.
5. Scarface: The World Is Yours (2006)
This game had fans of the movie excited at the prospect of changing the course of events in the life Tony Montana and seeing what would happen if Tony never died in that infamous shoot-out. The game was an open-world sandbox game and had the GTA-style radio stations.
Set in the 80’s, Scarface: The World Is Yours features classic 80’s Hip-Hop in the form of Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, Run-D.M.C, Kurtis Blow, Public Enemy and LL Cool J. Strangely enough, they also had some of the current artists on there too with both D12 and Cypress Hill being featured in the game soundtrack.
4. The 50 Cent Games
“Bulletproof” (2005) | “Blood On The Sand“ (2009)
Fiddy got his very own video game treatment 8 years ago with Bulletproof. The story was based on his infamous tale of getting shot 9 times. The game depicts 50 and the rest of the G-Unit crew on a mission to get revenge on the shooters. The game didn’t go down well. However, the game boasted an impressive soundtrack which was expectantly dominated by G-Unit. Tracks such as “Simply The Best“, “Pimpin Pt. 2“, “I Run NY” were some of the standouts.
Even though “Bulletproof” wasn’t well received, there was a sequel made in 2009. Blood On The Sand was the better of the two games and they stuck to the formula when it came to the soundtrack – more 50 Cent. Some of the songs featured in “Blood On The Sand” were tracks such as “It’s OK“, “Southside Nigga“, “Hands On The Steel” and “Green Light“.
3. Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style (1999)
Also known as “Taste The Pain“, this Wu-Tang Clan-centric video game was a four player fighting game (remember the multi-tap?) which was released in 1999 by Activision. The members of the Wu-Tang Clan were the playable characters and The RZA took responsibility for the in-game music.
Some of the notable tracks come from acts including close Wu-Tang affiliate La The Darkman with his track “Wu World Order” alongside RZA; Masta Killa with “Shaolin Temple” and U-God‘s track with Leatha Face, Inspectah Deck and Method Man titled “Rumble“.
2. The Grand Theft Auto Series
“GTA III“ (2001) | “GTA: Vice City” (2002) | “GTA: San Andreas” (2004) | “GTA IV“ (2008)
Although the initial GTA titles had Hip-Hop music within the game, it was produced in-house by Rockstar and there were only 3 tracks. By the time GTA III came around, it started to grow. Even though it was underground artists, they had their own dedicated radio station – “Game Radio FM“. This station featured the likes of Royce Da 5’9″, Nature and Black Rob.
By 2002, Rockstar stepped up the Hip-Hop musical presence in Vice City. With the game being set in the 80’s, Mr. Magic was the DJ on the “Wildstyle Pirate Radio” station. Artists such as Afrika Bambaataa and The Soulsonic Force, 2 Live Crew, Whodini and Davy DMX all appeared on the station.
San Andreas is where the Hip-Hop presence was really at it’s fullest in the GTA series. Not only did they now have two Hip-Hop radio stations (“Radio Los Santos” and “Playback FM“) but they also had a graffiti game mode. Based on the early 90’s wave of LA gangsta-rap, San Andreas had a tonne of artists which ushered in that genre. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg were the main feature on Julio G‘s “Radio Los Santos” with their classic hits such as “Nuthin’ But A “G” Thang“, “Fuck Wit Dre Day” and “Deep Cover“. The D.O.C, Ice Cube, 2Pac and Cypress Hill were also on the station. “Playback FM” was basically an east coast Hip-Hop station with all the usual suspects of Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. & Rakim, Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock, Brand Nubian and The Ultramagnetic MCs. It doesn’t stop there for San Andreas and Hip-Hop. A few LA rappers done voice-over work for Rockstar. The main character, CJ, was voiced by Young Maylay. CJ’s homie, Ryder, was voiced by Compton’s Most Wanted legend MC Eiht, Madd Dogg was performed by Ice-T and the side character known as “B-Dup” was voiced by The Game.
Rockstar carried the volume of Hip-Hop over from San Andreas to GTA IV in 2008 with two more Hip-Hop radio stations – “The Classics 104.1” and “The Beat 102.7“. DJ Premier took the role of the DJ on “The Classics” and featured artists from the late 80’s-to-early 90’s including Jeru The Damaja, MC Lyte, Group Home and Audio Two. “The Beat” was hosted by not 1 DJ but two – Mister Cee and DJ Green Lantern. This station had a tonne of current artists on the station. From Nas to The L.O.X to Kanye West, “The Beat” is basically the Hot97 of GTA IV.
1. The Def Jam Titles
“Def Jam Vendetta“ (2003) | “Def Jam: Fight For NY“ (2004) | “Def Jam: Icon“ (2007) | “Def Jam Rapstar“ (2010)
When EA Sports BIG first emerged onto the scene way back in 2000, they wowed sports games fans with the release of their popular Def Jam series of wrestling games. These Hip-Hop inspired fighting games featured some of the prominent hip-hop artists of that time including Snoop Dogg, DMX, Ghostface Killah, Ludacris, Redman, and Method Man. Popular anthems like DMX’s “Party Up” and Method Man’s “Bring The Pain” where just prime examples of the type of songs that graced the Def Jam Vendetta soundtrack.
With the release of Def Jam: Icon back in February of 2007, EA tried to evolve the series to coincide with the new Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles. While the game went on to garner mixed results from both critics and fans alike, the soundtrack proved memorable thanks in part to popular songs like M.O.P’s “Ante Up” and Nas and P. Diddy’s “Hate Me Now” anthem.
Late in October of 2010, Konami decided to do a Def Jam game of their own where players had the ability to test their lyrical skills over some of the most popular songs throughout the modern Hip-Hop era. While Def Jam Rapstar concept deviated from the fighting game concept started by EA Sports BIG, it did feature several notable tunes that fans both appreciated and did their best to perform over. The Notorious B.I.G‘s “Juicy” and Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean” are just a few examples of the jam-packed soundtrack list available for this game.
There we have it. 13 video game franchises which Hip-Hop has influenced in one way or another. Albeit; playable characters, themes, story-lines, soundtracks or even the titles themselves, Hip-Hop has had an influence on video games. Judging, by the looks of the new Kanye West game, that influence is not going to end any time soon.