Of the many musical genres that still exist in mainstream culture, rap and hip-hop have one of the strongest relationships with video games. While some attempts at crossover have failed and been relegated to gaming history, nonetheless, the medium has provided plenty of inspiration to urban artists over the decades.
Many rappers have written an ode to their favorite games; even in the 80s, the Chilly Kids proclaimed the virtues of the game in their song The Ice Arcade. And there are countless producers, from hobbyist to A-list, who plundered eight-bit sound effects and theme songs – Necro’s use of the unmistakable Tetris theme in Black Helicopters comes to mind. .
Indeed, musical inspiration is far from lacking when it comes to gaming. Here are four rap and hip hop songs dedicated to the medium; how many do you recognize?
Human Video Game – DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
It might come as a shock to Gen Z, but there was a time when Will Smith was placed on second billing for DJ Jazzy Jeff. While Smith may have ended up with the best deal in terms of a lucrative long-term career, in 1988 it was Jazzy Jeff who was in the spotlight. The duo produced several “humorous” songs, but one of the best turned out to be a ditty dedicated to the ultimate platformer, Donkey Kong.
Written by Smith himself, it talks about his strong connection to the game and how he always chases a high score. The duo even managed to incorporate Ready Rock C to beat the game’s iconic theme song and sound effects.
Pokerface – Ghost Killah with Sean Wigs
When it comes to card games like poker, there are countless urban songs that reference this classic game. However, the best ode to the world’s favorite variant, Texas Hold’em, takes the form of Pokerface from Ghostface Killah. Known in the mainstream as the emcee of the Wu-Tang Clan, Ghost Killah’s venture into solo territory saw him pen the only rap entry on several definitive lists of the best poker songs.
When we say this track is an authentic rendition of one man’s love for the game, we’re not exaggerating. Unlike several other poker-themed songs that play fast and loose with references, Ghostface isn’t afraid to stick to the topic at hand. It even throws in a few eclectic samples for good measure – no other rap or poker song comes complete with sound effects of poker chips and WSOP commentary.
Where is my F*****g Genesis? –Charles Hamilton
AKA Sonic the Hamilton, Charles Hamilton took the game’s adoration to a whole new level in 2008 when he dropped this meditative track. The rapper has the previous form when it comes to his Sonic The Hedgehog obsessionhaving stated that the plot of the legendary Sega franchise was, in fact, a philosophical commentary on modern life.
He even went so far as to state that “the disrespect I get with all my philosophies is actually more hurtful” than the usual digs that rap artists are vulnerable to. Hamilton’s love for Sonic runs so deep, we’re honestly shocked neither Sega nor Sonic Team has booked him for a collaboration.
As for the track itself, you should be able to tell from the title that Hamilton is in a dilemma. Wondering if he’ll get on with his day or go with his “insatiable need to play Sonic the Hedgehog”, it doesn’t take long for him to retreat to the safety of the Green Hill Zone.
Super Brooklyn – Cacao Brovaz
It may not have been a crossover hit, but Cocoa Brovaz’s ingenious reworking of Super Mario Bros’ Mushroom Kingdom in 1990s Brooklyn is one of the most memorable game-inspired rap songs.
Not only that, but the Brovaz – formerly known as Smif-N-Wessun – proved just how funk in theme Super Mario Bros was by successfully rapping over it.