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Hip-Hop influences every facet of Pop culture down to fashion, television, movies, lifestyle, and more. But one medium it is making the biggest impact is in the world of video games.
The music genre of Hip-Hop isn’t just a source of lyrical mastery but a treasure trove of content; including characters, fashion, style, culture, and stories. That’s why video game studios heavily rely on it. Organically, or blatantly, applying Hip-Hop culture to video games is usually a win, but it will get called out if it reeks of pandering.
Thanks to Hip-Hop, we have seen plenty of video games, some good and worth reminiscing about, while others were just outright awful. But they all should be regarded as valiant attempts at merging the two worlds.
We decided to take you guys on a journey to remind you of some of those games that you may remember picking up the sticks for, while a good number of y’all might say, “I can’t believe this was even developed.” From 50 Cent down to the Wu-Tang Clan, many people from the world of Hip-Hop have dipped their toes in the video game space, successfully and unsuccessfully.
Take a trip down memory lane and revisit these games that Hip-Hop strongly influenced in the gallery below.
Photo: Shareif Ziyadat / Getty
1. Def Jam: Vendetta
In 2003 Electronic Arts studio EA Big put a Hip-Hop spin to the world of wrestling and teamed up with Def Jam Records to make that happen with Def Jam: Vendetta. In the game, players choose between 4 protagonists and take on Hip-Hop stars like N.O.R.E., Ludacris, DMX, Redman, Method Man, Scarface, Joe Budden, and others who all just happened to be artists on Def Jam’s roster at the time.
Your mission, take them all out so you can face their leader D-Mob and get back Angel, the main protagonist’s love interest who Christina Milian voices. Def Jam: Vendetta was a cultural success among the Hip-Hop community and gamers. It sold 750,000 copies, earned $30 million in the United States, and spawned a sequel, Def Jam Fight For NY.
2. Def Jam: Fight For NY
Like any classic Hip-Hop album, Def Jam: Vendetta spawned a follow-up, Def Jam: Fight For NY, and there was no sophomore jinx either. The game was released in 2004 and picked right up immediately following the events of the first game.
Def Jam: Fight For NY was highly praised for its expansive character creation, new fighting styles, environment interactions, and of course, its roster of 67 playable characters, including Hip-Hop stars from Def Jam’s massive roster of talent at the time.
Both Def Jam: Vendetta and Def Jam: Fight For NY have been the subject of discussion on social media lately, with fans begging for the game to be remade.
We would love to see it.
3. DJ Hero
There was a particular moment in video game history where music-based games were insanely popular. Titles like Guitar Hero allowed gamers to feel like they were jamming out to their favorite rock songs by using musical instruments turned into game controllers.
Building off that success, FreeStyleGames decided to bring that same energy to the world of Djaying with 2009’s DJ Hero published by Activision. In the game, players gain points by pressing points on the turntable turned it a controller by making news songs from mixes out the licensed songs in the game. Many DJ and mix artists like DJ Shadow, Z-Trip, DJ AM, Grandmaster Flash, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Daft Punk, and Benny Benassi all contributed to the game by lending their images for playable avatars and with the creation of mixes.
4. Def Jam: Icon
There wasn’t a sophomore jinx with Def Jam: Fight For NY, but unfortunately, 2007’s Def Jam: Icon was not as well-received by players and critics. The game was developed by EA Chicago and was the first Def Jam game that AKI Corporation didn’t develop. That was evident due to the game’s departure from the wrestling element that players loved about the first two Def Jam titles.
The game’s story mode called “Build A Label” allowed players to create their own characters allowing you to choose your fighter’s fighting style and fighting songs like “Got It Sewed Up (Remix)” by Mike Jones, “Back Then” also by Mike Jones, “Soul Survivor” by Young Jeezy featuring Akon, “I Do This,” also by Young Jeezy, “Go Hard Or Go Home” by E-40, “Tell Me When to Go” also by E-40, “Sittin’ Sidewayz” by Paul Wall featuring Big Pokey, and “Trill” by Paul Wall featuring Bun B and B.G.
The base roster in the game included Big Boi, Young Jeezy, E-40, Ghostface Killah, Sean Paul, Redman, Mike Jones, T.I., Tego, The Game, Ludacris, Lil Jon, Jim Jones Bun B, and more.
5. 50 Cent: Bulletproof
50 Cent and his G-Unit label at one point were on top of the world. The Queen’s rapper took his star power from the music studio to the big screen and the virtual world in 2005. With his film Get Rich or Die Tryin’ making waves at the box office, 50 Cent decided to dabble in the gaming world with his game 50 Cent: Bulletproof.
The game’s plot revolves around 50 Cent getting dragged back into the criminal underworld and taking on one of New York’s most dangerous criminal organizations. After getting a call for help from his former cellmate and friend, K Dog, 50 Cent decides to strap up and enlist the help of his G-Unit crew Lloyd Banks, the locksmith, Young Buck, and Tony Yayo, a demolition expert to save him.
During the rescue mission, 50 Cent is shot 9 times, just like his real-life story, and survives. 50 Cent then goes on a quest for vengeance against the hitmen who attempted to murder him. The game also featured Dr. Dre, Eminem, and DJ Whoo Kid and won the award for “Best Original Song” at the 2005 Spike TV Video Game Awards.
6. 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand
Of course, there was a sequel to 50 Cent: Bulletproof. 2009 saw the release of 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, a third-person shooter video game developed by Swordfish Studios and published by THQ for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
In this direct sequel, the action centers around a fictional 50 Cent and G-Unit concert somewhere in the Middle East. 50 Cent and his crew hop into action after their payment, a diamond-encrusted skull is stolen, and they fight to get the stolen item back.
Unlike Bulletproof, Blood on the Sand was well-received by critics. Still, it, unfortunately, flopped commercially, selling an estimated 56,000 copies in the United States, not enough for the studio to entertain the thought of a sequel.
7. PaRappa The Rapper
In 2007, PlayStation shook the table with the introduction of PaRappa The Rapper, developed by NanaOn-Sha. As the first true “rhythm game,” players take control of a rapping dog named Parappa. In the game, you must help Parappa win the heart of a flower-like girl named Sunny Funny.
There were six stages in the game. One stage has Parappa learning how to fight by rapping alongside an onion, a Kung-Fu master, or spitting bars alongside a moose who is a driving instructor to get his license. While the bars are nothing that will blow you away lyrically, PaRappa The Rapper is considered to be one of the greatest games ever made.
8. Rap Jam: Volume One
Two things that always go hand in hand are basketball and Hip-Hop, and there was one video game that attempted to merge those worlds, Rap Jam: Volume One.
The game was released in 1995 on Super Nintendo and was developed by American studio 64WD Creation and was the second and final game published by Motown Game. In the game, players hooped with Hip-Hop stars like LL Cool J, Coolio, House of Payne (Everlast, Danny Boy, & DJ Lethal), Naughty by Nature (Treach, Vin Rock, & Kay Gee), Onyx (Sticky Fingaz, Fredro Starr, Big DS, & Suave), Public Enemy (Flavor Flav, Chuck D, & Terminator X), Queen Latifah, Warren G, and Yo-Yo in pick-up basketball games with no rules.
Pretty much Arch-Rivals, but put a Hip-Hop spin on it.
Unfortunately, the game was a bust and is considered one of the worst games ever made, and it ended at Volume One with a sequel never seeing the light of day.
We appreciate the attempt.
9. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was first released on PlayStation 2 and Xbox in October 2004, It is considered a classic among devout fans of the video game franchise and, to some, the greatest game ever made, and that was made.
Its Hip-Hop influence is clear in the game’s plot, with players taking on the role of former gangster Carl “CJ” Johnson, who returns home after the death of his mother. CJ is sucked back into a life of crime and rejoins his former gang, and engages in missions that will see him engaging in all sorts of crimes, clashing with corrupt cops, and taking on rival gangs in the fictional U.S state of San Andreas, which is a carbon copy of California and Nevada.
West Coast Hip-Hop takes front and center in the game, focusing on gang-life, style, vernacular, and music. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was easily the best-selling game of 2004, moving an astounding 27.5 million copies as of 2011, making it the best-selling game on the PlayStation 2 console and one of the best-selling games all time.
10. Wu-Tang Shaolin Style
Staten Island Hip-Hop collective the Wu-Tang Clan had their hands in everything, not just music. The group’s love for the martial arts and old martial arts films led to the development of the 1999 PlayStation game Wu-Tang Shaolin Style developed by Paradox Development and published by Activision.
The game didn’t feature the actual rappers in it, but characters based on their stage personas. They also lent their voices for voiceover work and contributed to the game’s soundtrack which was highly praised by critics.