There are very few spheres of popular culture that are as seemingly opposed to each other as video games and hip hop. When we say gaming, Fox News thinks social inadequacy and scraggly neck-beards. When kids say Beats by Dr Dre, Donald Trump thinks gangbangers and Satan-beholden immigrants. The truth is that games and rap tracks can often make for a perfect union.
Both often misunderstood by the wider public, these two art forms can captivate and inspire passion like few others. When these two worlds collide, the results can be something very special. Whether it’s an ode to your favourite childhood-gaming memory, a completely new perspective, or even just one damn good song, you can be sure that there’s at least one track out there that speaks to you.
To aid you in your quest, I have compiled my very own list of exceptional gaming inspired rap music: the ones that spoke to me. The following tracks are not gimmicky, nor mere exercises in parody. They are the progeny of true independent artists who have spent years honing their wordy-craft. These aren’t just amazing songs about video games; they are amazing songs in their own right.
JME (2015) – The Very Best
Ash Ketchum tries to catch em’ all, I only catch THE VERY BEST
Just when I was getting worried that it wasn’t cool to play Pokémon any more, JME set my mind at ease. Just last month, the UK-based grime artist dropped a handy reminder as to why he is indeed The Very Best.
There are few songs more iconic than the original Pokémon theme. JME knew this all too well when he set out to make a tribute to one of his favourite pastimes. With all the due diligence he’s known for, the rapper set to rearranging the classic tune into something you could swear was composed only yesterday. Never to disappoint, he also slapped on five verses of the very best Pokémon-related lyricism you’ll probably ever hear.
Packed with snappy bars to the tune of “Man’s got Japanese and Chinese/ Don’t try tell me about shinnies”, The Very Best is the stuff that replay buttons were made for. Just like the rest of JME’s work, it is catchy, clever and one fine British export.
You can find more of JME’s work via his YouTube channel. You can even find him on Twitter and follow his hilariously ardent quest to procure shiny Charizards.
Line Drop (2002) – Extended F@mm
When my lines drop, it’ll make your spine pop
My lines drop jaws, make your shorty drop drawers
So cold – drop temperatures, Cop this when it drops in the stores
Hip Hop, Drum and Bass, I got the soul
When I heat shit up, stop drop and roll
No one can pull off self-aggrandisement quite like rappers. Proving this in force is the rhyming-quartet Extended F@mm. Headed by Tonedeff, PackFM, Substantial and Session, the group unleashed the very appropriately dubbed album “Happy Fuck You Songs” way back in 2002 to little fanfare. One of the more criminally underappreciated songs on that record was Line Drop.
Line Drop samples the classic 90s soundtrack of dextral cramp known as Tetris. Fittingly, Line Drop is all about lyrical precision and lightning delivery. The song delivers an exciting ride as the gang spit faster and faster to keep up with the impending beat.
What’s special about this song is that it captures the essence of the Tetris craze while achieving something completely different; it’s a song that just about anyone can appreciate. The team’s quest to be the fastest in the business is something near-enough any gamer can get behind. Not to mention that it’s pretty damn impressive that anyone can rap that fast.
You can look for more awesome Extended F@mm content via their record label’s YouTube channel. Like fast rap? Then you should also check out Tonedeff rhyming solo at a blistering 14 syllables per second. You can even flirt with him on his Twitter.
Get Busy (2010) – Saigon
I used to walk uptown to see Mario
That N**** sold more blow than the young Harry O
From Punta Cana to Ghana to Ontario
He made it snow over the whole barrio
His lil’ brother Luigi, he was a real n****
He took mushrooms, they used to make him feel bigger
His job was to pick up the shit like a pooper scooper
And get it off without getting caught by the Koopa Troopa
What are video games for if not escapism? Tapping in to this postulate in frightening fashion is Saigon with his compellingly perverse track, Get Busy. What we have here is the story of a prisoner recounting the circumstances which landed him behind bars. Simpler said than done; these circumstances are in fact too horrific to even imagine. Our narrator’s only option is to reach back toward his childhood in a desperate search for some semblance of a happy memory.
What conspires is a concept every self-respecting rapper wishes they thought of first. Super Mario and real life collide to form an intellectually-challenging conflagration that becomes more affecting the more you listen. Saigon’s efforts stand out amongst this list because he took his passion and, through lyrical artifice alone, forged it into something sharp and culturally relevant. Saigon’s words have soul and his lyrics have bite, and that’s something few songs about gaming can claim.
The implications of Saigon’s words are deep, dark and many. It’s the job of another shoddy video game journalist to decipher what all those might be, though. For now, all I’ll say is that Get Busy is one of the most creative songs to emerge from the entire music industry in recent years. Game over.
Wily (2012) – Megaran (AKA Random)
On world domination he’s hellbent
So he gives him a blue suit and helmet
Tells rock don’t kill if you can help it,
Can’t believe his old friends so selfish,
Mass destruction, is his only objective
If only he had known he’s respected,
Maybe he wouldn’t act so reckless
I guess it’s all a matter of perspective
I had to limit myself to only choosing just one song per artist because, otherwise, Megaran would have dominated this list. As a self-styled nerdcore artist, the prolific performer boasts entire albums dedicated to some of his favourite franchises. Picking my favourite wasn’t hard, though. Of all his shinning content, Wily stands out against the pack as my favourite video game tune of all time.
Wily is a masterclass in lyrical narrative. Megaran takes to flipping the beloved franchise he’s named for – Mega Man – entirely on its head. The result is epic and quietly profound. In just under 50 bars, Megaran is able to chart the rise and fall of gaming’s most notorious mad scientist, Dr Wily. He does this through none other than the evil genius’ very own eyes, in what is a quiet reminder that everyone has a story.
Megaran’s trusty chip-tuned Super Famicom is close at hand to assure that his retro-redux is as authentic as can be. You’ll be pumping your fist to that unforgettable chorus before you can even think not to. This is a nuanced take on a classic series done in a relentlessly entertaining fashion. I urge you, give this one a listen. You might just feel a tinge of guilt next time you blast evil old Doc Wily in that icy beard.
Have a personal favourite gaming inspired rap song that we didn’t mention? Then come share it with us in the comments or swing by on our Twitter! Tell us why you love it so for bonus XP.