It’s in the Game: A Brief History of Rap Music in Video Game Soundtracks

Written by on August 11, 2018

From ‘Rap Jam’ to ‘Def Jam: Vendetta’ to ‘Fortnite,’ hip-hop and video games have had a long, intertwined history.

The only thought roaring through my head as I unwrapped my copy of Def Jam: Vendetta was how excited I was to watch DMX pound the braids off Ludacris in the wrestling ring. In the game’s main menu, the opening thumps of Redman’s “Smash Sumthin” invaded my eardrums for the first time. I loved PlayStation 2 and I loved Red’s Malpractice album and for the first time, the two were one.

Both Def Jam: Vendetta and its sequel Fight for NY weren’t just wrestling video games that just so happened to be soundtracked by rap; they created heavily dramatized worlds where Capone-N-Noreaga could pile drive Southern racists and dudes wearing clown makeup into the ground to the tune of Scarface’s “In Cold Blood” or Freeway’s “Flipside.” Even if you didn’t know the songs, every button press slid into samples and sidearms.

Over the past two weeks, Def Jam tweeted a meme asking their followers to pick one of four cities for a potential fourth game in the series (the fewer words spoken about the abysmal third installment Def Jam Icon, the better), while Madden‘s 2019 edition revealed a soundtrack stuffed to the brim with only rap songs—31 to be exact—featuring names like Flatbush Zombies, Young Thug, Denzel Curry, and Innanet James.

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