Since the 90s the hip hop world has embraced video gaming. The oftentimes fictional and over-the-top premises rapped about by some of the biggest artists of all time are a perfect companion to games, which boast their own mythos and style. Here are five of the most high-profile crossover mentions:
Notorious B.I.G. – Juicy (1994)
One of the earliest substantive mentions of video gaming was by the legendary Biggie Smalls. He included a mention of two classic consoles, Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis in his classic Juicy:
Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis \ When I was dead broke, man, I couldn't picture this \ 50-inch screen, money-green leather sofa \ Got two rides, a limousine with a chauffeur \ Phone bill about two G's flat
No need to worry, my accountant handles that
While it wasn’t a mention of specific games or specific gaming acts, Biggie started a trend early on that saw gaming consoles elevated to the level of status symbol in rap. It’s still not clear if Biggie himself partook in the activity.
House of Pain - Jump Around (1992)
House of Pain’s party classic Jump Around took the world by storm when it was released back in 1992 and has been enjoyed ever since thanks to its lively lyrics, which happened to include a reference to video game company Sega
I'm the cream of the crop, I rise to the top \ I never eat a pig 'cause a pig is a cop,
Or better yet a Terminator, like Arnold Schwarzenegger
Try to play me out like as if my name was SEGA!
SEGA was one of the leading gaming companies of the 90s thanks in large part to the success of its Genesis console. Indeed, at the time of the song’s release, Sega was beating Nintendo in market share in the United States. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the brand, which had dominated popular culture in part thanks to the introduction of Sonic the Hedgehog, showed up in the enormously popular song.
Ice Cube – Street Fighter (1994)
The movie adaptation of Capcom’s Street Fighter fighting game was jam packed with hip hop offerings by the likes of Nas, LL Cool J and the legendary MC Hammer. But the title track, simply called Street Fighter, was no doubt the most prominent track, as it was performed by superstar of the time Ice Cube. Ironically, the song itself contained virtually no references to gaming, though it still represented a major crossover between hip hop and the larger gaming community who came out to support the film in theaters.
Lupe Fiasco – Little Weapon (2007)
By the late 90s video game references in hip hop were downright commonplace, so perhaps it was only a matter of time before the two mediums got even more enmeshed. Lupe Fiasco took things to the next level in his song Little Weapon, going so far as to describe a first person shooter (FPS) experience in the song:
Imagine if I had to console \ The family of those slayed \ I slain on game consoles
I aim I hold, right trigger to squeeze \ press up and Y one less nigga breathe
B for the Bombs press pause for your moms
Make the room silent, she don't approve of violent games \
She leaves resume activity \ Start and blow hearts, with poor harsh wizardry \
On next part I insert code \ To sweeten up the purses of murder work load
I tell him he work for \ CIA with A \With operative, I operate this game all day \
I hold a controller, connected to the soldier \
With weapons on his shoulder he's only seconds older than me
We playful but serious, now keep that on mind \ for online experience
The lyrics go into remarkable detail in terms of the actions that a player engages in during FPS play, and even include some commentary on how parents view violent video games (which continues to be on ongoing societal issue). It also serves to show how much gaming affected a certain generation of hip hop artists as they were growing up and exploring their craft.
B.o.B. – Nothin’ On You (feat. Bruno Mars) 2010
As the partnership between gaming and hip hop solidified, the video game world started to shed some of its “nerds only” image. References to gaming culture soon started percolating through other parts of the music world and ended up in songs played on local Top 40 stations around America. B.o.B.’s Nothin’ On You represented a mix of hip hop, R&B and pop and took the world by storm, all while including a mention of an iconic console from the past, the N64:
I've been to London, I've been to Paris \ Even way out there in Tokyo
Back home down in Georgia to New Orleans \ But you always steal the show (steal the show) \ And just like that girl you got a fro (Got a fro)
Like a Nintendo 64 (64) \ If you never knew well now you know (Know, know, know)
B.o.B.’s catchy lyrics along with Bruno Mar’s sweet crooning also meant that women were now being exposed to gaming as an intrinsic part of pop culture. The combination was apparently quite alluring, as the song garnered a platinum certification three times over in America.