A Handful of Times Rap Got Me Hype to Play Video Games

In 2014 a trailer released for Mortal Kombat X. The screen displayed a forest bed partially covered in snow, scored by a bell and timpani-laced string section. As the camera pans right ice begins to crawl up the base of the trees, revealing the Lin-Kuei cryomancer Sub-Zero. Cut to a battle-ready Scorpion standing in ash and snow near still-smoldering tree trunks. The fight begins with a knee to the chest coincided with the familiar sound of an 808. Did a beat just drop? A TRAP beat? This was the most hyped I’d been for a game’s music, at least from what I remember at the time. This was a Wiz Khalifa song…. In an OFFICIAL Mortal Kombat trailer… Whoa…my hype immediately intensifies.

That’s when the hate started. Tweets about how NetherRealm Studios used the ‘wrong song’. How ‘rap doesn’t fit Mortal Kombat’ and ‘rock would’ve been better’. People even went so far as to edit their own trailers with alternate music. Some with the movie theme, some with random rock music, anything as long as it wasn’t rap. In 2018 the MK 11 trailer using “Immortal” by 21 Savage received the same treatment. I don’t remember rap fans in a rage over Gary Jules’ rendition of “Mad World” being used in Gears of War. Pretty sure there was no outrage for Country Roads in Fallout 76’s trailer, which brings me to this: Instead of counter complaints or some pretentious think piece on the use of hip-hop in video games, I want to share a drop of nostalgia with the like-minded gamers/rap fans out there. So, here’s a handful of times rap got me hyped to play video games.

Note: The Def Jam series is the default example for hip-hop/rap in videogames and as such will not be used here.

1. True Crime: New York City (2005) – Welcome to New York City (Cam’ron ft. Jay-Z and Juelz Santana)

While the True Crime: Streets of LA soundtrack was rife in west coast bangers by the likes of Snoop Dogg, Warren G, and Suga Free, it was its sequel New York City that gets this entry. I may be dating myself but this was one of the first songs to inspire me to fire up Limewire and riddle the family computer with viruses just because of a song I heard in a video game commercial. Definitely a hype moment in gaming.

2. Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition (2005) – Real Big (Mannie Fresh)

This one started a sing-along every time I booted up the game and it still gets me hype to this day. To this DAY! While the lyrical description of the car in the song was nonsensical, it perfectly illustrated what adolescent me was thinking while customizing my in-game car to be street race-ready.

3. Need for Speed: Underground (2003) – Get Low (Yin-Yang Twins)

To the windoooows! (If you didn’t think/yell “to the wall” we can’t be friends) This Lil Jon produced hit is from the “Crunk” era of rap and it got us just that before running races in Need for Speed!

4. Mortal Kombat X/Mortal Kombat 11 (2015/2019) – Can’t Be Stopped (Wiz Khalifa)/Immortal (21 Savage)

The “controversy” surrounding the songs in this entry is what inspired this article. I won’t bother to explain these since I went into so much detail above.

5. Grand Theft Auto III – Rising to the Top (Sean Price ft. Agallah)

Last but not least on my hype list. This one showed me that rap could be used in games and not be corny or a caricature (at least not more than rappers are themselves sometimes). It’s another one that caused sing-alongs at my house back in the gap. You should appreciate it, if for no other reason, for the fact that its impossible to find ANYTHING clean from GTA.

Note: The clean version of this song is trash, but unintentional comedy is still comedy.

Ok, shameless plug time.

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