By now, the general public understands that when Kanye West announces a potential album title, it has the possibility to twist and shift like a tornado ripping through farm land.
However, the aforementioned The Life of Pablo architect has gone over a week without changing his mind as it relates to a potential summer album titled, TurboGrafx 16, which draws inspiration from the cult gaming device from the ’80s/’90s.
The hip-hop genre as a whole is certainly no stranger to paying respect to the video game industry. Specifically, various old school games and more technically advanced RPGs have served as the sonic basis for come certifiable bangers in the past.
For those looking to connect the dots, here are some of the best video game samples to ever appear in hip-hop.
Jay Z feat. DMX, “Money, Cash, Hoes”
The system: Sega Genesis
The game: Golden Axe
While Jay Z is known for his own mysterious formula as it relates to writing his lines without the aid of a pad and a pen, his work with various super producers through the years has also allowed him the ability to both stay on trend and advance the genre.
For “Money, Cash, Hoes,” Swizz Beats flipped a sample from “Thief’s Theme” from Golden Axe – a Conan the Barbarian-style game from Makoto Uchida – who was also responsible for the creation of Altered Beast.
Cocoa Brovas, “Super Brooklyn”
The system: Nintendo
The game: Super Mario Bros.
While some people look to sampling as a means of unearthing sounds that would otherwise be overlooked, Cocoa Brovas (Smif-N-Wessun) used the theme song from Super Mario Bros. which is almost as recognizable in an audio format as the Nike Swoosh is to a person’s eyes.
Since there was absolutely no way for the duo to clear the sample, the song was released in an unofficial capacity but did lead to them signing with vaunted underground label, Rawkus Records.
Eminem, J. Black & Masta Ace, “Hellbound”
The system: Sega Dreamcast
The game: Soulcalibur
Through the years, Eminem has endured his fair share of controversy. However, when many complained that his own lyrical style mimicked that of legendary Juice Crew emcee, Masta Ace, the latter wasn’t willing to fan the flames in order to advance his own stock after Eminem had skyrocketed.
“The first time somebody said to me that they thought Eminem sounded like me, I personally didn’t hear that,” Ace explained to Montreality.com. “To me he sounded unique. He sounded like nobody that I had ever heard before. We all influence each other. I listen to many different rappers. And sometimes I hear something in somebody’s flow that gives me an idea for how I wanna flow on my next joint…If it was something he took from me, he flipped it and made it his.”
Pulled from the the Yosumi Records compilation album, Game Over, “Hellhound” finds Eminem, Masta Ace and J. Black going toe-to-toe over a sample from Soulcalibur which cracked the top 10 in the Belgian market.
Percee P feat. Diamond D, “2 Brothers From The Gutter”
The system: Nintendo
The game: Contra
Leave it to none other than Madlib to flip Hidenori Maezawa and Kyouhei Sada’s “Title Screen Theme” from shooter Contra when creating the backdrop for Percee P and DITC’s Diamond D’s “2 Brothers From the Gutter.”
This also was a precursor for Madlib’s usage of video game sounds which was again employed on Madvillainy’s “Do Not Fire” which used sound bites from Street Fighter II’s “Dhalsim.”
Joey Bada$ feat. Chuck Strangers, “Fromda Tomb$”
The system: PlayStation 3/Xbox 360
The game: L.A. Noire
Serving as the main piano/trumpet melody from Joey Bada$$’ debut mixtape, 1999, Chuck Strangers pulled from Andrew Hale’s “Main Theme” from Rockstar Games’ L.A. Noire which allowed players the ability to step into 1947 Los Angeles and the shoes of Detective Cole Phelps.
Statik Selektah feat. Big Shug, “Punch Out”
The system: Nintendo
The game: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
Similar in nature to the theme for Super Mario Bros., the first chords and catchy tune refrain from the music from Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! is as recognizable as any piece of video game ever created.
In borrowing not only the title of the song, but also the main melody from composers Yukio Kaneoka, Akito Nakatsuka and Kenji Yamamoto, producer Statik Selektah leaves the novelty and nostalgia of the sample almost completely intact.
Lil’ Flip, “Game Over”
The system: Arcade
The game: Ms. Pac-Man
Lil’ Flip’s Nick Fury-produced breakout single, “Game Over,”turned to video game royalty and specifically Naoki Higashio’s “Ms. Pac-Man Theme” to level up all the way to number 15 on the Billboard charts.
Despite being hit with a lawsuit from Namco as a result of the usage in 2004, the song ultimately proved to be the biggest hit of Flip’s career.
Young Jeezy feat. Akon, “Soul Survivor”
The system: Nintendo 64
The game: GoldenEye 007
Peaking at number 1 on both the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Rap Songs category, “Soul Survivor” from Young Jeezy from his third studio album, Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101, actually used a xylophone riff from the “Bunker Music” from legendary Nintendo 64 shooter, GoldenEye 007, to create the massive hit.
While it is certainly one of the lesser known usages of video game music in rap, it is undoubtedly one of the biggest success stories as well.
Del The Funky Homosapien & Khaos Unique, “Protoculture”
The system: Sega Dreamcast, PlayStation, PlayStation 2
The game: Darkstalkers
Unlike the aforementioned Nintendo 64 classic, GoldenEye 007 – which had the luxury of having connections to the James Bond franchise to up the awareness for the general public – Del the Funky Homosapien’s usage of Darkstalkers is more akin to a person utilizing a dusty classic.
Dubbed “obscure and beloved” by IGN‘s Richard George, the sample itself comes from “Morrigan’s Win Theme” by Takayuki Iwai.
Dom Kennedy, “Locals Only”
The system: Super Nintendo
The game: Chrono Trigger
Los Angeles emcee Dom Kennedy is perpetually on the cusp of breaking out from the West Coast underground and becoming a household name. In addition to a smooth delivery, Kennedy also has the knack for picking out production that suits his storyteller’s vibe.
While one doesn’t normally think of “smooth piano” samples as it relates to old video game titles, Yasunori Mitsuda’s “Secret of the Forest” from 1995’s Chrono Trigger proved to be the rare exception.