Hip-hop doesn't have much putative overlay with video game culture, but as Black Thought proved on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Wednesday, the relationship is definitely there. The Legendary Roots Crew leader ripped bars over the Super Mario Bros. theme song, navigating blips and bops while rapping "it all began on Donkey Kong."
A self-proclaimed "huge game freak," Black Thought isn't the only rapper gripping a controller, and it would certainly be dope to see more come forward. Jump, smash, and level up through a series of emcees who are down with video games.
1. Charles Hamilton
Well duh. The dude's almost as famous for loving Sonic as he is for his music. The cousin of legendary Brooklyn rapper MC Lyte, Hamilton broke out in 2009 with a spot on XXL's annual freshmen list, only to fall from grace due to bouts with drug addiction. His thing for Sonic the Hedgehog is no secret, having released a mixtape entitled Sonic the Hamilton in '08 and a follow-up sequel two years later. Seven of the songs on that first tape directly sample the video game.
2. Rick Ross
Okay, we doubt Rozay's ever hit the arcade and chomped down on pellets, but the Maybach Music head dons Pac-Man as a brief new moniker in a song with Pill. He's far from the first rapper to name-drop Pac-Man, and maybe it's the game's tendency to turn enemies into ghosts that lends itself to references and interpolations. Artists from Big Boi to Kanye West have mentioned the game in verses.
Slim Shady's penchant for simulating violence is perfect for video games, and Em is pretty public about his love for them. He's allowed his hits to be remixed in multiple games and linked up with Jay-Z for a special addition of DJ Hero. In addition, Mr. Mathers is an avid fan of old-school games and is pretty damn good at Donkey Kong.
Game in video games? Too many puns. The West Coast rapper was a character in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, voicing a drug dealer named B-Dup who is eventually threatened into revealing the location of higher-ups. Ice-T and MC Eiht were also in the game.
Along with producer Just Blaze and his crew the St. Lunatics, Nelly was an unlockable character in NBA Street: Vol. 2. The rapper also lent a song to the soundtrack that today will throw gamers into serious nostalgia. Though the jury's still out on how well Nelly can ball in real life, the combination of the right buttons pixelates him with Stretch, Dime and Biggie Little.
6. People Under the Stairs
The underground hip-hop duo is known for its innovative sampling, best seen in the '08 song "Gamin' on Ya." The track throws a Los Angeles twist on Galaga, sounding as if Thes One and Double K are dropping bars behind an arcade. With wordplay about mushrooms, the self-proclaimed "raiders of space" go "up up, down down, left right."
7. Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff
Will Smith's cautionary tale of video game addiction, "Human Video Game," is loaded with references to joysticks and coin slots. Beginning with an awesome human beatbox of the Donkey Kong theme, the Fresh Prince breaks down how he dropped so many quarters on games that people questioned if he worked at the arcade.
"I'd rather play games than eat or sleep," Smith raps.
Throwin' it waaay back, Curren$y lays rhymes over a classic Super Mario Bros. beat on "Star Power." That's not all though. Spitta has a hazy song dedicated to N64's Wave Race and a Grand Theft Auto-themed mixtape. One of the biggest stoners in all of hip-hop, the dude probably plays a ton of video games.