Not only do rappers play, rap about and create songs for videogames, they star in them, too. It seems the aforementioned street cred earned by The Game garnered him a role in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as the drug-pushing lost cause known as B-Dup (west coast slang for "beat up"). Additionally, fellow West Coast lyricist Ice-T brought to light the harsh realities of fame by voicing Madd Dogg, a successful rapper who fell victim to alcoholism and lost everything. Even the game's main character, CJ, was voiced by Los Angeles rapper Young Maylay.
While San Andreas places these rappers in fictitious roles, most hip hop videogames tend to star artists that actually play themselves. Oscar-nominated actor Mark "stop calling me Marky Mark" Wahlberg made an entry in Digital Pictures' extremely short-lived and abysmal Sega CD music-video-making franchise Make My Video, wherein the player had to splice together video clips of the all-too-shirtless Marky Mark rapping. The payoff for this hard work was, well, watching a video of the all-too-shirtless Marky Mark rapping.
But games featuring rappers aren't always bad. In recent years, efforts to pull the best aspects from videogames and hip hop have resulting in a pretty solid marriage of the two art forms.
The Def Jam series of games, featuring dozens of rappers playing themselves, doesn't focus on making music but rather another popular pastime among hip hop artists: hurting each other. Though Fat Joe, Ludacris and Young Jeezy don't really argue in real life, rest assured that Def Jam Icon will fulfill your desires to watch them pummel each other relentlessly while the background environments pulsate to the beat of the music. The game even encourages you to time your blows to the beat to strengthen each punch or kick.
Finally, there's 50 Cent. This man's hobby may be making hit records, but his true passion is making money. He knew his gamer fans would lap up 50 Cent: Bulletproof simply because they got to play as Mr. Cent himself - the game sold gangbusters despite being critically lambasted. Surprisingly, its much-improved sequel, 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, only sold a fraction of its predecessor. Not thwarted one bit, 50 has plans to continue to star in more games. And I think 50's onto something: He knows that a great deal of videogame fans are also into hip hop.
We're only on the cusp of hip hop's amalgamation with videogames. We've watched two extremely new art forms walk separate, profitable paths, gradually becoming the multibillion-dollar money-making machines they are today and bumping into each other along the way. We've only just begun to see what hip hop and videogames can do for each other.
Matt Yeomans can be found keeping it real at mattyeomans.com.