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Hip-hop isn’t just about the music; it’s about the culture that surrounds it. You can find its influence in everything: films, fashion, sports, and dance. Gaming is another part of the culture that absorbed hip-hop, and it’s lifestyle and its history. Although hip-hop made its appearance in the 1970s, it didn’t find its way into gaming until the 90’s with Rap Jam: Volume One on the Super Nintendo.
1. Rap Jam: Volume One
Similar to NBA Jam, Rap Jam took players to the streets with its urban style basketball courts. What made this game fun was its arcade-like action, complete with no fouls or penalties. You could also play as rappers famous in the early 90s like House of Pain, Coolio, Naughty By Nature, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Onyx, Warren G, Queen Latifah, Flavor Flav, and Yo-Yo. Volume One never had a sequel, but it spawned other sports titles in the future.
2. PaRappa the Rappa
One of the earliest rhythm games to make it big in the West, PaRappa the Rappa introduced hip-hop to a younger audience. It’s protagonist, a cute cartoon dog, along with his master, a man with an onion head, would rap head-to-head while the player clicked the corresponding buttons on the screen. Casino in my hair is one of its title tracks, making it a trendsetter in more ways than one. Since then, online casinos have become crazy popular, like Casumo Finland.
3. Def Jam Series
This one of a kind fighting/wrestling game where you could fight using Snoop Dogg against Xzibit, this Celebrity Deathmatch formula worked wonders in the hip-hop community. Even for those not interested in hip-hop, it was a solid game with great controls and a fantastic soundtrack. If this franchise came back today, we’d probably see SoundCloud rappers duke it out in extravagant costumes.
4. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Although most of the GTA games could make this list, San Andreas is the best example of hip hop culture in the series, not to mention the best game in the series. Did you know that Carl “CJ” Johnson was inspired by N.W.A., along with Ice-T, Big Boy, and The Game? San Andreas went on to sell 12.33 million copies on the PS2, making it one of the most influential games in the hip hop genre.
5. 50 Cent: Bulletproof
Despite the fact that both 50 Cent led games aren’t the most critically acclaimed, it broke a lot of boundaries for hip hop and rap stars and proved that a celebrity-driven game could actually work. You play as 50 Cent, but G-Unit also plays alongside him, and to make everything better 50 Cents, entire discography can be played anytime in the game. If you want to play another Max Payne game, pick up 50 Cent.
6. DJ Hero
Hot off the heels of Guitar Hero and it’s success, DJ Hero tried to capture the hip-hop market by making a game geared towards rap and EDM fans. Although it felt like a gimmick, once you picked up and played DJ Hero, it stood on its own with multiple popular rap and hip hop hits, along with a few classics. This game proved how effective hip-hop was as a genre and how much it had its hand on the pulse of the culture.
7. NBA 2K13
JAY-Z wasn’t content being the most commercially successful rap and hip hop artist, among other things, he also wanted to try his hand in producing a video game. NBA 2K13 has one of the best hip-hop soundtracks, and this was only made possible because of JAY-Z’s involvement in the game. He told Billboard that he wanted to showcase the culture both on and off the court, and we think he did that perfectly.
8. Drake and Ninja
Live Streaming is HUGE now, with artists like Logic, Lil Yachty, T-Pain, and Post Malone playing on Twitch in their free time. But, when Drake and Ninja streamed in 2018, they broke the record for concurrent viewers to a whopping 600,000. Drake’s in-game bush skills and his hilarious Fortnite lyrics comment (he’ll only mention Fortnite if they put a Hotline Bling emote) made hip-hop history.