Monday Music: Rap’s Best Gaming Samples
Video games and Hip-Hop have had an intrinsic link since Biggie played Street Fighter II in the “Juicy” video. And at the same time, Rap was becoming a mainstay of pop culture, video games were also filtering into the mainstream. On of the cornerstones of Rap, the production idea known as sampling, provided the back bone to some of the most iconic sounds of the Hip-Hop generation. And while many music snobs thumbed their noses at Sampling it didn’t stop an entire culture from turning old sounds into new ones. Kanye West sped up old soul classics, Havoc of Mobb Deep interpolated Jazz with ominous bass drums and Swizz Beats took choral chants and created driving harmonies for Jay-Z. But with so much music in the world, Video games aren’t often sampled by rap producers. But when they are its often memorable and a joy to discover. So here’s a look at some of Rap’s Best Gaming Samples.
(songs may contain explicit language)
“BALD!” by JPEGMAFIA samples “Move Me” from Ridge Racer 4 by Kohta Takahashi
JEPEGMAFIA is one of the most 2020’s artists out there right now. He’s painfully self-flagellating, and his music is really out of the box. But “BALD!” is one of the most on brand tracks from his “EP!” project released right before ‘Rona hit the US.
While the lyrics just as self-critical as one would expect from JPEG the beat is what caught my eye. I knew I heard it before and nailed it down to either Gran Turismo or Ridge Racer and sure enough, its from a FMV in Ridge Racer 4. The best part about “BALD!” is that JPEG puts enough production around the sample, so HIS work is doing the heavy lifting.
“Never Been” by Wiz Khalifa samples “Schala’s Theme” from Chrono Trigger by Yasunori Mitsuda
In arguably one of the best mixtapes of the 2010’s, Wiz Khalifa thrust himself into rap’s elite with this single project. He took stoner rap to a new level combining it with space funk and Imogen Heap samples in a triumph of a project that has little to no bloat on it. In one of the stand out tracks “Never Been” Wiz samples “Schala’s Theme” from Chrono Trigger.
RPG’s are a treasure trove of music with distinct melody and “Never Been” was one of the first times I actually heard an RPG sample done justice. And while the original sample is the dominant melody of the song, it helps that Wiz is so damn charismatic so you almost lose yourself in the loop and just enjoy one of Rap’s best gaming samples.
“Local’s Only” by Dom Kennedy samples “Secret of the Forest” from Chrono Trigger by Yasunori Mitsuda
In yet ANOTHER Chrono Trigger sample, West Coast stalwart, Dom Kennedy sampled “Secrecy of the Forest” for his chilled out “Locals Only”. The piano and drum loop added to this one really helps sell the more reflective tone of this track. I’m generally not a big fan of letting a sample do all the work, but its really hard to improve on Mitsuda’s melodies. So I was happy to see that this one isn’t over-produced.
“FromdaTomb$” by Joey Bada$$ samples “Main Theme” from L.A. Noire by Andrew Hale
Joey Bada$$ in the mid-2010’s became a paragon of NYC’s reclamation of Rap. Through him fans of the genre really saw a future that saw New York take the mantle of hip-hop’s capital from Atlanta. And while Joey ultimately didn’t fulfill his full potential, songs like “FromdaTomb$” made it hard to ignore the nostalgic charm his music had.
This one samples the Main Theme from 2011’s L.A. Noire. This cop drama touted its facial technology as its claim to fame, but its soundtrack was no slouch either. Its won numerous awards for its music and ended up being the best part of an otherwise underwhelming game.
“Hellbound” by Eminem, Masta Ace and J-Black samples “Sacrifice” from Soul Calibur
A part of me didn’t want to include this one simply because it seemed like low-hanging fruit to those who grew up with Limewire. As Eminem was cementing his legacy as one of rap’s all time greats, P2P file-sharing hit the streets hard. Its how many of the producers and rappers on this list even got access to Frooty Loops or Cool Edit Pro, lets be honest. But often you got wonky, mislabeled files that weren’t what you were looking for. And that’s how I discovered “Hellbound”.
In a verse that might be the most “Eminem” ever, Marshall opens the song with such imagery and laughable absurdity that you forget a pretty cool Soul Calibur sample flows underneath. And while the production is a bit rudimentary compared to the rest of the list, its undoubtedly one of the best sample flips mostly because its from an ending theme. Meaning whoever produced this actually was good enough to beat the game a few times. Easily one of rap’s best gaming samples.
Featured Image: MIAMI, FLORIDA – JANUARY 31: Wiz Khalifa performs onstage during Universal Pictures Presents The Road To F9 Concert and Trailer Drop on January 31, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Universal Pictures)