Hip-Hop Week | Hip-Hop vs. Game Design: How Game Designers Incorporate the Freestyle Elements of Hip-Hop into Hip-Hop Themed Video Games

Hip-Hop Week concludes with this post on In Third Person! For the grand finale, I look at the point where the elements of hip-hop freestyle collide with game structure. Has any game ever found the right balance? Thank you for joining me on this adventure!


The element of improvisation is a foundational block of hip-hop music and culture. In the beginning, the scene started with DJs, rappers, and breakdancers making things up as they went. Though hip-hop music and culture has been mainstream for quite some time, the ethos of what freestyle means still permeates.

Translating that freeform nature of hip-hop has been a challenge in the world of video games. By virtue of being a game, the “game” part needs some sort of quantifiable benchmark to define success. This flies in the face of the freeform nature of the culture.

Let’s look at a few ways in which developers have tried to provide structure for the purposes of making a fun game, while trying to maintain the freestyle nature of the activity its emulating.

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Hip-Hop Week | PokeRap and Your First Exposure to Hip-Hop Music

Hip-Hop Week continues on In Third Person! What was your gateway into hip-hop music?


I remember my gateway into the world of hip-hop vividly. Borrowing my friend Faiz’s cassette copy of Homebase by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, I dubbed my own copy and bumped it all the time. Despite “Summertime” being an enduring classic, starting out with Will Smith doesn’t do anything for my street cred.

It got me thinking about other potential gateways into the genre. There’s no shame in where you start or where you end, but when I started to think about it, the “PokeRap” from the original Pokemon animated series immediately came to mind.

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Hip-Hop Week | Just Blaze and the Instrumental Music of NBA Street Vol. 2

Hip-Hop Week continues! Let’s take to the streets where Just Blaze provided a soundtrack to streetball that still bangs today!


NBA Street Vol. 2 is a high watermark for arcade sports games. It found a brilliant balance between accessibility, depth, and swag for days. Though it’s been a while since I played it, one of the things that always stuck with me is its music. Look past the licensed tracks and you’ll find a killer selection of beats by Just Blaze, who was one of the hottest producers at the time, and still one of my faves to this day.

Here’s a pair of tracks that really stand out to me, but you should check out the whole soundtrack when you get a chance!

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Hip-Hop Week | Def Jam Rapstar and My Hype Man Dreams


Hip-Hop Week continues on In Third Person! From Flava Flav to Migos, the hype man is an underrated role in a rapper’s crew. This is the story of how I got to live out my hype man dreams.


Like normal fans of hip-hop music, I’ve had dreams of being a rapper, producer, DJ, and breakdancer. But there’s another occupation in the world of hip-hop that I’ve always wanted to be that weirds people out every time I share this with them.

I’ve always wanted to be a hype man.

I’ve wanted to be the Flava Flav yelling, “********** you and John Wayne!”. Or in 90s terms, I wanted to be Puff Daddy, standing behind the Notorious B.I.G., punctuating his lines with chants of, “Whoo!” or, “Uh huh, yeah.” Or in modern times, I wanted to be one of the guys in Migos screaming, “Skrrt!”. My fascination with this role manifests itself in the car every time I drive. Sometimes, instead of singing or rapping along to a song, I’ll just ad lib over it. Even for songs that don’t make sense, I’ll do it. That scene in Carpool Karaoke where Migos is ad libbing over “Sweet Caroline”? That’s been my life for years, and I apologize to my wife for subjecting her to this every day.

A few years ago, during a night in with friends, I got to share my hype man talents to the world thanks to Def Jam Rapstar.

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Hip-Hop Week | “Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis”: The Most Iconic Video Game Reference in Hip-Hop History

Hip-Hop Week officially begins on In Third Person! Of course we had to start with the N-O, T-O, R-I, O, U-S!


On August 9th, 1994, Christopher Wallace released “Juicy”, the first single from his forthcoming debut album Ready to Die. The song would peak at #1 on the Billboard charts and is still cited as one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all-time.

Though it may not have been the first time video games and hip-hop connected – and it certainly wouldn’t be the last – the Notorious B.I.G. yelled out what would become the most iconic video game reference in hip-hop, and quite possibly all of music.

Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis/When I was dead broke man, I couldn’t picture this
– Notorious B.I.G., “Juicy”

What is it about this line that continues to resonate today? Being associated with an all-time great rap song by an all-time great rapper goes a long way, but I think there’s a bit more to it than that.

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Celebrating Hip-Hop Week at In Third Person!

“It was all a dream! I used to read [Gamepro] magazine!”

My love of video games is well-documented here on In Third Person. However, another one of my passions is hip-hop music. As a kid, I fell in love with the boom bap, studied the older records before my time, and have kept a close ear to where it’s gone ever since. For a time, I was even making my own beats and I dabbled in rapping for a bit, though the less said about my rapping, the better.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll drop one post per day covering different places where my love of video games collides with my love of hip-hop. Until then, pack your cardboard, rehearse your pre-written raps to make sure they sound like freestyles, and come back tomorrow for the boom bap!

Starlink: Battle for Atlas – Star Fox and Hip-Hop

I play through some of the Star Fox specific missions in Starlink: Battle for Atlas while keeping up a conversation with the chat about hip-hop music! We discuss our thoughts on modern rap, 90s era rap, recent album reviews, and more!

Want to watch me live? Follow me @ twitch.tv/inthirdperson!


Buy Starlink: Battle for Atlas Now From Amazon.com

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Off-Topic: Tonight I’m Watching the Throne

My girlfriend Steff and her sister are the best. Over the weekend, they surprised their boyfriends with tickets for them to see Watch the Throne live as early Christmas presents. As a huge fan of Jay-Z and Kanye West, I’m pumped to see them live for the first time. How I’m going to return the favour is beyond me.

For now though, I’ll just enjoy the concert, which is tonight. Anyone else going to tonight’s show, have tickets for a future show or went to a tour stop in the past? Any Jay-Z or Kanye fans here by any chance? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Off-Topic: Bring The Beat Back

Long before the Internet knew me as a video game blogger, I made music. I was an aspiring hip-hop music producer. I wanted to be the next Dr. Dre, Timbaland or Kanye West. During my run, I made hundreds of hours of music. Some of that music ended up on Soundclick and MySpace, which were heard by thousands of people. I even managed to make a few fans in the process. However, most of my work (and the stories that go with them) never left my bedroom studio.

Out of fear that my work will ultimately go to waste if it’s never heard, I began archiving my music on Bring the Beat Back.

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Is Def Jam Rapstar Hip-Hop’s First Great Music Game?

Hip-hop has historically gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to quality music games. While rock, pop and dance have been adequately served, hip-hop fans got DJ Hero (which was half not hip-hop), the obligatory Beastie Boys song in the rock games and Get On Da Mic (which was awful).

Def Jam Rapstar aims to finally bring gamers a good rap video game. I don’t know enough about the gameplay or feature set to talk intelligently about it, but so far it appears as though they’ve got the most important part right: the soundtrack.

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