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Compact Disc Video Games Inspired by Hip-Hop

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, we took a deep dive into the vaults of the Museum’s collection and found a pair of video games incorporating the beats and culture of rap music. These games, both on compact disc and released in the 90s, reflect the worldwide influence hip hop achieved twenty years after emerging in New York City. 

Mega Rock Rap 'N Roll is a music education and creation game published by Paramount Interactive in 1995. An extension of the popular Rock Rap ‘N Roll released two years earlier, the game lets players recombine studio-produced music clips to create songs in multiple genres, including rap, jazz, blues, and reggae. Hip-hop, especially in the 1990s, mixes jazz and blues elements, and the game’s rap interface allows users to create a track with these musical sounds while scratching the track or adding a hip snare. 

PaRappa the Rapper is a rhythm video game (a musical video game that challenges players by testing their sense of rhythm) developed by NanaOn-Sha and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for PlayStation in Japan in 1996 and then worldwide in 1997. PaRappa was designed by Japanese musician Masaya Matsuura and New York–based artist Rodney Alan Greenblat. Matsuura wrote the lyrics in Japanese, and the English lyrics were provided by rapper Ryu Watabe, who translated them while freestyling. An instant success upon its initial release, the game follows PaRappa, a rapping dog sporting iconic hip-hop attire of baggy pants and an orange beanie. PaRappa does his best to woo his crush flowergirl Sunny Funny by rapping as well as learning karate and breakdancing, which both reflect the cross-cultural influence of martial arts on hip-hop. 

PaRappa also caught people’s attention with its unique visual style, which resembled a 2D drawing. While this novel aesthetic made the game difficult to market for Sony, the game became popular and is now considered a classic. PaRappa went on to inspire its own 30-episode anime adaptation, produced by J.C. Staff, airing in Japan on Fuji TV between April 2001 and January 2002. Museum of the Moving Image is in possession of game discs, one in English and one in Japanese. PaRappa the Rapper helped usher in a new era of music rhythm video games such as Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Dance Dance Revolution.

Research and text by Tiffany Joy Butler and Quinn O’Neill