Through the years, hip hop has found itself at the intersection of many industries — fashion, tech, entertainment, sneakers, and even the gamer world. The cultural impact the genre has played in the space transcends years and, today, is leading a revolution. Take Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto, a video game series that for decades has become a staple in the culture that we consume today on a historical level. Atlanta rapper Desiigner previously told Billboard that GTA inspired his hit single “Panda,” and the YBN collective started gaming together before they began their rap crew, notoriously known for utilizing interactive live streaming service Twitch to showcase their gaming to a broader audience. Remember when the late Biggie Smalls said, “Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis / When I was dead broke, man, I couldn’t picture this”? This line would arguably become one of the most iconic references to video game consoles. Rappers like JAY-Z, Lloyd Banks, Royce Da 5′ 9″, and more followed suit and referenced video games for years to come. Ahead, we look at four hip hop artists who are leading the Black gaming revolution today.
Not only has Atlanta rapper and avid gamer Lil Yachty released video-game sampled music, but he’s also been at the forefront of both hip hop and gaming. In 2017, while performing in the A, Logic brought out Yachty on stage during his “Everybody Tour”— not to perform alongside him, but to challenge him to a duel in Super Mario Kart 8. The crowd watched them play live on their Nintendo 64 stick with Logic ultimately winning. In 2018, Yachty became a member of the FaZe clan, an esports and entertainment organization that started as a gaming collective. He joined the collective as “FaZe Boat,” which was named after his alter ego Lil Boat. That same year, the rapper dropped a holiday capsule collection filled with gaming gear in collaboration with Ninja — also known as Richard Tyler Blevins — a streamer who was among one of the most famous names in Fortnite gaming. Yachty was featured on a track titled “Fortnite” by Murda Beatz, which samples the game’s theme song. Although the song didn’t have much to do with the game, the video featured Fortnite dances throughout. Through these ventures, Yachty’s opened up a partnership door for himself and artists after. For example, he’s had previous deals with X Box Series, Twitch, and more.
The “Rappa Ternt Sanga” artist has always been a gaming aficionado. In a previous interview with Rolling Stone, he mentioned that it’s therapeutic for him to be in the studio creating music while simultaneously playing video games. “There’s no writer’s block when playing video games,” the star stated. While he continued to put out music through the years, T-Pain also became one of the first artists who found their place in the streaming gamer world.
Solidifying his talents with a newer audience on Twitch, he found himself opening a new chapter in his pro-gaming career by simply being himself on the platform — while proactively calling out any racists he encounters during online game battles. He is taking on a new stream of income that not only lets him play games for hours but also allows for community building with a fanbase that is experiencing him on a different level. Today, T-Pain has 771,000 subscribers on his Twitch account, where he organically showcases both his talents in gaming content and music creation.
The former YBN rap collective first rose to fame, not as rappers but as gamers. Creator of the group, YBN Nahmir, and friends YBN Jay Almighty and YBN Cordae originally started gaming online and building their fan base on Xbox 360 live and Youtube. They were just kids who genuinely enjoyed the game. Still, after realizing their popularity continuing to grow online, they used it to their best advantage to push out their freestyling and music. YBN Nahmir released his hit single “Rubbin Off The Paint,” which garnered placement on Billboard’s Hot 100 as number 46. The gamer-turned-rapper ended up having to leave high school after the single’s success and went on to find success in both worlds of gaming and music. Nahmir understood early on the power of the internet. In 2018, he told TMZ that “he’s living proof the next place to find huge rap stars is video gaming.” In March, the star dropped his debut album, Visionland. Today, he is focusing on his music and continuing to lead the life that gaming has paved for him.
Soulja Boy has played a significant role in both hip hop and gaming, and has been shaping the way music and social media are utilized through the years. Now, he is ready to conquer the gaming world with a video game of his own. The game will release in Jan. 2022, and it will incorporate some of today’s rappers. “You know how they used to have Def Jam Vendetta with all the old-school rappers? We gonna have all the new rappers in the game on one video game fighting each other. It’s gonna be a fighting game, and you can pick which rapper you want to fight with,” he stated. It is still unclear what gaming company it will be released under, but venturing into the gaming industry might be what’s next for Big Draco.