Express your wants and desires, political opinions. Talk of your race (White or Black or Whatever) and your place in society. Do it musically, do it in verse, in story, in photographs and in painting. Do not restrict yourself to the current isms and boundaries that define what culture IS, redefine culture as you create it. Break rules and do so with a pride in who you are and what your creation stands for.
- Zamz, from the node Hip Hop

Raise it bit by bit

One of the main themes of rap music has always been its self-referential nature. Rappers seem to love telling us about themselves and who they are, from talking about all the women they have, to their livin’ large lifestyle, or even simply boasting about their amazing skills on the mic. While some may claim that this need to constantly build up your lifestyle is because of some sort of rapper self-esteem shortage, it’s actually because of what hip hop started out as initially. Hip hop and rap music grew out of the idea of signifying and from playing the dozens, where the key to both games is to verbally defeat your opponent by insulting them and proclaiming that your life and your style is the coolest and the freshest. The early MC’s would play the dozens and make rhymes over the instrumental breaks of funk and disco records. So talking about yourself and your personality has been in the music from the very beginning, but the idea is to celebrate, not to tear down.

I play games by Capcom with a power glove strapped on
on any platform, I don't spend my dough on Phat Farm
Video games, I got many to play
Before my life expires, fulfill my desires

In his 1999 song “Proto Culture”, Del the Funky Homosapien (joined by fellow rapper Khaos Unique) celebrates his lifestyle not by rapping about bitches and money, but about his love for video games. Del and Khaos use their skills to rhyme about their favorite games and the memories that they have of growing up as gamers. While song is an ode to gaming goodness, it still manages to keep the hip hop ideas of signifying and establishing your cred. Del raps about how he loved the now nearly forgotten Colecovision system when he was a kid and his massive Sega collection, he gloats about the day he beat Ninja Gaiden and the fact that he still owns the first Nintendo Power. He namechecks Xenogears and cult-favorite Herzog Zwei, trying to establish himself as one In The Know. Del even has some unkind words for ex-Sega of America CEO Bernie Stoller for allowing the Saturn console to wither and die. He also can’t help but insert some sexual bragging in the song when he mentions that his childhood defeat of Ninja Gaiden “was before I was gettin’ blown.”

Yeah, I'll admit Playstation improved
Come visit feudal Japan with me in Tenchu
Bushido Blade 2 with sword play so accurate
Mega Man Legends (but I had to buy a map for it)

Just as the genre is known for rap battles and the infamous East Coast vs. West Coast feud, Del takes sides in the big gaming feud over which console is the best. He is clearly a Sega man, not only does he have “all the past hits and classics”, but he also declares that the Saturn is “2-D heaven” and that he can’t believe the games on Dreamcast.

Let me tell you about the Proto Culture
If you don't know the culture, here's the whole structure
We've had enough of the lackluster - trust us
We get the kind of games you can't rent at Blockbuster

A deeper meaning comes to “Proto Culture” when one studies the title of the song and the two cultures that it deals with. Both video games and hip hop were born in the 1970s, captured a generation in the 1980s, and grew into multi-billion dollar industries in the 1990s. While both make a lot of money, they have yet to reach their full potential in terms of the artistry that they can bring to society. Where is the Citizen Kane? Where is the Ulysses? These cultures are still new and growing, but as the younger generations that have embraced them get older so shall the value of the works that it creates. Del’s work in rap music and the video games that he mentions in “Proto Culture” both represent attempts to push the boundaries of their respective art forms forward, into an era of increased legitimacy and meaning.

Lyrics © Happy Hemp Music, 1999.

Noded as part of E2 Quests: Songs and Lyrics

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.