DefJam Rapstar – Beyond The Console

When I attended a recent game preview I was lucky enough to get a two-fer and got to see DefJam Rapstar in action. While the mechanics of the game are pretty standard – I’ll cover those in a minute – it was the other elements of the release which interested me, the community, the industry and the ‘beyond the console’ approach which has been taken.

The game first though. DefJam Rapstar is a rhythm game in which you rap along with the tunes selected. We’re familiar with this concept from the Band Hero / Guitar Hero / Rock Band use of the vocal track. One of the big differences though, is that the lyrics are tracked as well as your timing and pitch. No more humming along and thinking you can get away with it! You are awarded ‘mics’ for your performance and the more ‘mics’ you have the more tracks and effects for your performance videos are opened up. The game also gives you a detailed breakdown of where you went wrong so you can practice those lyrics, or the tune or the timing elements to get that perfect ‘Dope’ score.

Watch the video and record your own

Rapstar’s track selection is pretty good too. At release, 20% of the tracks will be by local country artists, so in the UK we’ll get Tinie Tempah, Chipmunk, Dizzee Rascal, Tinchy Stryder and others. Great if you’re into the UK Grime and Garage scene! There’s also the promise of tracks being released as DLC when they’re released for mainstream purchase too and here’s where we get into the interesting bit — for me at least.

DefJam Rapstar is taking the Hip Hop lifestyle and incorporating as much as possible into the experience of the game. Let’s say, for example, you’ve nailed a performance of Mr. T. Tempah’s “Pass Out”. This will have been recorded using the camera attached to your console and you can then take the best 30 seconds and put it out to the community for others to appreciate. There may be, however someone who believes their video of “Pass Out” is better than yours and they can challenge you to a ‘battle’. Now this isn’t the live to-and-fro hip hop battle that we may have seen, it’s an online battle where the artist with the most “Likes” over a five-day period wins. The wins gains them reputation from the loser and the respect of the fan-base.

But the battle isn’t done on the consoles by gamers, it’s done on the open Web via FaceBook and apps for mobile phones and you can get notified of battle requests in the same way, this game really does go beyond the console. But let’s say for example you are not the vocal performer type (as I am not) but you are a social networking machine, you could be recruited as a promoter of a particular artist and will gain reputation though their wins too. Equally you may be pretty good at directing/producing a video, within the confines of the console cameras and the supplied / won effects, and could become an ‘in demand’ property simply for that skill!

Yeah okay, this does sound a little ‘out there’ but the message coming out of DefJam Interactive is that major labels will be checking the highest rated artists out with a view to finding new talent and they’re backing this up with the inclusion, at release, of 15 brand new and game specific beats (background tracks with no lyrics) from major league DJs such as DJ Premier, Danja, Nitti Beats and Just Blaze which you can freestyle over to create your own unique raps and sound.

One of the Freestyle beats from DJ Premier – note that you can assign effects.

Artists so far:

2 Pac, 50 Cent, Dizzee Rascal, Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Dogg, Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx, Lil’ Wayne, Notorious B.I.G., Slick Rick, T.I. featuring Rihanna, Tinie Tempah,Wu Tang Clan, Young Jeezy featuring Kanye West, Diddy, Method Man, Nas (Featuring Diddy), Nelly, Public Enemy, Wiley, Drake, Outkast, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Salt-N-Pepa and Tinchy Stryder feat. N-Dubz

Will this new expansion of game-space into social-media work? I actually think that it will, I already use various bits and pieces to update Twitter, Facebook and the like with gaming info and I’m not the most social character in the world! For Hip Hop artists (in the making) who are out to generate ‘heat’ around their talents this would seem to be the way to do it. And if the A&R folks really are going to be checking out the highest rated lists, then we may see some considerable volume of work being put ‘out there’. For a while MySpace was the place to put your music, I know a lot of bands and artists have been ‘discovered’ that way. DefJam seem to be taking that concept and super-sizing it using all of the facilities at their disposal.







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