We wouldn't endorse a video game endorsed by rappers simply because they're endorsed by rappers. We'd be crazy to. Wu-Tang's Shaolin Style in 1999? Funkmaster Flex's Funkmaster Flex Digital Hitz Factory in 2004? Fiddy's 50 Cent: Bulletproof in 2005? Not exactly classic games. But Beaterator ($40), a collaboration between superproducer Timbaland and Rockstar Games, now available for PlayStation Portable (and soon for iPod Touch and iPhone)? Well, it actually works—and it's easy to see why.
First, it's pretty bare bones. You don't try to make beats to become Timbaland's award-winning protégé. You don't play some silly character and try to earn production points. But, there's plenty to tinker with. Even if you know nothing about producing a song, the layout is simple (and looks similar to Apple's GarageBand). If you do know your way around a music studio, you can create your own sounds, loop sounds and even record vocals over of the sounds you create. Of course, Beaterator probably isn't going to secure you a slot as the next Timbo behind the boards. But it will, at the very least, show you what goes into making a smash hit—and possibly even make you interested enough to want to learn more. In a sea of half-baked, rap-endorsed video games, this manages to stay on beat.
Chris Yuscavage is the former lifestyle editor at VIBE and lives in Jersey City, N.J. Follow him on Twitter.