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Jay-Z Is the Zelda of Rap and Four Other Insights

Illustration for article titled Jay-Z Is the Zelda of Rap and Four Other Insights
Photo: Brian Ach (Getty Images for Something in the Water)

When I have some spare time on my hands, my brain tends to wander to the important questions. Questions like: “Why does Smart Guy still hold up?” and “Why haven’t they ported the Rogue Squadron trilogy to Switch?” Perhaps the most important question that comes to mind is “Who is the Super Mario of the rap game?” While the answer still eludes me, I have come up with a list of five rappers and what game series they most closely resemble.

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I will probably end up regretting this list. Oh well.

Illustration for article titled Jay-Z Is the Zelda of Rap and Four Other Insights
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5. Future is NBA2K16-20

The Venn diagram of dudes who play 2K and dudes who listen to Future is honestly just a circle. The Atlanta rapper has dominated the last five years of rap, popularizing the “mumble rap” style that put atmosphere over lyricism. The last few years have seen Future focus on iterating upon his woozy trap sound as opposed to truly evolving it.

The same can be said for the NBA2K series. Back in the day, the 2K series constantly bettered itself with each new release. The most recent entries of the series have fallen into the Madden pattern of moderate improvements to gameplay each year. The result is that both are always serviceable but very rarely achieve greatness.

Also, both NBA2K and Future share a yearly release cycle with Future sometimes releasing up to three projects a year.

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Illustration for article titled Jay-Z Is the Zelda of Rap and Four Other Insights
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4. Kendrick Lamar is Naughty Dog

Kendrick Lamar is undeniably the greatest rapper to emerge over the last decade. Each album he’s released pushes the boundaries of rap music. Likewise, Naughty Dog games constantly break our preconceived notions of what a video game can be.

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The Uncharted series and The Last of Us brought a level of nuance, cinematic storytelling that hadn’t really been seen in gaming. Kendrick imbues his music with intelligent lyrics and challenging ideas while still managing to be certified bops.

No one makes games like Naughty Dog and no one else is making albums like Kendrick. The level of quality they’ve established for their respective fields makes this a no-brainer of comparison.

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Illustration for article titled Jay-Z Is the Zelda of Rap and Four Other Insights
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3. J. Cole is Metal Gear Solid

Aight, now we’re in hot take territory. Let me preface this with the fact that Metal Gear Solid is neck-and-neck with Final Fantasy as my favorite game series of all time. J. Cole, on the other hand, is not on my top 5 or even top 10. Yet, having listened to a fair amount of his music, I can see a clear correlation between J. Cole’s output and the MGS games.

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To start, both have fan bases that are rabid in their devotion. So much so, whole parody videos exist that only slightly exaggerate how J. Cole stans can be. I’m not much of a fighter but I will throw hands if I ever hear any slander about Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.

Both Cole’s discography and the MGS games are chock-filled with corny moments, a certain level of self-seriousness and sometimes punch above their own weight. Yet, when they hit, they hit.  

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J. Cole and MGS are similar in that while they can sometimes be a little too earnest and occasionally groan-inducing, there is no denying their greatness when they’re firing on all cylinders.

Illustration for article titled Jay-Z Is the Zelda of Rap and Four Other Insights
Photo: Neilson Barnard (Getty Images for Adidas )
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2. Pusha-T is Grand Theft Auto 

This was probably the hardest comparison and I’m sure that you’re already in the comments telling me “so and so is ACTUALLY the GTA of rap.”

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Let me explain.

In rap’s history, there have been countless gangster rappers weaving tales about the criminal lifestyle. The focus for this comparison is about consistency. Since Grand Theft Auto III, the GTA games have been nothing if not consistent. Even the series’ worst game (GTA IV, let’s be real) is still pretty damn good. Since dropping Lord Willin’ in 2002 as part of Clipse, Pusha-T has been consistently dropping quality coke rap for almost two decades.

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Playing a GTA game and listening to a Pusha-T album both result in making you go “You know, maybe I could do this drug dealing shit.”

Similarly to GTA, Push takes his time on his records. The six-year gap between My Name is My Name and Daytona is comparable to the gap between GTA games. It’s been seven years since GTA V came out and we ain’t even seen as much as a logo for GTA VI.

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That’s OK because we know, like the next Pusha-T album, it’s probably going to be a banger.

Illustration for article titled Jay-Z Is the Zelda of Rap and Four Other Insights
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1. Jay-Z is the Zelda of Rap

This is the easiest of all the comparisons. In terms of quality, longevity and stature within their respective fields, Jay-Z and the Legend of Zelda franchise have endured decades of popularity. The rap game is a far different beast than it was when Jay dropped Reasonable Doubt; despite that, he’s still managed to be one of the biggest things in it. He’s accomplished the rare balancing act of evolving with the times without ever sounding like he’s chasing trends. Likewise, the Zelda franchise has managed to evolve with each new console generation while still maintaining what fans love about it.

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Both 4:44 and Breath of the Wild showed the rapper and game series willing to take risks and broke from pre-established norms. Breath of the Wild granted the player an unprecedented level of freedom in a Zelda game. It kept the core tenets of what the player expected from the series and changed just about everything else.

4:44 displayed an uncharacteristic level of vulnerability from Jay-Z. In an era where veteran rappers like Kanye and Eminem seem to be grasping at straws to stay relevant, Jay provided a blueprint on how to gracefully age in the rap world.

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Both the Legend of Zelda and Jay-Z have dominated their fields for decades and are almost synonymous with their respective art forms.

So now that we’ve reached the end of this list you probably have a fair share of disagreements. Do you have any comparisons of your own? Think this list is all wrong? Then go off in the comments, folks. I want all the smoke. All of it.

Jr Staff Writer @TheRoot. Watcher of wrestling, player of video games. Mr. Steal Your Disney+ Password.

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