The first time pressing down, forward, punch and seeing that blue sphere of energy shoot from Ryu’s hands was better than ice cream for breakfast on a scorching summer’s day. It was even better than pizza day in public school, and we all know how good that rectangular piece of heaven was. Win, lose, or draw, it only takes one time to have you hooked.
I don’t remember when I first discovered Street Fighter, the game is only a few years older than I am. By the time my baby teeth were falling out faster than a Chun-Li kick it was already bigger than the Beatles. What I do remember is the feeling of mashing buttons in a frenzy because losing that final round was like losing some imaginary championship belt, playing for fun was for those that enjoyed Whac-A-Mole and Skee ball, every match was life or death, Street Fighter embodied the spirit of competition. It was the gateway into fighting games, before fatalities with Liu Kang, before breakdancing on faces with Eddie from Tekken 3, even before losing friendships over Super Smash Bros. Melee, there was Ryu, Ken and that bastard Blanka.
Street Fighter has more sequels, spinoffs and crossovers than Puffy has remixes. If not the original it’s likely the game has crossed your path in some variation. From the arcades in Japan to the homes in America, cable television to the AMC movie theaters, the fighting game has become a global franchise and a classic series. It still exists, popular amongst hardcore gamers and determined novices, there’s competitive tournaments on YouTube that are more intense than the NBA Finals. I’ve lost touch with my childhood gamer, but the fire was rekindled recently after a few intense matches one Saturday night at a Joystick gamebar that juxtaposes classic video games and America’s greatest past time, shots on shots on shots. After the alcohol started flowing, the quarters were being devoured by the Street Fighter II machine, it was like being a kid again, spamming E. Honda’s "100 Hand Slap," blowing fire with Dhalism, and trash talking after every victory (whispering after every lost).
Maybe it was being in a place that brought together two things that I enjoyed immensely that inspired me to attempt the same. Soon enough, my mind started juxtaposing my favorite rappers and my favorite Street Fighter characters, trying to find a common thread that connected the two worlds. This would have happened sooner if only I had attended the Drake Vs. Lil Wayne concert.
I had a few in mind but they felt too surface level. If I was seriously going to blend the two together, it had to be done right. So I enlisted the help of my friend Curbside Jones, by far the most knowledgeable Street Fighter player that I know. He started breaking down characters with the precision of a skilled scientist dissecting a rare species. This is someone that has played almost every series, a student of the community, and gave me insight into background stories, play styles and newer characters that have joined the series while my joystick collected dust. Thanks to him a list was formed, what we believe is the best and most accurate representation of hip-hop artists and Street Fighter characters. I know, some of your favorites are missing. There’s just so many characters and rappers, and reality and fiction don’t always reflect each other justly, but have hope, there’s always room for future installments. We branched out across the various versions of Street Fighter, most of the rappers are more modern, to keep up with the times.
Ryu = JAY Z
Ryu needs no introduction, he’s the face of the franchise, the Japanese martial artist that taught us all to say Hadoken. Ryu has been in every installment of Street Fighter and in each one he’s the master of fundamentals. The blueprint character and also the quintessential character for beginniners.
Jay Z needs no introduction, there was a time when he was the face of hip-hop. In a way he still is. You have to be blind, deaf, and Amish not to know of Shawn Carter. Even though he’s aging and pursuing other endeavors, Jay is still the quintessential rap artist that has a catalog that embodies many of the essential qualities that can really bring someone into hip-hop. The newer generation will find the music he made on the corners while they were still in diapers and see a rapper that has the clever wordplay, metaphors, and similes but is most potent when he’s straightforward and direct. He has a way with words, engaging and charismatic, you can find traces of his blueprint in your favorite modern rapper.
I see The Blueprint as his Hadoken, The Black Album as his Tatsumaki Senpukyaku and Reasonable Doubt has to be Shinku Hadoken. While the two personalities don’t perfectly mesh, I see both as being cool headed with a dark side that will reveal itself if pushed to the edge. They might be the serious nice guys but both can get busy. What Jay did to Nas on “Takeover” is what Ryu did to Sagat at the end of the original Street Fighter.
Ken = Kanye West
Ken was originally a palette swap for Ryu, which is an interesting contrast for a producer whose signature sound required sampling. With each installment and the rise of his popularity, Ken was given his own style of play, still very similar to Ryu’s but his creativity allowed him to add a bit of fire and flair to the modest fundamentals.
That’s Kanye, as a rapper, he’s a fundamental lyricist, but he does everything with extravagance. He exudes much more style, flashy, which is the ladder he used to climb and emerge from Jay Z’s shadow. Ken became his own player with his own personality, which like Kanye’s is very egotistical, unpredictable, brash and arrogant. This guy has no problem with reminding his foes of his greatness. Yet he’s also very kind, friendly and loyal. His playstyle has interesting way of matching up with Ye’s music, in the later games Ken is fast and fluid, a very close, in-your-face player. When you listen to Kanye, he doesn’t sugar coat, he's very bold and ambitious, and he does it all with style. We don’t expect Jay Z to perform with flamethrowers, the same way Ryu wouldn’t care to cover his Shoryuken with fire, the opposites of the lively Ken and Kanye.
It’s also worth noting that Ken is the first Street Fighter character to go through a major design change in Street Fighter V. Kanye is also known for his appearance changes for each album.
“Sometimes it’s more important to have a stylish victory than a quick one” – Kanye or Ken?
Seth = Drake
Seth is the main antagonist of Street Fighter IV, he’s isn’t a classic character but he is perfect for such a new generational artist like Drake. Seth is an enhanced being that has been programed with data collected from warriors across the world that was originally made to be a replacement vessel for the evil M. Bison. His style of martial arts is a mixture, taking the qualities of others and improving upon them. Sounds familiar? Seth is also capable of using multiple moves from various characters and even updates the copies with his own touch. Guile’s “Sonic Boom,” Ryu’s “Shoryuken,” Dhalsim’s “Yoga Teleport,” the list is ongoing.
Drake is also able to upgrade the talents of those around him, he is the master of effortless versatility. Drake is comfortable in any situation, he’s able to mold himself to fit the settings, much like the character Seth who is comfortable in different match-ups. We’ve witnessed Drizzy rhyme like Phonte and rap like the Migos, even DRAM’s “Cha-Cha” can be argued as the foundation of his soon to be number one single. Seth's personality is rather calm with a touch of arrogance, he tends to gloat about his power when unleashing stronger moves. People love Drake and Street Fighter fans hate Seth, Seth is rather emotionless and Drake is very emotional, but I think they both have acquired a talent of being able to absorb and unleash the talent of others and that is what makes them powerful.
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Makoto = Rapsody
Makoto made her first appearance in Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, way back in 1999. You might notice that she is one of the few women in the Street Fighter series that doesn’t have a very seductive design. Her focus is to be a character of power not provocative, focused on strength not sex appeal. Her character has a very slow, menacing walk but her dashes are some of the fastest in the game, which allows her to set the pace of the match. Speed and pacing allows her to catch opponents off guard, resetting combos and command grabs will lead to devastating damage.
Rapsody is a emcee’s emcee, true to the craft, and an incredible lyricist. Rapsody caught the world off guard the way she set the pace of her collaboration with Kendrick Lamar, her wordplay and precision is equivalent to a barrage of attacks without dropping the combo. Actually, all her features and collaborations are under her control, she never feels unbalanced or overwhelmed. Makoto seeks to revive the honor of her father’s dojo and I feel Rapsody is an artist that carries the honor of hip-hop on her back every time she rhymes.
Makoto is a fan favorite, an incredible addition to the series, similairly hip-hop is beginning to embrace the incredible Rapsody more and more. For her skills, this doesn’t mean she is unattractive, this is far from the case, but her looks are never the focus, she is an impressive rapper. Makoto is an impressive martial artist, and both deserve to be recognized.
Akuma = Kendrick Lamar
I know, I know, Akuma is the sinister, bloody thirsty bad guy that killed his master and only seeks to kill and destroy strong fighters. That doesn’t sound like our good kid, but hear me out before you send me your angry tweets.
Since Ken and Ryu were trained by Akuma’s brother it’s only natural that they have a similar fighting style. Akuma is a well-rounded fighter with raw power and a fierce onslaught-based offensive that is meant to end matches quickly. His style of play is basically knocking his opponent down and keeping the attack going until the enemy is pulverized. When you hear Kendrick records like “Monster,” “Rigamortis,” “Control,” and his verse on the “BET Cypher,” they’re all proof of how competitive Kendrick can be. Kendrick has no problem with dueling his masters or contemporaries. While we might see him as the hero of hip-hop, to some of his peers, his fearless sense of competition can easily portray him as the villain. Is “Rigamortis” not the lyrical “Shun Goku Satsu?” Over and over he repeats “He’s dead.” On “Control” he says, “I got love for you all but I’m trying to murder all of you niggas.”
Akuma is a level of darkness more powerful than M. Bison, completely emotionless, and has an icebox where his black hole should be, but I find it interesting that the character still lives by a moral code. This is a man that despises hubris, foolish behavior, and those who rely on means other than fighting to gain power. I think Kendrick is also an artist that carries himself with a sense of a moralistic code, there’s lines he won’t cross and things he won’t tolerate, like rappers with ghostwriters sitting on his throne. Like it or not, there’s no fighter more competitive than Akuma and no rapper as competitive as Kendrick. I wrote all this without mentioning the fact that Kendrick Lamar might’ve kil… *computer dies*
Sagat = Nas
Sagat has an interesting backstory, there was a point in time he was the God of Muay Thia, so strong that he’s the final boss on the original Street Fighter. In the first World Warrior Tournament he battled Ryu, the fight was intense, he literally had Ryu on the brink of unconsciousness, which unleashes Ryu’s hidden dark side landing an almost fatal Metsu Shoryuken, leaving him defeated and an enormous scar across his chest. Even though Sagat technically won the tournament since he pinned Ryu before he landed the finishing blow, that attack was enough to soil his name as the greatest fighter and sent him seeking revenge. Throughout the series his hatred has turned into a respected rivalry between two skilled warriors.
Sagat and Nas don’t have much in common but their rivalries with Ryu and Jay Z have an interesting parallel. The beef between Nas and Jay was an intense one, the war of worlds sent bombs from both sides. While we still argue who won, while we still argue what’s the better diss between “Ether” and “Takeover,” it was Nas that was left with a lasting career-scar by the end. The scar more so is a symbol of all the shortcomings of his career and he isn’t overshadowed by that duel, but it is never forgotten. The same way Sagat has continued to be a reoccurring and powerful character in the franchise, he was never able to return to that past acclaim. The same way Nas has arguably never reached the God-tier album Illmatic again. He’s delivered impactful classics that have stood the test of time but Illmatic is forever, the one that is upheld as his masterpiece. No matter what occurred in his past, there’s no denying that Sagat is a powerful tank that doesn’t crack, doesn’t fold and doesn’t fall. Nasir Jones is also a tank, fearless, sturdy and still a force to be reckoned with.
Dan = Meek Mill Lil B
Dan Hibiki is Street Fighter's well-known comic relief. Dan was made to be a paraody of Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia from the SNK's Art of Fighting Game. Capcom felt that Ryo was just a clone of Ryu and Ken, so they made a character in response.
Lil B is an interesting character, his music feels almost like a parody, yet he is undeniably an influence on a lot of modern rap acts. Plus, he’s able to curse people, which seems to be getting stronger by the day. It seems with every passing year Lil B only gets bigger, becoming less of a troll and more of an undeniable voice on the Internet. Dan’s character has also gone through various upgrades, each installment he becomes less of a troll and more of a serious character. For the Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, Capcom has stated they created the strongest possible Dan, who is still somehow the weakest character in the game. Despite that, some of his goofiest techniques when used correctly are effective. He’s even allowed in tournaments now.
Lil B has proven he’s able to be enticing, a master of social media and a shining light of confidence and positivity. Lil B is hip-hop’s comic relief. The only ones that despise him are those that take him too seriously. Plus, Dan wears pink, he is definitely a member of Bitch Mob.
Look forward to the next installment coming soon. Until then, happy Street Fighting.
[By Yoh, aka Chun Li's Baby's Father, aka @Yoh31]