Video gaming has come a long way since the days of playing Sonic on the couch or spending hours mashing buttons in a game of Super Smash Bros. or Dead Or Alive.
Over the past 20 years, competitive gaming has flourished into one of the most rapidly growing industries in entertainment. Tournament-style competitions of games like Dota 2, League Of Legends and Starcraft II are garnering massive crowds and even more revenue.
The three previously mentioned games have held over 6,000 tournaments, paying out approximately $210 million in prize money over the lifetime of the events. Sponsorships and merchandising are also bringing in millions in revenue, and as a whole, E-Sports are quickly becoming recognized as a legitimate sport, with colleges offering scholarships and the US State Department even allowing visas to be obtained for professional video gamers.
Though plentiful and surely enough to sustain the market, the E-Sports fan base is still in need of growth and diversity, and in recent years, notable hip-hop artists have begun to turn their passion for video gaming into a full-fledged sponsorship of the lifestyle.
While artists like MC Chris, Mega Ran, Chris Webby and others have helped to keep video games properly represented within hip-hop culture, there are a few prominent artists who are getting more involved with live streaming and competitive gaming, helping to strengthen the bridge that Nerdcore started between gaming and hip-hop culture.
Strange Music artist and West Coast legend MURS has always been a fan of video games, but this year, the rapper has taken to Twitch to not only stream himself playing games like Madden 2017, Overwatch and Destiny, but also to live-stream practice sessions for his attempted world record-setting 24 hour rap marathon on October 12.
The addition of a Twitch channel to his already hefty social media presence is a brilliant move to further connect with fans and to plug his many ventures, but what sets MURS apart is his genuine love for video games and all things considered “nerdy.” MURS knows his shit when it comes to video games, and you’d be hard pressed to attend a Comic-Con or similar event in the US without bumping into the veteran emcee.
Lupe Fiasco has also dabbled in the world of professional gaming, fueled by his near-obsessive love for Street Fighter. Earlier this year at the launch of Street Fighter 5, Lupe competed against and bested Japanese competitive gamer Daigo Umehara, widely considered the best Street Fighter player in the world.
E-Sports has already demonstrated that it has what it takes to be considered a legitimate spectator sport—and with a wildly growing fan base it’s safe to say the industry is doing just fine—but with the additional support of prominent hip-hop artists, the fan bases of these respective cultures are increasingly becoming intertwined and lending strength to both movements.
As professional gaming continues to diversify and evolve, it will be incredibly exciting to see hip-hop involved on more than a surface level, which could lead to some very interesting developments. Will we soon see tournament-style competitions of Kanye’s Only One game? Will Joe Budden and Lupe end up running an Ultimate Fighter-style reality show in which they train Street Fighter teams and pit them against one another?
The crossover possibilities between hip-hop and competitive gaming are endless, and both industries will undoubtedly benefit from the burgeoning marriage. Hip-hop makes everything cooler, and E-Sports will need that credibility to reach that next level of relevance.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Twitter