I've never been an early bird. Even as a child I couldn’t function properly before noon. Missing the school bus was a daily ritual, and getting there before roll call was nearly impossible. If tardies were parking tickets I would still be in debt. On weekdays, an earthquake before 10 AM wouldn’t stir me from my slumber, but Saturday was different, it was the only day I would rise with the worms and roosters. There wasn’t DVR or on-demand when I was in grammar school, and the best cartoons started at the crack of dawn. I remember pancakes and Kids WB, scrambled eggs and Fox Box, ABC Kids and chocolate milk, the good ol’ days. Despite how great the Saturdays were, nothing beat Cartoon Network’s weekly lineup during Toonami’s golden era. After school eyes were glued to Gundam Wing, Tenchi Muyo!, Sailor Moon and of course, Dragon Ball Z.
What made Dragonball Z so engaging was the battles. Aliens, energy blast, power ups, transformations, super-human strength, everything was outrageous and explosive. It was cotton candy for imaginations, I didn’t know anyone that wasn’t riding the bandwagon. We would print out the characters and spend entire art classes trying to perfect tracing Goku. It was bigger than Pokemon, Digimon, there wasn’t a single show that rivaled its popularity. And so now, as an "adult," I wanted to bridge together the favorite cartoon of my youth with my favorite genre of music. Nathan gave me this brilliant idea, “What rappers would be Dragonball Z characters?” and of course my mind ran rampant with ideas. I called my good friend Curbside Jones to assist me, he grew up during the Toonami era and has an immense love and knowledge of DBZ. We collaborated on the list, throwing out names and really attempting to match the best personalities and qualities.
This is the outcome of a very long, extremely important and serious discussion.
Jay Z never shot Kamehameha waves, Goku never lost 92 bricks, but these two are both the greatest in their own right. Goku is strong, so strong we would spend countless class hours arguing who would win in a battle between him and Superman. If goofy Clark Kent isn’t a match, then you’re unrivaled, case closed. It’s impossible to discuss the best rappers without Jay’s name being thrown into the ballad, his catalog is good enough to go against any rapper imaginable. Even though Hov never went Super Saiyan, his career is full of transformations: Hustler, rapper, label president, sports agent, he’s constantly leveling up just when we think otherwise. Their personalities are kindred spirits, jolly, easy going, family men that get thrills from facing new challenges and foes. Goku’s the face of DBZ, the protagonist that everyone adores. Jay is that widely known, highly acclaimed character in hip-hop. A perfect match.
Pompous, arrogant, self-entitled, and short tempered, these are just a few of Vegeta’s good qualities. What do you expect from a prince that was raised thinking even his bowel movements were golden? Sounds very similar to the upbringing of Kanye Omari West, who was a child who thought the world revolved around his every whim. Ye has the ego of spoiled royalty, his abrasive approach to circumstances and undeniable genius has made him one of the most notorious rappers of all time. Vegeta is an unforgettable character, a powerful warrior that teetered on the line of good and evil. His internal conflict and constant desire for power made him someone that is equally loved and hated. He also has an interesting relationship with Goku (aka Jay Z), he’s like a little brother, always striving to catch up, but behind by a mile. Kanye has carved his own legacy, the brilliant asshole, bigger than the big bang, but he’s still a few steps behind his big brother.
No one really liked Gohan when he was first introduced, Goku’s first born son, a momma’s boy that was afraid of his own shadow. He wasn’t a warrior like his father, more suited to be an accountant than fighter, but he had a dormant power that would reveal itself when pushed into a corner. Drake didn’t look much like a rapper, no one paid the Degrassi actor much attention when he first decided to pursue music. Even though Aubrey struggled to get widespread attention, his potential and talent slowly won people over. There’s a time in the series where Gohan surpassed his father, after much training, he went from a whiny baby to the most powerful fighter on Earth. Drake’s transformation is similar, Room For Improvement to Nothing Was The Same, he’s leveled up immensely without the need of a hyperbolic time chamber. I’ll admit, Drake’s lust for the women is closer to Master Roshi, but deep down he’s looking for his Videl.
Since the very beginning, Piccolo has been a badass. Green skin, pointy ears, able to regrow severed limbs and shoot beams out of his fingertips. He started off as a villain, wanting to dominate Earth, but found the light after losing a bout to Goku. As the story progressed, he became Earth’s hidden guardian, always fighting for the greater good from the shadows, embracing the role of teacher, intense and intelligent. He reminds me of Lupe; both are wise, strong, and a bit misunderstood. Especially with Lupe’s recent departure from Twitter, he’s embracing a more hidden role than one in the spotlight. Piccolo wasn’t the strongest character, but his assistance in the battles were necessary. Lupe might not be hip-hop’s most popular rapper, but his contributions can’t be overlooked. Food & Liquor is the Special Beam Cannon that defeated Raditz, The Cool is fusing with Kami, and Lasers is that time he lost to Imperfect Cell.
Videl isn’t a widely talked about character, she came into the series as a love interest for Gohan, is fairly annoying, but also one of the strongest women in the series. She’s pretty feisty, a bit headstrong, and wanted nothing more than to compete with the boys. She’s a regular human, but proved to be a somewhat capable fighter and is the only woman in the series that learned to fly. Iggy Azalea is the epitome of average, there’s nothing particularly special about her rapping, no abilities that set her apart, but she’s soaring above the clouds right now.
Cell is the greatest android created by the evil genius Dr. Gero, created by fusing the cells of the strongest warriors walking the earth. Cell is also able to increase his power by absorbing other androids. When Cell was introduced, everyone feared he would be a foe that could overcome everyone, including Goku. Since an early age, Birdman was molding Wayne for greatness. Wayne and Cell both began at the larva state, gradually getting stronger, and becoming a fearsome figure. The way Cell overpowered his challengers is equivalent to Wayne’s feature slaughtering. 2006-07 Weezy was a monster, a rapper eater, the best rapper alive since the best rapper retired. Wayne even increased his appeal by signing Nicki Minaj and Drake, similar to how Cell used Android 17 & 18 to reach a level of power that was unmatched. Cell believed he was unbeatable, the strongest in the world, a mirror on Wayne’s attitude toward rap.
Yamcha is one of Goku’s earliest acquaintances, another foe that would later become a friend. Yamcha wasn’t known for his strength, but remembered for all the times he got pummeled and defeated. I don’t remember much about Yung Berg’s music career, I’m not even certain if we would consider his temporary moment in the spotlight a “career,” but he’s immortalized by the chain snatching incident in Detroit. He’ll be the butt of jokes for an eternity, just like Yamcha. (Fun fact: Kid Cudi was also in running for Yamcha. No description needed.)
Growing up, I wasn’t certain about Frieza’s gender. The purple lipstick, the nail polish and a voice that leaned closer to feminine than masculine had my boyhood noodle in a state of confusion. He was an androgynous villain and it didn’t matter because he’s unbelievably strong. Kicking ass and taking names, planets were decimated by his strength. Young Thug's sexuality seems to always be questioned, the way he dresses, his choice of words, another matter where Sway doesn’t have the answers. The thing about Thug that relates to Frieza, he’s a fearsome force when he raps at his highest level. Thug’s eccentric behavior doesn’t overshadow his rapping abilities, he’s even more bizarre and unorthodox behind the microphone. Frieza has multiple forms, he can transform in the middle of battle to an even more powerful form, Thugger seems to be more than meets the eye as well. Don’t be surprised if you see a different side to him this year.
Everyone knows Krillin, the bald kid that grew up with Goku, the two even trained under the same sensei. Krillin wasn’t the strongest character, in a world of super-human Saiyans, androids and aliens he was just a human. How is David supposed to stand out in a room full of Goliaths? That’s how some perceive Wale, a really good rapper, he has content, lyrics, and style, yet, he doesn’t receive the recognition that he deserves. It could be politics, or simply a bunch of super-human rappers are stealing the spotlight. Don’t get it twisted, Krillin wasn’t useless, his Destructo Disk, Solar Flair and Kamehameha prove he wasn’t just an average person, and Wale is far from an average rapper.
Hercule’s character is the perfect depiction of a troll. He’s a famous martial artist that has more bark than bite, always bragging and boasting but never throwing a punch. Despite being one of the most annoying reoccurring characters, he’s also incredibly kindhearted and righteous. He’s the people’s champion, a symbol to believe in despite being the biggest liar. Lil B is a saint, it’s impossible not to love the guy after hearing one of his speeches. When I heard the audio from NYU, I was ready to sign up for the Church of Based God. His charisma has convinced a cult full of people that he’s a talented rapper but in reality he’s just an awesome human being. The way he carries himself is like Hercule, overly confident, jaded, and loved by many. Fake it until you make it.
Remember when Trunks was introduced, purple hair, swinging a sword and turning Super Sayian? He defeated Frieza in seconds, the same enemy that beat the crap out of Vegeta, Gohan and killed Krillin. He came from the future to save the world, and looked damn cool doing it. That’s how J. Cole appeared. The Warm Up had bloggers praising him as hip-hop’s savior. Especially after announcing himself as the first artist on Roc Nation, Jay’s latest prodigy, he was definitely going to revive hip-hop. Even though Trunks is way cooler than Jermaine, both carried the weight of trying to pave a way for a better tomorrow, and each had unprecedented potential.
Broly is the biggest, baddest, most ruthless villain in DBZ history. His monstrous anatomy wasn’t for show, he’s a behemoth that beat the living crap out of any foe that stood before him. That’s a pretty good way to sum up the early years of 50’s career, a fearless powerhouse, hip-hop’s bully, nine bullets later he still taunted peers as if he was indestructible.
Dr. Gero is a genius scientist who created the Red Ribbon Android and has a serious vendetta against Goku. Of course Birdman would be his perfect rapper counterpart. The "red" references goes without saying, but if you dig deeper than the surface, both rely heavily on assistance from others to fulfill their desires. Creating is their forte, one makes deadly robots to defeat Goku, the other makes rappers into superstars and keeps all their royalty money. It’s interesting that Dr. Gero is killed by one of his brilliant creations that was too rebellious to be controlled. Could Birdman be facing a similar fate? Whatever spell he had over Wayne is broken, his son is rebelling. If Wayne leaves, taking Drake and Nicki, this could be the end of his Red Ribbon Empire.
Out of all Dr. Gero’s many androids, 18 is the strongest woman. She isn’t quite an android, she was once a mischievous little girl, but was kidnapped and transformed into a murderous cyborg programmed to kill Goku. Even though Nicki Minaj wasn’t given super strength or installed with a self-destruction device, it's common knowledge that she went under the needle to gain some of her most famous ASSets. Her first couple years in the game, she portrayed herself as this artificial Barbie doll, even though she made a serious mark in hip-hop, that wasn’t her true self, just a gimmick created for marketing purposes, similar to how 18 was manufactured for a specific goal. 18 eventually decided to live life as a human, finding love, and abandoned her mission. Nicki is in that stage now, shedding the image and using her ASSets for the greater good.
Time exists in Dragon Ball Z: Kids become adults, adults have kids and new characters are introduced. Goten (Goku’s second son) and Trunks (Vegeta’s first son) came later in the series, the rivalry that started with their fathers carried into the next generation, but the two were most popular once they learned to fuse into Gotenks. I assume Chance and Vic see themselves in these two, the artwork for their collaboration, "Suitcase," is an image of Goten and Trunks from an ancient DBZ video game. Chance is definitely Goten, both are energetic and adventurous, while Trunk’s cocky attitude and ambitious nature is more fitting of Vic. These two are incredible solo artists, but when brought together, each time the results are impressive. Same with Goten and Trunks, their fusion is a powerful entity. It would be nice to get a full length collaboration from Chance and Vic, the audio personification of Gotenks.
Rappers love women, but very few have an infatuation with the opposite sex like Master Roshi. Some consider him a legendary martial artist that lives life on a secluded island as a turtle hermit, but in reality, he’s just a lecherous pervert that likes privacy and dirty magazines. He’s Goku and Krillian’s sensei, but refused to teach them until they brought him a beautiful, young woman. I was thinking Too $hort, but they don’t share the same favorite word. I was thinking Trick Daddy, Roshi loves the kids, but I don’t think his savage level is on par with the booty eater. I see Sir Mix-A-Lot as Roshi in rap form, he loved him some big butts, and couldn’t lie about it. Mix-A-Lot trained a generation to appreciate the brown round. For that, I thank you sensei.
The most powerful villain in Dragon Ball Z is Majin Buu. When Meek Mill made "Levels," he was referring to the many stages and forms of Buu. There's a Good Buu, Evil Buu, Super Buu and the strongest, Kid Buu. Despite the prefix “Kid,” he’s the only enemy that successfully destroyed Earth in the series. Maybe it’s his tiny stature, or the childish personality, whatever the case, he was far from a pushover. Making the most dastardly character Nas is a stretch, Nas didn’t destroy hip-hop, but "Ether" is the most destructive song in hip-hop history. When he said “Hip-Hop is Dead” the world shuddered, it was the first time the term was ever articulated and almost everyone agreed unanimously. Nas' career is countless moments of throwing the world off its axel, from his first album to his lesser works, he’s an atomic bomb. He’s Majin Buu’s final form.
Goku isn’t a logical hero. In the face of danger he grins, he spent the series constantly testing his strength against worthy opponents. After defeating Buu and making a wish to bring the Earth back, he made a request to have Buu reincarnated with all his strength and potential, but without the evil. His wish is granted and Uub was born into a very poor village. Ten years later, he enters a martial arts tournament to win money for his poor home, he fights Goku, which leads to becoming Goku’s first pupil, and trains under his wing. I see his story being very similar to Kendrick Lamar. A good kid, full of potential, trying to escape his destitution and bring some positivity to his people. Kendrick is arguably the best rapper of the current generation. Dr. Dre took him from internet favorite into an international sensation. Kendrick is the reincarnation of what is great about hip-hop, he’s our shining hope.
Those are my picks and I'm sticking to them, but this is one of those articles that's only fun when the comment section is going off. So feel free to give us your variations below.
[By Yoh, aka Hip-Hop's Shenron, aka @Yoh31]