Grime music and video games have more in common than you may think, from JME’s first beats being made on Mario Paint to the soundtrack of a 1994 Wolverine game sounding like the world’s first grime instrumental. The late 1990’s and early 2000’s were a fertile time for the gaming industry, and with grime music coming to the fore in 2002/3 many of the original grime MCs were brought up on a diet consisting of the SNES, Megadrive and Playstation 1.
It’s also no secret that one of grime’s most beloved game series is Street Fighter. In an interview with Paste Magazine legendary grime DJ and Street Fighter event organiser Logan Sama weighed in on why that might be, saying:
“Street Fighter is just a huge cultural thing that everyone experienced growing up, the characters are hugely recognisable as well as the moves. Street Fighter 2 basically fathered the modern 2D fighting game genre all by itself. It had such a huge impact that it has just stayed in everyone’s consciousness.”
As early as 2002 MCs like Dizzee Rascal were sampling parts of the Street Fighter theme to act as instrumentals to rap over, and the series quickly became one of the most referenced in grime. One of the reasons for the unique appeal of Street Fighter was that grime was built around lyrical clashes, most famously Jammer’s “Lord of the Mics” series, and the 1v1 setup of these clashes was easily equated with street Fighter’s 1 on 1 battles.
One of the most famous moves in Street Fighter, the Hadouken, has been used by almost every grime MC at one time or another, it’s even the name of a terrible ‘grindie’ band that you might remember from when you were 14. For a few grime Hadoukens check out:
JME’s “96 F**kries”:
“Man will draw for the hadak-dak-douken/Leave you on the floor snoring away” (2:40 onwards)
Lethal Bizzle’s “Box”:
“Violence is something I don’t incite/ But I am a Ryu Hadouken type (Hadouken!)” (0:35 onwards)
And Big Narstie’s “BDL Skank”:
“Hadouken!” (1:17 onwards)
It’s not all about casual nods to the series though; some MCs have gone far more in depth. On the track “Whipping Excursion” from Giggs’ new album Landlord, he talks about his favourite Street Fighter characters with the line:
“A lot of man play Ken, but man ah badman Blanka”(1:40 onwards)
A reference to Ken being overused by most people, whilst Giggs’ prefers to play as a green jungle man that generates his own electricity, for… obvious reasons?
Merky Ace and MIK’s track “1%” devotes even more time to Street Fighter, with multiple bars on their favourite characters:
“I will box man’s face off like Balrog/ Armed to the teeth, I’m down for the job/ Ken, Ryu, glide right by you/ Temperature turn up when I bun man’s top/ Chun Li, she was smoking the ammy/ Twist and a slide like Cammy” (3:40 onwards)
There are too many characters there to unpack in one article, but needless to say Merky Ace and MIK have successfully proved that grime’s link to Street Fighter is far from dead in 2016.
The undisputed champion of Street Fighter bars has to be D Double E though, with his song “Street Fighter Riddim” managing to name-check fifteen characters in just over 3 minutes, and that’s including the detour into talking about Gears of War halfway through.
Referencing everyone’s favourite fighting game (Let’s be honest, nobody really prefers Tekken) is such an established practice now that it’s even become an integral part of Radio 1Xtra DJ Charlie Sloth’s “Fire in the Booth” freestyle segments, with Sloth playing samples from Street Fighter during MCs’ freestyles, including the ever present cry of “Hadouken!”, the less often used “Shoryuken!” and the in-game announcer’s shouts of “Perfect!”.
From the early grime instrumentals sounding like the backing track of a videogame to the similarities between lyrical clashes and Street Fighter matches, it’s clear that grime and Street Fighter have a lot in common, even if the similarity isn’t immediately obvious. Of course, there’s also the fact that a lot of grime MCs just really love gaming, and it’s a lot easier to reference well-known characters like Ken and Ryu than it is the third soldier from the left in Call of Duty 4. Whatever the reason for Street Fighter’s place in grime it looks like it’s here to stay. Here’s a video of JME freestyling about Street Fighter back in 2009 to celebrate.