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Hip-Hop's love affair with Street Fighter 3 Third Strike

90s hip hop music

Although Street Fighter 3 Third Strike was released in 1999, its hip-hop influenced soundtrack still holds up as one of the best video game soundtracks of all time.

Coincidentally, this is the Street Fighter game in the series many fans overlooked. But you know what’s easy to appreciate? The fire soundtrack.

Hideki Okugawa was the composer for the Street Fighter III series, which took influence from Urban contemporary music, to create what is now a nostalgic 90s original soundtrack with a cult following.

While the first two games in the trilogy delivered a stellar soundtrack, reminisce of genres like house, jungle, techno and drum n' bass. 3rd Strike went in a slightly different direction.

Street Fighter and hip-hop were perfectly intertwined in the third instalment of Street Fighter III, which Okugawa himself produced jazzy hip-hop flavored arrangements for.

However it didn't stop there, as Capcom and Okugawa were looking for a lyricist in order to turn some of their tracks into original songs. So they travelled to Canada in search of an emcee, befitting of this hip new soundtrack.

Now, one could ask why the company chose Canada rather than the birthplace of hip hop. But's there's a actually a valid reason.  At the time, Capcom were known to use Canadian voice talent to provide localized voice overs to majority of their IPs (like Resident Evil).

Even the English voice cast of Street Fighter 3 were Canadian. This is most likely because voice actors in the United States were unionized and more expensive to hire, unlike their neighbours to the north.

underrated hip hop songs

Capcom would hold an audition in Canada to find their new artist, a try-out attended by some of the country's biggest rappers at the time. When it was all said and done, Toronto born Desmond Francis, better known by his stage name 'Infinite', was the rapper chosen to contribute to the game's soundtrack.

Any of those rappers could of won that audition, but Infinite landed the role due to his adaptive ability to rap over fast paced video game music. In an interview with Entertainment Report Podcast, the Toronto rapper described the audition as an opportunity, he said..

"It's an opportunity bro, I wasn't gonna let that pass bro, I rapped on that 100 and something beat "he laughed", I rapped on that fast beat and I stayed on it bro, at the end of it, I think it was the next day or later that day, they contacted us and said yo we want to use you guys."

Time was of the essence for Capcom who wanted Infinite to record three unwritten songs, and for your average joe that might have been a dealbreaker. But not Infinite, who wrote three songs in under 24 hours and went to a single studio session with Third Strike's sound team the following day.

In that studio session, Infinite would rap over the main theme, character select screen and ending credits theme. And just like that, Okugawa's mission of crafting a hiphop infused score was complete. Let's take a closer look at the three song he cooked up.

Third Strike” is the main theme of the game and plays during the intro screen. The chorus is looped due to the limitations of the original hardware, which could only hold so much space.

Let’s Get It On” is used as the game's character select theme, and it's one of the coldest character select screen songs you'll ever hear. The theme also plays during interludes between battles, and the continue screen. 
it's one of the coldest character select screen songs you'll ever hear. 
The third and final song "Movin' On" is the jazzy, yet gritty credits theme song, in which Infinite takes the perspective of a Street Fighter character who’s defeated the final boss of the game and has reached the end of their journey. 

What's more, the tracks "Let's Get It On" and "Movin' On" contain samples from famous musicians such as James Brown, Cypress Hill, The Steve Miller Band, Beside and Shades of Brown. 

Okugawa seemed to have a lot of fun making this soundtrack, and it shows, because for example, “The Circuit” is a heart thumping song punctuated by sampling the drum line of Eric B. & Rakim's “Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em”, combined with the guitars from “Kobu”, to set the stage for heavyweight wrestler Hugo.

Overall Okugawa's production has a nostalgic 90s east coast hip-hop vibe to it. You can hear turntables scratching and jazzy bass samples, that give it a real authentic feel.

Plus you know a hip-hop track is from the golden age of rap when it features James Brown samples. Because the Godfather of Soul is one of the most sampled artists in hip hop history. 

It's worth mentioning that the arcade and original soundtrack only featured short snippets of Infinite rapping. And the full versions of his songs weren't officially released until Third Strike was ported to the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2011.

Not only did Infinite work with Capcom on the soundtrack, but he also lent his voice as as the game announcer, providing all of the game's commentary. In his 2020 interview, when discussing his role as the narrator he said, "they gave me pages, it must of said 450 words or phrases."

As the years went by, Okugawa and Infinite would become a genuine dream team for many, and the soundtrack provided a unique appeal, that resonated with hip-hop heads and left a lasting impression on a generation of gamers.

street fighter 3 3rd strike

The only vocalized hip hop track in the game which wasn't recorded by Infinite was “Bonus Game 2”, which as the name implies is Third Strike's second bonus stage, where players have to parry the basketballs Sean throws at them.

Nobody knows who recorded the vocals, but what is known is that they were taken from an obscure acapella sample pack called Masterbits Rapsody Vocals 2 Climax 9.  Interestingly, this sample was also used in a lot of Japanese video games from the 90s.

We also can't forget about "Bonus Game 1" the music for the first bonus stage where you are given 50 seconds to destroy an SUV. The jazzy bassline with the reverb drums and Rhodes piano playing in the background, make for an immaculate piece. It's worth noting that the drumline used in this song was possibly also used by the hip hop duo EPMD.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Third Strike's soundtrack is how it integrates hip-hop and its various elements. It wasn't only a song or two either, a short rap verse, or adlibs lazily thrown onto a track. 

As there were complete songs produced from the ground up, which were hip-hop as hell, while several other tracks utilized sampling techniques and instrumentation that were integral to hip-hop's foundation.

Compared to today's fighting game soundtracks which take a modern, safer approach to music, it's refreshing to look back on Third Strike's diversified soundtrack, even though it was clearly a product of its time.

Right behind the Def Jam fighting game series, it's not hard to see why Street Fighter Third Strike is the most hip hop-influenced fighting game in video game history.


Comments

  1. I hope the Street Fighter 6 music is this good, but knowing Capcom I'm not holding my breath.

    ReplyDelete

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