It started with the Atari 2600.
A young Raheem Jarbo sat in his living room in Philadelphia, gobbling up pellets in Pac Man and jumping pits and running the jungles of Pitfall.
That became an obsession with the Super Nintendo and then PlayStation, which ultimately led to Final Fantasy VII, as it often did.
Now, Raheem Jarbo, AKA Mega Ran, travels the country performing his rap songs based on the giant video game franchise.
In a far-reaching interview, we talked about his obsession with the game and some of his rap influences.
The OVG: Why did you decide to put your spin on Final Fantasy VII?
MEGA RAN: A: The music, that’s all. I already knew the story was great, but to make a complete concept album I wanted to make sure that the music could be flipped into hip hop tracks that not only sound good by themselves, but would sound new with hip hop lyrics on top of them. I’d done it in previous years with 8 and 16-bit tunes but this would be the first time I tried it with 32-bit, CD-quality music. But it worked!
OVG: Why do rap and video games go together so well?
MR: From the beginning of rap, storytelling has been important. From “The Message” and it’s harrowing tale of street life to the “Rapper’s Delight” verse about eating a friend’s nasty food, it’s always been there. The best MCs have always been the ones who could tell a captivating story, same as with game designers.
OVG: Who else do you think is doing good work in “nerdcore” music?
MR: I’m really digging Wreck The System, LEX The Lexicon Artist, NyteXing, and SkyBlew. All of them are creating great art and I know that we’re in good hands with them out there.
OVG: When did you know that you “nailed it” with Black Materia?
MR: I never felt that way, ha! I just knew that I loved it. I would’ve never thought this would last this long. Part of creating a classic isn’t even about the actual product; sometimes it’s just luck, being around at the right time and dropping something everyone needs and of course, nailing the execution.
OVG: Pick your favorite baby. Good luck.
MR: Forever Famicom is probably my favorite creation: Black Materia came the year after so I feel it may have overshadowed it, but to me it was the first time that video game and hip hop culture combined over a full album that shouldn’t have worked out— and yet it somehow managed to please both sides. It’s like the musical manifestation of the Romeo & Juliet story; but instead of a tragic ending, imagine that they had a kid, and both families met the baby and then forgot what they were fighting for. That opened the door for Black Materia to work, so I’m always thankful to K-Murdock (the producer of that album) for taking that journey with me.