Yeah, for sure. My name is Adam "Doseone" Drucker. I am 39 years young. I live in sunny fuckin' Oakland, California and let's see: In 1997 I put out my first long-playing recording on vinyl called Hemispheres.
Shortly after that I met all these other dudes that were like-minded sort of offbeat rap-making motherfuckers. We all met via tape trading right before the internet became itself. So, all of these guys sort of became this group of people that knew each other, but out of that formed Anticon, which was about 15 people in the beginning but then came down to a core of about seven human beings. We formed a label and all moved from our middle of nowheres out to the Bay Area and started making music both separately and together in a lot of different pairings and as solo artists. Then, that went on. I did a bunch of albums. I guess I did over 20 albums in 10 years on various major labels, minor labels. I experienced everything from tape trading to, like, the beginning of indie distribution and trying to get a distributor and P&D and then all the way up to, like, the new record I'm doing we're not even making CDs 'cause it's a new future. [Laughs.] So, it's really -- I've lived through pretty much the heyday of independent music.
And then, several years ago, in order to pay off debt from selfless independent music -- not, like, a fun debt like cocaine-Ferrari-cool sorta debts but solemn, grocery store, can't put rent on a credit card -- various things that kept me going over the years. It became sort of crippling.
Like blue-collar debt, basically.
Yeah, yeah. What it costs -- basically, at the end of the day, all these years with how the music sort of went and my doesn't sell anymore, but I was going the career-artist route in my head. Whatever I had going. So, I just found that at the end I sort of paid to play by a couple grands. Too many grands.
But anyway, interest from that debt started to sort of stifle me as a creative trying to do my thing. So, basically, long story short: One of the guys who angel funded Napster, believe it or not, is a friend of mine. He owned an awesome studio and mixed one of the Subtle albums that I did. He started a company that he sold to Viacom and he was like, "Yo, I need a sound guy. We're doing videogames." I was like, "I think I can do that!”
So, I took this crazy fuckin' gig, and the only thing I'd done before was I had overdubbed all of Conan the Destroyer, the one with Wilt Chamberlain and Grace Jones, and that was just for fun. I redid all the music and shit. So, based on that home experiment I was like, "Fuck it, I'll do this shit!" So I ended up making all this crazy shitty -- I learned so much. The work was sort of torturous. I did everything from SpongeBob to Jersey Shore Facebook game. All kinds of crap. But anyway, I learned the wares.
Then I met through Venus Patrol and Vlambeer -- I met the whole independent videogame scene and as that job tapered and I paid off all my debts I sort of found myself deeply inspired by what independent videogames had become. The fact that coming up as a kid in the '80s, I thought all videogames were made in a 20-story building by a bunch of people in Japan. Now, that does sound terrible and racist and small-minded but I just knew no better as far as I was concerned.
So, once I started to learn that all these humans, a lot like indie music, around the world were in small pods making these interesting games that are pretty high art, some of them -- some of them are just fun. Then I just got connected with these dudes and it's kind of like, in a lot of ways, the circle I was meant to be in, where everyone's incredibly motivated and there's no slacking: I do all the sound and audio, someone else does all the programming, someone else does all the art. We just collaborate and make worlds.
So, now I've done a ton of indie games. I just did Enter the Gungeon, which kind of blew up low-key on Steam and PlayStation. Then Gang Beasts is another game that looks to be really awesome and has a great indie following. That's coming out later this year. Then I'm working on a bunch of other shit.
So, but what's interesting is Devolver, the publisher that I work with, they do Hotline Miami and a bunch of games that I did, including Enter the Gungeon. They're, like -- it's funny -- Revolver, which was the indie distributor but that first put out Anticon all these years ago and a bunch of other great labels in the states where it's just a bunch of cool human beings doing right by independent artists unlike in music. So, I think -- there's still a ton of piracy and when you have a hit game pirated on day one, but it doesn't crush everyone. It's just a different scene altogether. There's something about the scene in general that is -- I don't know. It's a little more positive would be the corniest but most correct way to state it, really.
Well, it's always weird to have your words come back to you but I think I saw you say in an interview in 2008, you were talking about the hair metal-ing of rap.
Does that sound familiar as something you would say?
Yeah, yeah. Very much.
It's funny because the way I kind of explain to people who don't pay close attention to videogames what you would maybe consider corporate games or the big-budget AAA games -- the way I explain it is basically it's Guns N' Roses and "November Rain" is the single that's coming out every month, every month, every month.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's Guns N' Guns, really.
The top tier is like -- when you go to PAX, which is the players' conference, it is by far the coolest one to be at and show a game. Everyone wants to be there for their own reasons, but the second I first got to one, immediately I started to judge. I was like, "Woah, these fuckin' wannabe soldier dudes!" 'Cause everyone is there for some SOCOM-ish, Call of Duty-type game, but then you quickly realize that it is because business is so boomin' on that level that we even have people who eventually aren't sated with those sorts of game and to find independent games with a little more heart and stuff. Basically, all fruit falls from this giant soldier tree and it's created a really booming industry and there's all these people constantly getting into it in all these casual ways and more in-depth ways. It's interesting. So, yeah, when you first see AAA, all you think of is these online war games or MOBA games, being an elf forever shit.
Those people -- a lot of motherfuckers love that. You can't take nobody's joy from them, be it good for the body or not. But they -- like, the indie games and that scene altogether are thriving, now, too, and a lot of it is just because there's so many more people into videogames now that you can have a successful indie game title that sells a million copies but it's still by all intents and purposes underground. You know what I mean?
Yeah. I mean, on the flip of that, can you talk a little about the hair metal-ing of rap?
What's the correlate on the rap side of the aisle?
So, what happens is -- right now, I guess I used to say "hair metal," but now these days, five or however many years after I said that, it's really "enter the era of the capitalist car salesman rap."
Like, everything is an itemized list of what they are going to purchase soon or have purchased recently. [Laughs.] It's this -- so what that creates is a same-ness. So, what I meant by the hair-metal thing is you have this -- it's interesting, too, because I've seen a bit of more developing of what I originally was cueing in on with the hair-metal bit. It's partially about just the look of a rapper. It used to be all kinds of motherfuckers could rap but now you just gotta have tattoos. [Laughs.] It's interesting. You pre-package. You get what you pay for. You know what I mean? A lot of people are just paying for the surface. I think that as music has become less album-centric, more song-centric, more on-the-go, more streamified -- whatever the fuck you wanna call it -- it starts to occupy a different space. Possibly a more casual accoutrement-type space in people's lives. So, that sort of reflects in the commitment of some of the artists. I think you have this same-ness of content.
So, like, I love Migos and there's all this shit that I love, but if I were to sing that shit to myself, I sort of feel like my Jewish mom, just talkin' about the quality of my linens: "The thread count, and then have you seen the new truck?" It's like, "I have the new truck!" This whole shit is like, it's what it is, but it's just something that's happening. I think that in hair metal, you had a very similar thing where it was vague music always about what a woman is wearing and what a guy's thinking. It's like: "I was smokin' on the bar!" Then there's something like: "She's got legs like a road!" This shit is -- whatever that is, it was very same-y in that regard. Now a lot of rapping has moved to be kinda about the show.
You mentioned you knew someone involved with Napster. Is there any remorse or regret on the part of people who are involved with Napster as far as --
-- what it's done to music and its role?
You know what, though, man? That shit was coming, man. It was coming no matter what. It's like.
Well, yeah, MP3s are pretty old and now it's already like: Who downloads an MP3 now?
No, it's true. But you know how there's five kinds of vitamin water? You just like the one you like. Or there's four different Gatorades. Like, somebody was coming to Napster all of that shit within the next 18 months.
So, I don't think -- I don't know if people feel remorse or not, but I think that really, though, with that stuff it becomes fuckin' macro social shit where you're actually just -- it takes a village, man. Everybody went to that. Everybody was like, "You know, music? Songs can be worth no more than a dollar and most of the time they're free.”
You know what I'm saying? [Laughs.] So it's like, most other art -- because I can labor over a motherfuckin' painting or a human being who's far more articulate in that genre is illustrating, they make a painting, they spend six months, I spend six months on a song. The maximum I can charge for my song is one human dollar. When you get into that parameter and there's sort of share-piracy, whatever you want to positively negatively state it, really, I don't know. There's not gonna be a future in that. Like, you show that to any old man at a table in the present or the past and he'll be like, "Just make good business, son!" You'll be like, "Oh, all right, totally!" It's just, like -- so, I think that since the music industry is scrambling so hard to still be what it is to people, they're just gonna take what they can get.
So, for me, in doing independent music -- and this is the nice thing. Independent games doesn't have this -- after all my years of doing music, I was built like a hostage. I have Jesus body. Like, someone who doesn't really eat right. Jesus-for-all-the-wrong-reasons body. I even mean mentally or emotionally. Like, you think "scant," and you're like -- if you work hard, some of my contemporaries and peers, they did grokay. Is "grokay" a term? They did really well, but same for them, when I sit and think flexibly about the future, what do all these dudes do? You can't be a cool, happenin' rapper at 47. That ain't gonna fly.
You're not Johnny Cash. We weren't sold that market. So, now, also there's ageism and all this other shit, but that's always going on in all genres. Rap, though, has -- maybe it goes on in videogames. I can't really speak for it. But rap has serious issues with its forefathers and it does not take care of them. So, you have people like Kool Herc and these motherfuckers in that Macklemore video acting like they're his back-up singers. That is so deeply disgraceful when those guys aren't -- they're not a hall of fame. There's no hits station for rap. I mean, there sort of is, but not the way that rock is gilded where you have Hard Rock Cafe. Hard Rap Cafe. [Laughs.] I would love to go to a Hard Rap Cafe, actually.
I would go to a Hard Rap Cafe.
Me too. Any day. So, you have Hard Rap Cafe and it's not just N.W.A there, you have fuckin' Geto Boys and you have Gang Starr and you have Treacherous Three and fuckin' Dickhead Six, whatever, but you have -- we don't have that homage and lineage and shit. So, it's a weird one. That mixed with back catalogue. I think in the future, back catalogue might become incredibly big. People might really be into purchasing on iTunes. You never know what's gonna happen. Things have a minor resurgence, but nothing will restore the former glory. That is not how the world works. Stupidly, I'm just speaking, realistically, something that might happen the same way that vinyl could still float a small boat. But I think that as that develops, you're gonna start to see the shelf life of new, hot tatted-up rapper deluxe man -- super-new MMA rap guy is gonna come onto the scene, he's gonna burn brighter and shorter than ever.
I think that's what you're sort of guaranteed to see. And if we're all lucky, you might see people break through like Kendrick [Lamar] and become a quality artist quickly so they are -- but if you become a quality artist quickly but you're not big enough, you will not go very far. So, he sort of has the luxury of hitting that higher shelf of interest so that he can be himself and still attract listeners in success and shit.
There's other examples of that, too, but most rappers who care for the craft of it and stuff? They're not long for the spotlight. There's not many of those guys.
Let me ask you this. This was one of the things that I was starting to wonder December, November last year where I started to feel like this. You may disagree with this notion, but do you feel like mainstream rap has gotten less violent than it has been?
I don't know.
It can be hard to gauge.
Well, like, popular rap is pretty: "I'm gonna put this fuckin' metal on you. I'm drumming, I'm Philip Drummond, here comes the drum, little drummer boy, hammers from the sky. It's raining hammers." I think there's still a lot of that's the ultimate line in the sand for rap, that they can't think about -- rap is not Christian or something where it's like, "I'll haunt your holy ghost forever!" That's not the ultimate threat. The ultimate threat is still friends with weapons. So, I think it's still pretty much there. I think that -- I mean, the most violent rap was when people first started going there with that shit.
A lot of these -- I don't know, a lot of groups are pretty gunbarry. There's a lot of gunbars, if I think, now pretty openly about all the modern rap that I've been checking out lately. It's not like it's anything sans gunbars, you know?
Do you think it's keeping pace with mainstream corporate videogames? Has one slowed down on its fixation on violence? Or are they pretty much neck and neck?
What's interesting is -- [Laughs.] I will say that, yeah, we look to the whole world right now to clean up its attitude and consciousness with respect to gun ownership, but we don't say it at all about rap. We're just lettin' them be like they're not the same people as us. There's a lot of that with rap, though. I see that. A lot of that: "Let the rappers be crazy!" Pitchfork does it. Everybody does it. It's like, they'll have one bar for the universe and another bar for popular rappers. They're like -- it's a rude, fucked-up diminutive shit that the world likes to do. It's everybody's lifestyle, sure, there's a lot of guns around, a lot of self-protection, but I think when you see all these dudes in a rented home with a million TEC-9's and shit, like, that's you with all your jewelry. Let's be honest: You like to shop.
Let's be fuckin' honest, right? You are not -- it's not like you live in a videogame and last week you had waves of CIA guys hitting the house and you actually ran out of bullets so now, this week, you get extra M16's so you won't run out of bullets. That's just not how shit's working. I think that it's like, you know, adorning the lifestyle and -- the same that tattoos validate possible prison internment.
Yeah, will weaponry validate possible vengeance retaliation, ready for war-ness? I think that a lot of these cats, most of them are ready to get faded and record but what happens is all this other stuff. That said, too, man, a lot of the modern drill shit, these dudes are actually making music about that lifestyle and they're quite literally living that lifestyle. That's a whole other ballgame. They can have that. They can make that. That's valid. But I think the thing about -- it's like, when it catches on, like hair metal, you just have the proliferation of people think -- and this has always been the case. This is not new and this will not go away, but a kid in Ohio starts to write his first rap and he's trying to rhyme with the word "trigger."
That rhymes with the n-word. That wasn't intentional. "Pistol," or something. You know what I'm saying? He's centered around it. He's like, "This rap has gotta start with a self-defense weapon and ninja stars of corny, so I'm going with 'I got a gun.'" That is how you start to write a rap, that's what you think raps are about. When I taught kids to freestyle in Oakland, and they were, like, 14 to 21 was the oldest kid, the first thing that I saw them learn casually was they could use any word in their brain, not just the core vowel sounds surrounding latent rap activity as one would suppose it to exist in their mind. So, they can get off of buzzwords and use the word "trapezoid." You're gonna get yourself into some punishment trying to rhyme with "trapezoid," but, you know, there's stuff out there. They basically would start pulling things -- phrases and other words -- and you still have to not sound like a living book when you say shit that isn't rap, but all things are permissible, I think.
Yeah, no. I think violence and rap, it kind of started from a real place talking about what people were seeing.
Can you contrast that against videogame violence?
No. I think about Ice Cube, right, and you have this shit where right now N.W.A is the highlight, but everyone on the scene of those guys know that a lot of it was fiction. It was projecting.
Like, that dude, or whatever -- the white dude who got all the tattoos and everybody keeps beating him up and shit? You know, what the fuck, man? So, basically -- and Biggie Smalls did that willingly. He went from being a good rapper -- Junior M.A.F.I.A., and, I was around on the rap scene. Like, Junior Mafia and he? They started big-willy rap and they started the foot in the door of the capitalist shopping rap, SkyMall rap.
You know, where you're just listing the things around you in a clever way, brand names first. That sort of came -- anyway, the same thing with violent rap. That wasn't always in rap. Like, the message, the early rap is about being creative and positive. Violent rap was always sorta there, but once it got so popular it'll never go away. But there was all kinds of raps that didn't take like that. There was happy rap. There was horrorcore. That didn't really do well. They didn't even want that. They wanted urban violence/sounds like maybe you did do it, reasonable enough. You can't be like, "Yesterday I shot 100 cops!" That used to happen all the time and it doesn't really happen anymore. Now it's very literal.
Then, with videogames, they sell you -- they have disbelief on their side, so they sell you the kind of firefight you want to be in. You want to be dropped into Fallujah for $9.99? We'll fuckin' do it! They're all about that shit.
That's the same shit, though, that Biggie Smalls picked up on with big-willy rap. He's like, "These guys just wanna be at a Neiman Marcus and act like everything's half-off. They want diamonds on their necks." I think you can just extrapolate, so, they just sell you a slot that they fit themselves into that you can then by design think about. I think that violence and ballin' have become two of the mainstays.
When I got into rap, the one that I was the most sold on for whatever reason was being a lyrical Afrocentric interesting guy. I was very sold on X Clan and De La and Kool Keith. He wasn't really Afrocentric, but he was off-kilter and more unique. It's just what people are drawn to. That's the way of the world.
So, I think right now the games thing -- let's see, but, yes, definitely. They pre-suppose -- they're like, "These are the kinds of fights people wanna get in." They're definitely doing that. They're projecting. They're taking into account where everyone would like to see themselves and they're creating that for people with in-game assets, you know what I mean?
With rap, it's generally with the video and the lyrical.
What about sexism and misogyny in videogames and rap? Do you perceive them being different or similar?
You know what? So, like, I see racism and sexism. Completely different things, but they -- what's that shit about? I don't even know if I'm remembering Groundhog Day correctly, but, you know how it's like if something doesn't come out of its hole if you're watching it.
Yeah, a watched pot doesn't boil?
Yeah, a watched pot doesn't boil, a watched pot doesn't n-bomb unnecessarily or be overtly sexist and put everything in a battle bikini and give it DDD-sized breasts. Like, if now there's more women present in these games that had barriers in the industry for women to go further in games, there were all kinds of real barriers, and then there was just not enough women. Over time there was a slower curve, women getting into games, women getting into making games, women getting into the industry. It's always been male-saturated. Like any early industry, too many dicks in the pot for sure.
Rap, of course, sadly, has the exact same thing. Rap, you have a lot of stuff where most of the women that have been successful in rap, sadly, are male-posturing. So, most of the women I encountered on the battle scene, in the ciphers, were kinda like she-dick. They were like really fuckin' putting it on you. Like, there wasn't much room in rap in the '90s and before that to express yourself as a woman. Or, for that same token, if you were gay, you had to speak rap lingo. Not that being gay makes you know another lingo, but there's probably some stuff you're not including about how you're feeling and your unique take.
When you're different than everyone else there, you have a unique take that you tend to hear from minorities in rap -- which are not the minorities in the world, so sort of a reverse minority in some of that way -- so it's harder to speak for yourself and it's harder to speak uniquely. But now there's gay rappers doing amazing and being themselves and there's more women. I'm still waiting for the awesome woman rapper who is not trying to stand where men stand. It's a whole 'nother platform of what women can contribute, I think, to everything. Rap is one of those things -- you know how there's that terrible stigma with people about the NBA and the WNBA: "That's not basketball! That's girl basketball!" It's like the concept of the girl push-up or something. Rap has that so bad. It's sad. So, only over time and undeniable, awesome examples of kick-ass women doing them can we thwart and turn that clock back a little or just make room for that other shit.
But I think that in games , same exact thing except women are just -- actually it's so different. Women are just abused, man, when they're not around. So, you got a bunch of dudes, the early N.W.A music, which they left out of that movie, which I loved, which was the intense sexism. They started "bitch," too. They didn't just start --
I just saw that movie. Yeah, they cut out a lot of --
They did so! There was no beating on women!
I was going to say, they made some specific choices of what to exclude, yeah.
Yeah, and, like, automobiles -- all of these dick-sucking interludes? They started all that shit. You know what I'm saying? "Treat Her Like a Prostitute." All of that! That is, again, no ladies in the room when they was getting penned and laid down. I think the same goes for the videogames where, for whatever reason, the woman goes into battle with cleavage showing. I don't know about you, but when you're a guy in Call of Duty, you have six flak jackets and a bulletproof eye-goggle. When you're a woman, you have your breasts out and your midriff exposed. You know what I'm saying? That shit is like guys are sitting there and what they're saying in the room is, "She doesn't look ready for battle enough yet." So they take off her midriff and show cleavage and then they're like, "She's ready for battle!" But really they're saying, "She doesn't look hot enough yet. Okay, now she's hot and we can battle!" So, you have this sort of mass marginalization of women. Then, occasionally in rap you had songs like "Dear Mama," where it's like, "Yo, my mom is the only!" [Laughs.] There's even lines in those songs where: "All the other hoes are just bitches but you're my mom! You're the good ho!"
It's like, and that shit is never going away and I think -- in games, now, there's a huge movement and it's happening and it's taking more traction because the indie games community is, I think, a little more accountable for their humanity and I think that's a good thing. Not on every level and I really wouldn't take that general statement all the way up to the top of AAA-dom, because there was all that Gamergate shit and everything. I really don't speak for everyone on that. But I do think that, in general, they're a little more in touch with their humanity, the people who are responsible for game creation and content creation, right? They're reading this shit, they're online, they're seeing Twitter, and they're having a visceral response to it.
Whereas, I think with rap and modern music and all the people who make it, it's never really been music's thing to -- that's how you can be Marilyn Manson. You're like, "I don't care if I said, 'Fuck a rat and eat a dead chicken.' I'm Marilyn Manson. Let me be me." You know what I mean? So, that whole thing, which is important for art and breaking through stereotypes and genres -- the standards between the two industries are not identical in that regard. It's different.
There's a similar baseline bullshit.
Of course. Yeah.
In Gamergate, it's: "These games are for us, they're not for you." There was a similar energy in rap of: "This isn't for white people."
Not agreeing with those conclusions --
Yeah. That went away real quick, and -- okay, so, if we follow that train of thought we would say, yes, early rap, late '80s, early '90s was like: "Hey, white people can like this but it's not for them and it's not by them."
"We're rap. We're expressing ourselves, yadda yadda." Fast-forward a thousand years later, whatever years later, and now you go to a concert and the only black guy's onstage and his DJ is some other denomination and it's not necessarily about coming from black folks to black folks. There's still music that does that and that is still a part of hip-hop but that is of course not what the core of it is. Whereas classical music is kept real as fuck. That shit is by old white people, for old white people. [Laughs.] It's like they're spitting into their own penis. That's a terrible term. They're peeing into their own mouth.
"You wouldn't be educated enough to understand it and appreciate it," basically.
Right. Right. So, but -- sorry, I lost my train of thought. We were talking about it not being for white people. So, the logic would be that all these years later, rap is made by a certain group of people, certain neighborhoods, localities in the United States of America. It's by them, for them, it gets popular, it goes outward. Thirty years later, it's all white folks. So, if videogames -- it's weird. They're saying it's just for them but now there's all these -- I guess it's sort of similar, you just can't -- I mean, lots of people like matzo now, too. Jews are cool with it.
Like, shit gets out of your hands, you know what I'm saying? Motherfuckers like tacos. Like, regional arts, crafts, and expressions sometimes go big and all sorts of people get into them. Gamergate was saying that 50 years later and $700 billion in marketing later, that this is white penises only, and that is what's really fucked up because when you run billboards everywhere, like, in fuckin' urinals and on city buses and in the sky and on the internet about your new videogames but it's only for? That's just fucked up. So, when you have insiders actually going against all the capitalist and marketing-based maneuvers they make to exploit their works, like, that's a horrible, horrible -- they should all be burned at the stake for that. But I think in reality, though, you don't really have this thing where now in rap -- it just doesn't get talked about that much. That it's so big and when you're a huge rapper, it's all kinds of people buying your music. That's sort of that topic and that guilt.
That has left the song format, but reality is true and living and present. When you look at games, it's not like Call of Duty is 95 percent female players or something, which would be interesting. If that happened, I don't know? Then maybe it would be a total moot point, but I think the reason that these dickheads could be so brashly dickheaded about Gamergate and being sexist and being so boldly sexist in this day and age? I guess that's because they have still just have mostly men around them or something? Or all that money they make, women wouldn't affect it if they all left the room anyway? They must have a logic that keeps them on path with saying those horrible things and projecting those horrible things onto people. But I think -- first, and so I guess in that way, like, you don't really see that. It'd be awesome if Kanye -- I mean, he talked a little bit about that. It would be awesome if he did this white-shaming song, just expressed. He's tried. He'll tweet at it. He'll nibble at it a little bit, but people don't really -- and it's good because it's horrible. I'm glad that's not really happening because the Gamergate shit was deeply embarrassing and you just -- anyone of the lukewarm to mildly educated variety really needs to put the sexist, racist card down. It's just inflexible and inappropriate, you know? But it's interesting. It still seems to pop up all big in front of everyone.
Do you think -- I mean, I don't know. I don't want to paint it like you're calling for the industry to do X or Y, but I'll tell you part of what struck me about what it was going down and getting underway was no one said nothing, no one in the industry looked the other way. It made me wonder: Is the industry afraid of its own audience that it built up?
Well, are you talking about Gamergate?
Well, the Gamergate thing is, to be honest, man? A lot of my friends got doxxed.
A lot of mine did, too.
The reality is that that's some rap-ass shit. That shit is horrible, having your soc be the front of your webpage. All that shit is, like, those dudes? They pull the Republican and they fought really dirty, they fought dirtier than anyone who is trying to clean up the fighting business. [Laughs.] All these people on whatever side it is, be positive, can't be sexist side of Gamergate? They're just trying to clean the place up a bit and these guys come in fighting double dirty and actually, like, it's the equivalent of shooting at your home. in rap. You know what I mean? They didn't kill your life, but they threatened 90 percent of your safety for the duration of the drivebying or whatever, shooting up wherever you rest. I think that that's crazy dark. That shit is -- and of course, nice person on the other end don't doxx them back. It's fucked up, man. The world is still, when it comes to it, low blows. If you can execute them, they get executed. I'm not sure what that whole -- it's pretty embarrassing all the way around to have retaliation. It just shows how stupid they are.
This is an odd question, but sometimes with this I'm just curious about things other people see out on the internet that confounds them, maybe round videogames or maybe not. I think you're uniquely qualified to answer this: When you see people arguing on the internet, does it remind you at all of battle rap or is it different?
No, no, no. You're not accountable. That's the big thing about those doxxing dudes, like, you come doxx me to my fuckin' face, tough guy. Like, that is first-world war. That is gross. That is 10,0000,000 miles away, offbrand, covering your tracks. It is not manly. [Laughs.] Let's be straight up about it. If these games were "a man's game?" There's nothing less manly than invisibly doxx-attacking someone. I think that the same thing for not being accountable for your actions. A lot of time -- I'm a very positive person, but there is one thing that I find that I learned when I was a younger me in worser places, and I think of it a lot when I meet certain people. I'm sure you've met them in your life. Sometimes you go into a room and someone is just behaving in a way where you're like, "This fucking person has never been punched in their face." Were they punched in the face once in their human life, it would have set them completely straight. I think that that -- a lot of that doxx shit, like, those motherfuckers just need a clean punch in the kisser, man. Reset that clock. Taking that kind of advantage of people? You're just not grounded. That's not how you start or finish a fight. It's definitely -- I don't know. It's crazy, man. I think, so, with a lot of internet beef interaction like that, for me, that goes under the same column as you can go get an entire body covered in tattoos and show up looking like you got a story, but really you just burned an inheritance or whatever the fuck it is. That shit ain't cheap. So, it's sort of like -- it's another thing where they're trying to just posture. So, I think that's -- now that we're talking about it -- the big thing to the detriment of both industries, that they have in common is over-present male posturing in all these aspects.
I think that the kind of critique that I'm offering what we're talking about is to the detriment of the booming business that it is. So, again, what we're really speaking to is a willingness in the populace to allow this all to be No. 1 fun. So, playing soldier is No. 1 fun the same way that Napster started to happen and everyone was like, "Songs can be a dollar but mostly free." It's like -- all the Gamergate guys are like, "Videogames can be for everyone but they have to be mostly war." I think that rap can be for everyone but it has to be mostly materialistic. I guess if you look at it, rap is actually in a better space than the most hit videogames, which are completely still centered around violence. So, maybe not Minecraft. Maybe that's something that escapes the super-hit videogames. Or Truck Simulator. Truck Simulator does well. Not so much about violence. But the really big games that make a billion space dollars are war-centric, and I think rap -- at least the really hit rap, a lot of the big rap -- is moving away from that. Future, everyone's singing about how much they enjoy cough syrup. That's so pleasant in comparison to war-mongering. You know? I like cough syrup, too, but I think that the reality is in that way rap is a lot better off and probably more creative for it.
Yeah, do you think rap kind of got over it a little bit because it was coming from a more real place to begin with?
Well, sure. Yes, and I think that really realistically you just have more dudes that are not deeply violent. So, you're just looking at people like Riff Raff who, like, I don't know what Riff Raff was before this or Drake, who was a retarded child actor on fuckin' Degrassi, like, goddamn, he totally should drop all abrasive "I'll kill you in the street" posturing. I am glad he doesn't propagate that. I am glad he's talking about how good he looks in his new shirt or whatever he's talkin' about. That's great. So you have that kind of stuff doing well and he's aligning himself with Abercrombie. No, I think that he is representing something else and therefore you have more people like him and other people that are successful with that, and they're actually not talking about that this is gonna ell end in bullets hitting the floor in a shoot-up, I'll drop bombs on your moms. So, I think -- then there's still examples of that. There's a lot of hard drill shit that's absolutely about being prepared to retaliate at all times. So, I think that that -- and that's what that's about and I think rednecks should be allowed to, as long as it's not racist -- you know those guys that just sit around shooting cans all day?
They should have a form of expression and we should all have to tolerate it. You know, it's okay. As long as it's not taking from someone else, you should really turn whatever you're spending all your time doing into song and play it for the world.
There is a bit of a -- I think only examples clean up industry. So, only fuckin' Flappy Bird and what's a big hit on the videogame scene that no one expected? I can't really pull one out that just exploded, but something that is -- there's so many indie games and amazing games like Journey that did pretty popular with people. It's about a journey. There's no bad guy. There's no reload button. You know, like, you can make something of extreme quality and extreme value both artistically and in a craft sense to people and it can do well. It's just that time is coming now. I think it's women's -- in so many ways, this is more and more a lot of things are about women, even this Ghostbusters thing that might suck as a film, it's great that they were like, "Know what? All girls!" That's amazing. At the same time, though, like, take it with a grain of salt: All that shit is too little, too late and if I were a feminist-activist, young or old woman, I would not loosen up on the reins and I would keep fighting everything because it's great that it's women's time right now, but all this shit is, like Black Lives Matter, it's so important to fight that shit but it's so sad that we're still at this middling point in these fights in fuckin' 2016. It's pathetic. It's pathetic. You know what I'm saying? I don't think it's anything to be proud of, but it is something to be motivated by and keep pushing forward. And again, only examples of the exact opposite will allow people to have examples by which they might deviate in their path to create things. Really, you and I are talking, about two things seem to arise: It's about the core creators doing good or bad with the content creation and then this sort of willingness of the mass purchasing populace to let it flop. So, that dynamic creates big and small ponds. A lot of things -- it's crazy, yo -- people get into that shit. That's what funny to me, too, is so many people -- shooters are so popular now. You'll meet a really dainty human who loves to garden but also loves an FPS! It's fuckin' huge!
So, it just shows you that you can't even stop. That's the same way, like, back when I came up you would meet a waifish nerdy white dude and his favorite thing in the world is CMW or fuckin' UGK and you're like, "What! You like Too Short?" And he's like, "I love Too Short!" When things get big enough, you can't fight inclusion and I think that the content of people, it starts to become a business. It's less about personal expression and stuff.
So, what's cool about the indie industry, at least from the game side, is it's very much about personal expression and people are actually creating the things they don't see available. So, when I started making music, like, when Matador and Warp were first starting, it really felt like that's what Anticon was. Like, people wanted to pigeonhole and make it genres and all that stuff. That's all well and fine. That's their job to whip out nomenclature. But our job was to make something that was in between Matador, in between Warp, and in between Soul Sides. Like, rap. We were -- you're doing what it isn't done. It's like fuckin' Etsy. You're like, "Oh, I wish I had a fork that could wrap around my wrist and also get texts." Then boom! There it fuckin' is!
So, you do that, and that is the joy of a medium, which was once pop and created by only money, mass time and mass investment. Now it's available for everyone and doable on a personal home rigged or home recording, like, everyone can have it now. So now that everyone has access to the medium, they start to create content that fills the gaps between the reason to be big. I think when books started to first get produced, there was the Bible and the only thing that was big after that was, like, Marquis de Sade and smutty books. So, then it took 7 million years to get War and Peace. To get real books manufactured and distributed and into the hands of people and minds and shit.
You just had the same thing where now that everyone is doing videogames and making them at home and making them and they're like, "You know what? I always loved the play mechanic in Final Fantasy, but I want it to be about breaking up with a shitty boyfriend." People are making that kind of game. When you play that shit, it's moving, you get chills. The artists that are involved take it seriously and they have a personal stake in something that's incredibly complicated and used to be so locked away like classical music still is. And rap, too, it's the same way. When I came up, you couldn't just record, man. I used to have to go to drastic lengths to record my voice on ADAT. Before computers and USB mics, you couldn't just enter rap. Now, dude, you can just go. Get some tattoos, get a fuckin' -- what's that stupid ball that everyone has? The Blue snowball mic?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Boom! Buy a beat off the internet. You are going. So, I think barriers to entry have a positive and negative effect. So, we're a product of home recording and all that shit and there's good rap that's affected it, and I'm a mainstream success.
When I hit you up saying I wanted to talk to you about this, was that kind of a stretch for you? Had you thought about that before, whether rap had influenced videogames or vice versa?
Well, no, I don't think they share much, man. I think they just have the same male chauvinist footprint that they're now trying to compensate for in positive and creative ways, and then you have backlash and stuff like that. You have the paradigms of successful rap and the paradigms of successful videogames and how they thwart and inspire us. But I think, no, prior to this I, dude? What you were talking about when I first got the email I was like, "This is bullshit. I lived this. I went from rap to videogames." [Laughs.] I had a pea-brained rapper reaction to that.
I was like, "There isn't shit similar between the two, I'll tell you right now." The hustle and the amount of posturing and the hard work and creativity I had to put into an independent rap music career was dynamically different. But I'm a weird fucked up case of that where I happened to be lucky that some of the guys that were in high school being like, "You know, I don't like rap. It's only about this or that." They actually found my music and now I'm meeting those guys and they design games and I'm like, "Hey! Well, I do music!" You know, and I get to work with people who understand my place in the universe and that's a huge non-monetary reward for me as an artist and human being. So, that's a huge benefit which makes me tainted data as far as that shit goes because my music career and my rap experience did affect how positively I'm experiencing independent videogames. So, it feels like conclusion to me because of my other work. That said, I'm also smart enough to -- I'm good at reading a room and reading a contract, whatever, across time. So, just the two industries are in very different states. Whereas like the indiepocalypse they're talking about in games right now where you can't just be indie or there's too many indies, no one's gonna do good, we're splitting the pie too many ways. Like, music has that problem. Film. That's just the new problem, dude. You got wood? You're gonna get termites. Fucking deal with it. That's what they eat. People eat apps now. So, you're fucked.
It's content. Yeah. Everybody's doing it. So, I think that that's -- you know, in general, the indie scene just is a bit more positive surrounding these content creators and a bit more of a community is in place and a bit more effort is made to keep it in place. Now, that said, in the last five years, I've watched the indie scene get bigger and bigger and some of its stars have a harder time being themselves because of the attention. So, you know, it's still in its infancy. Five years from now, there might be some depressing ways it went and some inspiring ways it went. We don't know. But I think that's always an option, same as with music.
No matter what, to be a career artist and make it from A to B and still be doing what you should and not have commodified it, turned it into a job, turned it into less of what it is to be more of what it could be to an audience. If you can do that, Jesus Christ, there's no God, but there is that kind of life. If you can actually do that, you're so lucky and you work so hard. You can't take anything from humans because that really isn't what happens. What generally happens is someone does amazing on their first thing or their first four things and the world eats them up, or they just have to go because getting to -- it's an interesting world. Or, the other thing that happens is someone does really well and quickly becomes a shadow of their former self and a more digestible version of them that can saturate the system more clearly and quickly. That's sort of what you see.
Later in life, some artists have the luxury of coming back and doing something interesting and relevant again but that, again, takes effort and starving yourself. It's interesting.
Well, so, you were talking about paradigms of success. You've worked with some developers who are pretty popular in the game space.
What do you feel seems to determine what gets popular in games?
Well, on the indie scene, I guess it's just -- like me, as a dude, right now? What I'm noticing is it's games -- 'cause I've been working on Gang Beasts and Enter the Gungeon -- that are streamable in the sense that you can feel like you're again, to say this the 90th time in this interview, creating your own content. So, all these procedurally generated games that allow you to feel like you just made a good episode. Any game that unravels quickly and at a pace and enthralls you in such a way where you finish a play session and feel like you just also finished a good episode of your life story, those games are gonna do amazing because those games are instant holistic good-for-you advertising. It's like -- the only time I've seen in this fucked up universe, like, marketing that isn't making me sick. So, I'm watching Northernlion or an awesome streamer play Enter the Gungeon or Binding of Isaac, he's on his 700th Isaac run. Dude. So, that's two human years playing once a day with thousands and thousands of people watching because they like how he does it. It's basically like the kind of promotion that Nickelodeon and Viacom and all these big, huge companies can't figure out and can't buy. They're just like, "How do you do that! How do you become a meme?" Or whatever.
"How do we go viral?"
Yeah, "How do we go viral?"
Yeah, yeah. [Laughs.]
"How do we build viral into the next product?” That's what they're all talking about now. They don't even understand. So, I think those games are going to do well. Games that have done well are games that fuckin' do what other games did that you liked but put it on its ear and own it and make it something completely new -- games like Fez are fucking huge. Spelunky is amazing. That's amazing because -- two different things. Spelunky is my favorite game and it's a success and it's indie and it's underground. I don't even know what to compare it to in music. Trying to think of seminal things that are still underground. Fuck. It's really hard. ESG? That doesn't even count. But Spelunky changed everything.
Maybe Fugazi is actually, probably a good example. But, like, Spelunky -- once you play that game, and this is what I tell my music friends who are like, "I don't wanna play this fuckin' cave game." I'm like, basically, once you start playing procedural games you can get better at playing the videogame but not the levels.
It's this simple, blindingly intriguing new way to play. Permadeath mixed with procedural generation of good and bad things is just amazing. You don't even realize what you're liking until you're into it. So that stuff is what's doing well.
But there's also, on the indie level, I mean, everything's indie now, too, man. There's so many successful games where two guys left a huge studio. The game that I'm working on next, Absolver, for Devolver Digital, is a bunch of awesome dudes who left Ubisoft. and made a really successful first-person shooter and they were like, "Yeah, not doing that." So, they were treated really well there. There's also great stories like that. Like, nobody in the history of the music industry was like, "I really love working at Capitol Records. It was amazing! Everyone was so nice!" That's never, I don't think, been the case.
You can meet motherfuckers -- like, when you work on the shittier side of games things where they're firing 30 people and hiring 15 next month, that's really painful and anonymous and you feel like cattle. But when you're at some of these better companies, from what I hear, you actually can be pretty happy at your job and you're making the kind of game you always wanted to make.
So, but a lot of the indies are people that are born from that and learn all the craft they could and execution stuff and they came and now are making something incredibly valid. Whereas, like -- that's sort of a similarity but not the same in rap. Like, a lot of early rap was a dude like Buckshot 40 from Black Moon. He was a dancer. He was a dancer and somebody was like, "Hey, man. You should rap. It's easy." He was like, "Okay!" In his case, he actually became a very influential rapper/lyric-writer/flower. Terrible term. But the way he put it down, no one had before. and it added a lot to the guild of all things rap. So, he's a great example of it. There's a lot of other examples. I think the Cella Dwellas were dancers. Tupac was a dancer.
Saafir was a dancer. So, it's like -- motherfuckers are like, "Yo boss, why are you just dancing and smoking blunts? You could be out there with your name in lights. That shit is easy.” And so, they're like, "Okay, it is easy."
You don't really -- in games, you have these guys that are like, "This shit is really hard. We all need to quit together or get fired together 'cause it's gonna be 10 of us and we're gonna have to work really hard and it's we're gonna make something amazing and we're never gonna sleep." So, it actually isn't the same incestuous sort of backdoor that you take to get into making your own shit.
But it is still like the same thing where it's people from the industry rising from the dead to help create a future for the industry because generally if we let it go the way it goes, it would all be pop.
You mentioned in our email, this whole thing, how games like to act like they're bigger than Hollywood but the process actually resembles TV a little more. You mentioned before, that's what helps make a successful game: You watched an episode of something. Can you talk a little bit about AAA games as TV and how it treats its people?
Well, yeah. There is some cool stuff, too. There are very positive aspects of games. It's basically when you play some of these fighters -- maybe Assassin's Creed is a good example of that where it was probably 79 people who made it, another 85 marketed it. Huge game. It's probably more than that. I don't even fuckin' know what I'm talking about. Don't even know what studio made it. Don't really care. But it's a massive game and it basically allows you to be the ninja you can't in real life. Movies can't really do that.
Right now, everyone's leaning to want VR to be as cool as it should be in the movies 20 years ago. But nothing's really that fun yet. But in theory, what VR's gonna let you do is go be ninja for 40 minutes at work! You're like, "Man, I'm having the worst day at work. Fuck it! I'm gonna play Ninja Rising Eyes 2." And you go in there and you're a ninja and you kick seven dicks and you chop a guy and you steal some bread and you take your VR helmet off and go back to work and feel better about shit. So I think what videogames can offer is complete disbelief suspension and giving you the world in a way that -- at the end of a day, if you're in a 3D Omnimax you might think you're Jason Statham for five seconds. But you don't really go home and be like, "I'm fuckin' Statham!" But when you're in there you're like, "I'm fuckin' Assassin's Creed guy!" I think that is the height of the positive side of what movies and films can and TV can't do that games can.
The way that it's sorta bluggin' shitty is my experience at Viacom. They just do this thing where they try and tack on value, so they're fuckin' makin' another goddamn army game but this time it's Kiefer Sutherland as the voice and you're actually -- are you ready for this? -- in this one it's all the newest Ford cars. You're driving all the newest, latest Ford cars including four Ford cars they can't even make yet. And! There's Yeezys, everyone has Yeezys! So it's like, there's this thing where they're throwing good money after bad where it should be part of the world or stuff like that. It started to happen with GTA, which is cool. GTA did it right where they had all these different radio stations and that was how they let off-brand work and marketing and world into their world. That was cool because you're in a car and it's compartmentalized and it really adds to the world.
Then there's examples where it ruins everything. Also, there's all this cutscene shit and they put cinema -- so, everything wants to be an alternative to cinema a little bit.
You know, it wants to have a pinky in there. It's not like you get extra points for that, but it's just what AAA thinks AAA does. It's basically like unspoken dress codes for church. You're fuckin' up the whole program if you don't go with what is prescribed, generally. Something with enlarging boobs there. Different mechanism vaguely but it's the same shit. They're like, "That's how boobs are supposed to be! They're supposed to be really big! You can't see them if they're not big!" [Laughs.] They have a different problem with how they include value from the world around us. So, I think that there's this over-produced/under-produced thing.
But then, what that creates then is a really shitty cutscene with Kiefer Sutherland's voice that you're fast-forwarding. Boom! Universe didn't need it. So, you have this shit where -- I feel the same way when I watch poorly manufactured -- you know the movies you only see when you're traveling on an airplane where you're like, "Fuck! I'm stuck in front of this Kate Moss movie? Fuck! I gotta see Matthew McConaughey with his shirt open breaking up with a woman the whole movie." So, that shit, and the same way that shitty action movies are just horrendous, like that one about all the Egyptian gods and they're all white and British. I think it's called, like, Gods of Egypt. It's another thing where it's misspent stuff.
I was just on a flight and I wound up seeing, I think, Edge of Tomorrow? Do you know that one?
Oh, yes! That was really bad, too.
Which is based on a manga where there are no white people in it.
Oh my God.
I think the book is called All You Need is Kill. I remember hearing about it years ago and I saw the whole movie and I was like, "I think it was based on that?"
It was kind of funny to compare that to big-budget games where --
Yeah! Well, they're not really in the business of making good movies. So, it's like they're doing that and now you have -- and they're hiring these guys from the companies, though. Like, they'll fuckin' hire the screenwriter from Transporter. [Laughs.] I don't know. I'm just making shit up here.
Yeah, they're like, "We can get the guy who did all the script rewrites for Transporter. What do you think?" They're like, "Yeah!" And then you have him come in and he writes all the cutscenes and the game plays like a MOBA with a gun and you're just looking at a shitty run cycle for the rest of your life. You know, so it's like -- then there's example that undo everything I'm saying and are really well-defined for what they are. But, you know, again videogames -- with the army game, Destiny is amazing and people love it. You get more and more people playing that aren't really war-philes.
Yeah, let me ask you this: Let's say people sort of get their heads together in videogames or videogame industry and they decide to maybe take some cues from elements of rap philosophy or rap music or just the thinking that goes into it. What are lessons that you think would be good for videogames to learn from rap? Or do you think it's a fool's errand to compare one medium to another?
No, I think the only thing that I've sort of discovered is remarkably true: The foreboding omnipresent and male presence and that both artforms truly suffer for. What we're really talking about, too, is how much successful ventures in a medium dictate that medium's output and appreciation for itself and all that shit. So, basically, it's like the things that we're finding in all these comparisons are really all the high-level things -- but, again, what I'm talking about is indie. That also, too, is really disrespectful to say that is based on indie rap because indie rock did what I was a part of as an indie rapper fuckin' six to 10 years before us.
So, basically, like, it's just indie. So, you have indie, which is people who are either fed up by the status quo and all the success that's present in a time or some people who are just born thinking differently. I had to unlearn the world before I could think differently. But some motherfuckers are just geniuses at 20 or whatever the fuck it is, and everybody should always get out of their way and stuff like that. They're making indie, too. There's people who now know better that make indie and there are people who are just fuckin' awesome and lucky and talented and on a beeline to be themselves. That's the path to indie. There's still really shitty indie changing everything and stuff. And rap, I don't personally enjoy Macklemore at all but he's packing -- I just hear legend of him packing the Seahawks Stadium. And he owns his own music! That's fucking crazy. Or he does NBA -- it's atrocious shit, but he does NBA halftime music guy. You know? But he's indie! And that's awesome.
Otherwise, that slot would be paid for 10 times over and not by interest but by cash on the barrelhead. So, all opportunities will be pre-purchased unless someone's talent gets them there. So, I think that that's kinda cool. The indie thing is definitely going between both. Ultimately, it does -- I don't know that I have a lot about rap that I can say that's incredibly positive. I think that rap needs to -- you know how Hasidic Jews every so many years, they re-interpret the Torah so that they can include iPads and Diet Coke and shit? Again, I'm facetiously pawing at what they do include, but they do look at the old word of this thing they've been following since time started for them and they're like -- I feel like rap needs to look at its core tenets now that it is no longer what it started as and re-evaluate to project a hardcore creativity out as well as just trying to blow up. Everyone's trying to blow up. It's like 900 Thor's or Hercules's. Everybody's out there lying: "Well, this one time I had killed 10 lions and four dragons and rescued five princesses." You know, you have everybody saying that on a smaller and smaller piece of legend. It's interesting.
I think there could be stuff that could happen if rap gets a hold of itself but I feel like possibly -- videogames can't save itself, either. It's just the people doing it on the smaller independent levels can do it right from jump street. It's like having a baby and giving it health food, man. Keepin' it out of McDonald's. That's the only way. And then eventually -- I don't actually know how organically Minecraft was started, but something like that where you go to this insane level and was at a time an independent venture and then we sell it to the guys who make Post-It notes and military soap and Microsoft. I think there's stuff there. I think it's big business and videogames and rappers love videogames but they only love the basketball-shooty ones.
You know what? If there was basketball with handguns in the back of your shorts, you might have the greatest rap game on your hands ever. Whatever AAA ends up reading this article, they should put a team on that right now. Heavily armed basketball. Casketball.