Today, the new Adam Sandler comedy Pixels hits movie theaters. With a premise ripped from today’s headlines about aliens finding a time capsule full of our early-'80s video games and mistaking it for a declaration of war, it seems like the ways to market nostalgia knows no bounds. Any why should it? Any time we can get the comfort food of a simpler time scooped into daily intake of a new day, it makes the medicine of mortality go down a little bit easier.
But writing to love letter to classic games isn’t a recent revelation. No, for decades (three counts as plural) even musicians have worked in some of the music we treasure from the golden age of gaming that Pixels is bringing to the big screen. To give you a playlist on the way to the multiplex, we bring you 10 tracks that samples classic (i.e. pre-1985) video games!The Chilly Kids — “Ice Arcade”
Starting off we have this late-era Sugar Hill Records entry “Ice Arcade.” With hip-hop in its infancy, some still grumbled about it being a fad so what better way to prove them wrong than by making a song about another fad — the ice arcade! Lots of game sounds (and a very disheartening callback reference at the song’s conclusion) can be heard.Klymaxx — “Video Kid”
Also peppering several video game sounds is the disturbing “Video Kid” from Klymaxx. As sultry and seductive as the song is, it’s about someone who is forlorn for the loins of a child who happens to be very good at video games. Yes, it’s a real song.Beanie Sigel — “Mac Man”
This 2000 banger from Beanie Sigel’s debut album made clear right off the bat that it was not a game. Yes “Mac Man” may sample Pac Man, but Beanie’s foreboding and intimidating tone is enough to make the song strike fear into the heart of more than just multicolored ghosts.Lil Flip — “Game Over”
On the flipside of the Pac binary is Lil Flip’s “Game Over” which sampled Ms. Pac Man. You’re going to notice a lot of rappers mentioning “games” when actually sampling games. It’s basically free play wordplay.Musab (a.k.a. Sab the Artist, Beyond) — “My World”
At our local arcade we have Sab the Artist during his Musab years with “My World.” Sampling Donkey Kong, Sab knows how to throw bars like barrels all over the beat, firmly establishing his end-boss status.DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince — “Human Video Game”
Also sampling the music of Donkey Kong is Hollywood superstar Will Smith’s “Human Video Game.” As of press time, Smith’s yet to star in the movie adaptation of a game. Please correct us in the comments if we’re wrong. No, Wild Wild West isn’t based on Night Trap.
Busta Rhymes — “The Game Room”
In the finest moment of Busta Rhymes’ 2009 Back On My B.S. album, the Galaxian-sampling “The Game Room” is a latter-era Busta highlight. It features him mock-commentating on his own game of Galaxian; it's the type of fun Busta we haven’t really heard since the world didn’t end in the year 2000.Cocoa Brovaz — “Super Brooklyn”
Hip-hop heads probably clicked on this list expecting this one, right? Whether you call them Smif-N-Wessun, Tek ‘N’ Steele, or the Cocoa Brovaz, “Super Brooklyn” was a college radio favorite whose masterful sampling was undeniable.Sage Francis — “Video Games Freestyle”
It was so irresistible, in fact, that when Sage Francis was put on the spot to freestyle over “Super Brooklyn” for a radio appearance, it became one of his most known and frequently bootlegged freestyles. Sage’s integration of his favorite video game moments is one of the feel-good, have-to-share moments of his early Napster-era career.Benefit — “Warp to World 6-9”
Finally, rounding out our Super Mario trilogy is Benefit’s “Warp to World 6-9.” The cult classic known by many a message board as “That filthy Mario rap,” it breaks down the mature joy of revisiting the Mario-obsessed years as the base desire to help the plumber protagonist get laid.