Art Reflecting Life: Mega Ran Brings Hip Hip into the Nintendo Generation
People have been asking forever if life reflects art, or art reflects life. But in hip hop, it’s never really been a question. The genre’s pioneering use of sampling has always been a reflection that gathers tiny pieces of the cultural zeitgeist and blasts them back at audiences as a sonic collage of contemporary life. And while early hip hop mined the disco, funk, and jazz that children of the ’60s and ’70s were raised on, Phoenix emcee, Mega Ran, who will be performing at King Wah’s in Medford on Tue., May 31, looks to a wholly different set of sonic influences.
“Just like the acts before us used their parents records for break beats or samples, our oldies are old video games,” he says. “So it only makes sense to sample and include those influences.”
He calls it chip-hop, a blend of hip hop culture, and sounds made with gaming hardware. And while he’s been at it awhile—“uncool before it was cool” his website boldly proclaims—he says it’s the natural progression of hip hop, and something he’s heard in songs by major acts like Bryson Tiller or Kanye West as well.
But while they may have slipped in a Street Fighter sample or two, Mega Ran is all-in, making gaming culture the cornerstone of his sound and lyrical bent. Even his name is a play on the classic Nintendo series, Mega Man.
“There’s only one show where you’ll see a rapper using a japanese Nintendo system to make beats and rhyming about how life is like Super Mario Bros.,” says Mega Ran.
That focus is something that he says gives him a warm, nostalgic feeling. But blending it with indie hip hop culture presents both a challenge and a thrill.
“I want to represent all sides of me,” he says. “The hip-hop kid, the gamer, the African-American male, all that, so I never really get writer’s block. it’s exciting to create something out of thin air and it gives me a rush like nothing else.”
But he’s clearly doing well at it. He recently stepped down from his job as a middle school teacher to focus on music full-time, and his tunes got enough reach that Capcom—the gaming studio responsible for his namesake—asked him to perform at their booth at San Diego Comic Con.
This show will however be his first time in Medford.
“I’ve usually only driven through it on the way to Portland,” he says. “Glad to know there’s more the state has to offer.”
Mega Ran, with Roqy Tyraid, Grizz Garner, and 8-bit
10pm, Tue., May 31
Bamboo Room at King Wah’s, 1182 Court St., Medford
Credit: Andrew Doench
Cutline: You mean you don’t play X-box with a solid gold controller?