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Charlotte hip-hop dominated NBA 2K and Madden soundtracks in 2020

 By Megan Wolford

June 30, 2020

From quirky, robotic chirps to upbeat jingle-like melodies and fiery battle chords, the musical journey of video games has lived an evolutionary life. As the ‘90s came to an end, the melodic uptempo instrumentals segued to feature up-and-coming artists and pop culture favorites. 

Hip-hop has proven to be transformative economically and the gaming industry was an early adopter to this concept. Rap Jam: Volume 1, released in 1995, allowed players to select rappers to play basketball in park settings, similar to AND1 Streetball games. Rap music would gain traction in gaming and remain consistent as Def Jam, 50 Cent, Wu-Tang Clan, and a host of others would go on to create video games that incorporated rap music and artists. Pushing the intersection of gaming and hip-hop further, Jay-Z was executive producer of the NBA 2K13 soundtrack. The soundtrack included top songs from Kanye West, Santigold, and Nas. 

Cover for NBA 2K20

For emerging and independent artists, earning consistent revenue in music requires ongoing effort and is rife with trial and error. “Sync licensing,” however, is one source of income that synchronizes an artist’s record to visual content such as films, TV shows, and video games. Sync licensing has long been tucked away for established label acts but, with the music industry streamlining, these opportunities have become more available. Steve Stoute’s distribution platform United Masters has been a vehicle in pitching artists’ music and landing placements with the NBA, NFL, and NBA2K.

This year, Charlotte rappers Erick Lottary, Deniro Farrar, and Quantrelle were featured on the latest NBA2K soundtrack and Jamla’s Reuben Vincent is featured on Madden 2020.  

Erick Lottary – “Ball Is Life”

According to Lottary, landing this opportunity is a full circle moment. “Honestly, it’s a blessing. The game I am featured in, I have played since its debut. I’ve been big in gaming for sometime, so to hear my music play while I’m playing one of my favorite games is surreal to say the least,” he said. Truly living the “Ball Is Life” lifestyle, Lottary’s love of sports is evident in his references and wordplay, the track paints a backdrop for an ankle-breaking day at the park. Effortlessly switching up his style, Lottary’s latest EP Summer on Central pays homage to Plaza Midwood with an array of jazzy, Carribean melodies. 

Quantrelle – “MOMENTUM”

“I know my energy will never die, I need my inner peace and peace of mind, I’m making history with all the guys, I am not satisfied with getting by.” The high-pitched background vocals mirror songs of freedom as Quantrelle boastfully asserts his rise in the rap game. Quantrelle has steadily been positioning himself as a standout Charlotte act, gaining momentum from his 2017 album Nobody’s Looking

Deniro Farrar and JayWay Sosa – “Ran Off”

Deniro Farrar and Jayway Sosa are two Charlotte natives that can testify to the struggles and come-up of being independent artists from the city. JayWay grew up in Hidden Valley and Deniro on the west side; two different sides of Charlotte but equal in experience. Deniro’s latest project Sole Food recounts his coming-of-age struggles and the processing necessary to navigate adulthood. JayWay Sosa’s latest Protocol focuses more on street code and the maneuvering required to live another day. 

Reuben Vincent – “No Problems”

Jamla Records artist Reuben Vincent grew up on the east side of Charlotte and was signed by label head 9th Wonder at the age of 16. Vincent actually visited the EA Sports offices to record his song “No Problems” for the Madden 2020 soundtrack. He recently released his follow-up to 2017’s Myers Park with the EP, Boy Meets World, an eight-track project with production by Khrysis and Eric G. of The Soul Council. 

Listen to the NBA2K20 and Madden 2020 soundtracks on Spotify:

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