Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pac’s Life: Pac-Man References In Hip Hop

It’s become commonplace to hear emcees make reference of Adam “Pacman” Jones and a certain Las Vegas incident in their raps. But long before this, hip hop made many references to Namco’s Pac-Man, a revolutionary video game released in the early ‘80’s. In general, rap verses containing cultural references – especially nerdy video game references – produce some of the corniest lyric sheets imaginable. Questions arise like: Did they make a reference to Pac-Man because they’re an avid player of the game? Were they high? Was that all they could come up with to rhyme with words like “stack”, “crack”, “can” and… “man”? Were they just lazy?

First things first, yes, they were definitely high at the time. All of them. Were they lazy? That question is not quite so rhetorical. I’ve carefully picked out a selection of hip hop quotables and I’ve taken it upon myself to be the judge! Were the references strung about out of lack of creativity or was there some level of imagination and inventiveness with the rhyme scheme? Let’s find out! Bonus points if you can come up with some more Pac-Man references in the comments section and offer your opinions on them. Start game:
“I never sweat it, you was so cute/
That I ran like Pac-Man in hot pursuit/”

- Shaquille O’Neal; “Let’s Wait a While”
Verdict: Yeesh! I’d rather put my life on the (free throw) line with the ball in Shaq’s hands than to hear this shit again! Superman’s weakness is Kryptonite. Shaq’s weakness is free throw shooting. And rapping. The actual hook to this song – thankfully not performed by Shaq himself – goes a little something like this: “Let’s wait a while/ Before it gets too late/ Let’s wait/”. Apparently you can stop the reign!
“Call me Pac-Man you ghosts is blue/
I got my red river rubies and my ocean blue…/

- Lil Wayne; “Fly In”
Verdict: Juelz Santana once rhymed the word “fire” with the word “fire” before rhyming it with “fire” and “fire”. And then he capped it off with one more line ending with the word “fire”. I shit you not. To my knowledge*, nobody else has ever repeated the same successive word as Juelz did on his “Losing Weight Part 2” verse. On “Fly In”, Weezy doesn’t even come close. But it might give us a hint as to why neither of these two rappers can feel their face.
“You’re wack, man/
I eat a nigga like I'm Pac-Man/”

- Krazy Drayzy of Das EFX; “Real Hip Hop”
Verdict: It’s hard to knickitty-knock much of what Das EFX spickitty-spit; and trickitty-truth be tickitty-told, I’ve always lickitty-liked this lickitty-line. But really, what’s the difference between Pharrell sickitty-saying “you ain’t heard that we swallow guys” [||] and Dray saying “I eat a nigga…” [||]? Not mickitty-much.
“Me fallin’ off, it won’t happen/
Boy, get back then with the mack man/
I sold crack, dodgin’ cops like Pac-Man/
Rap-A-Lot ‘fo life’ like Mack 10/”

- Yukmouth; “Stuntastic”
Verdict: The lazy “penmanship” in this rhyme coupling is actually the Mack 10 shout out more so than the Pac-Man reference. And if you wanna get technical, even that line is flawed since Pac-Man is actually encouraged to eat the “boys in blue” – not dodge them. Am I right or am I right?
“Korean New Year to Hanukah I'm bombing ya/
Put you to sleep for good, pajama ya/
Wrangle your he man pajama’s/
Wrap you up in your Pac-Man sheets/”

- Cam'ron; “Get It Get It”
Verdict: Since Big L died and the Children of the Corn disbanded, Cam’ron dumbed down his rhymes and began to make a name for himself by purposely writing jibberish that somehow, someway had a clever ring to it. This shit is incomprehensible. Even by Tom Breihan’s standards!
“The music is like that green stuff provided to you by sack man/
Pac-Man, how in the fuck do you think we gon’ do that man?/
Ridin’ round Old National on 18’s without no gat man/
I'm strapped man & ready to bust on any nigga like that man/
Me and my nigga we roll together like Batman and Robin/”

- Big Boi of OutKast; “Aquemini”

“Lookin’ like Ms. Pac-Man, hammers and Vogues and cat-man/
I'm speakin’ about these pros cause you know nothing ‘bout that man/”

- Big Boi of OutKast; “Spaghetti Junction”
Verdict: Step aside, Juelz*. Big Boi’s first verse on “Aquemini” racked up a total of eight mentions of the word “man” (one of which was omitted due to a serious need for brevity)! Neither of these Pac-Man mentions seem to make much sense. They’re just some strung out pairings of two-syllables word-combos like “___ man”, “___ man” and “___ man”. Like that, man. OutKast, man. They’ve got…. tact, man.
“And let's not even bring up the tracks man/
Nope, nope, let's not do that man/
You eatin’ up the game like Pac-Man/
He got the whole world shakin’ just like crack fiends/”

- Kanye West; “Heavy Hitters”
Verdict: I can’t really front on this Pac-Man mention, let alone the track, since it was one of my favorite Kanye mixtape songs from back in the day. He really was eating up the game back then. No fishsticks.
“I was in and out of homes like the Orkin man/
Never listen to my parents like an orphan man/
Strong finger on the trigger like it’s dwarf’s hands/
Confiscate goodies like Repo Man Sam/
Make nigga kick that can, fall victim to the Klick Klack Klan/
My vixen eat ya face, like she Ms. Pac-Man; my wish her command, uh!/”

- Pusha T; “Chinese New Year”
Verdict: “Uh” indeed! Uh… what!? Your vixen will eat my face? That sounds kinda kinky. I’m in.
“Pac woman better yet Space Invader/
If your name was Chun-Li, we'd be playin’ Street Fighter/”

- Wyclef Jean; “Guantanamera”
Verdict: References for the sake of references are pretty lame. Here’s a prime example of an emcee who’s given up on the craft of rap as poetry. This line makes me imagine Wyclef back in the day flipping through an old copy of Nintendo Power Magazine and finding random names to use in his verses. “Pras Michel better yet Wyclef Jean/ If you played with L-Boogie, I’d buy the al-bum/”.
“The moments were subtle but unstolen and guess who owns them/
No friendly, non-threatening corporate lacky mucks in the totem/
Lucy was in the sky with diamonds/
Five dollars to hold them/
The summer beneath these Pac-Man’s with acid behind his molars/”

- Aesop Rock; “The Greatest Pac-Man Victory in History”
Verdict: With a title like that, you’d think the whole song was about playing Pac-Man. Not at all. Only one Pac-Man mention on the entire track, and it pretty much makes no sense; like most of A.Rock’s lyrics.
“My Resident is Evil, full of Southside riders/
I hope you're Pac'd-Man, I got six Virtua Fighters/”

- Ludacris; “Press the Start Button”
Verdict: Like the aforementioned Wyclef track, this is just another example of an emcee using references for the sake of references. To my horror, I came to notice that the entire song is full of video game puns and references. Now the track title seems to make more sense. According to OHHLA – because Lord knows I’m not gonna try and decipher these puns manually – there are 20+ video game references on this track. Game over!!! But wait, there’s one more…
“Pac-Man, y’all niggas know my name/
It’ll take a quarter key to survive in my game/
They call me Pac-Man, and ain’t a damn thing change/
Even though I got signed I’ma still slang thangs/”

- Beanie Sigel; “Mac Man”
Verdict: High score! Let me make one thing perfectly clear: the lyrics you see above are merely the hook for the song. He repeated those lines twice between each verse! But there are plenty more references to go ‘round! Here’s an extended selection:
“All I do is stack loot, run around and eat fruit/
And harass these lady cops named Pinky and Sue/”

“…My nigga Donkey Kong bringin’ weed in by the barrels/”

“Met Ms. Pac told she could go on a mission/
But first she got to let me put in Pole Position/
I wish I woulda knew then what I now know sooner/
Cause ten towns later here come Pac Jr./”
Verdict (cont’d): Let the record show that Mr. Sigel used the title of the game Pole Position as a pun for the act of intercourse! … What can’t you love about this song? Sigel has undoubtedly earned the corny-ass “Mac Man” handle. I’m not sure who else was gunning for the title, but hey, congrats anyways…

Level 2 coming soon...(?)