The third installment in the popular Def Jam video game series, Def Jam: Icon, hits stores next Tuesday, March 6th. The street brawling fighter game features around 30 of your favorite rap icons including The Game, Young Jeezy, T.I., Fat Joe, and Method Man. Get crunk with Lil Jon or play as Luda and tell your opponent to “Get Back”Â while you throw him into a camera on the “106 & Park”Â stage. You can even listen to music by the rapper of your choice as you battle it out. Icon takes advantage of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3’s next-gen graphics to create the most realistic interactive gameplay to date.
While the real Lil Jon was in a suite next door yelling “Yeaahh!”Â as he fought E-40 on screen, we had a chance to speak with Lauren Wirtzer, VP of marketing for Def Jam Enterprises, about how the game’s concept originated, what goes into producing it, and how the producers decided which rappers to include. Look out for our interview with Lil Jon on Thursday.
How did the concept for a Def Jam video game come about?
Back in 2002, a couple EA executives had a meeting with Kevin Liles and Lyor Cohen about including some of the Def Jam music in games. Kevin was and still is an avid gamer and he said, “I’m not just giving you my music. You should let us make a game.”Â And they kinda laughed at him and he said, “No, I’m serious. Def Jam is a viable brand in hip-hop. You put our logo on your game, I’ll guarantee you get a whole new audience.”Â It kinda springboarded from there. We started working almost immediately on the Def Jam Vendetta concept.
What kind of role did Def Jam play in the production of the game?
We focus on all the details and nuances that go into the game to make sure that they’re actually in line with what our Def Jam logo represents in hip-hop. We want to make sure that things are right. We all know that the way you wear your shoes is not going to just be the haphazard way that you wear your shoes. There are important details and nuances that make up the culture of hip-hop. We want to make sure that’s reflected in the game. We make oodles of changes from front to finish. This is an 18-month process. Most importantly, we make sure that we’re the conduit with all the artists so that they can ensure that their likeness is captured in the way that they envisioned it. Each artist has an individual swagger. You want to try to bring that through in their characters in the game.
How did you choose which rappers to include in the game?
You can’t put everybody in there. In fact, this game was a little more difficult because we were working with next-gen technology. We didn’t have the ability to go ahead and include everybody. It took a long time to get their likeness the way you see it now. We had to work with artists we felt were real for this type of game. This is a fighting game. Not every artist out there is believable as a fighter. You can’t throw somebody in there and say, “OK, go and kick some ass,”Â when in reality you’re like, “Yeah right, this dude would never beat him in that.”Â It was finding the right people for the role, like when you’re casting a movie.