Def Jam Rapstar review

  • It's completely dedicated to Hip Hop
  • Great party game for Hip Hop fans
  • Technology makes it more challenging than it appears
  • Rather short song list
  • Having to pay extra for DLC
  • Censored lyrics

Any person who claims to be a Hip Hop fan can tell you how they know all the lyrics to their favorite songs and can gesticulate the mannerisms of their favorite emcees. Prior to Def Jam Rapstar, our talents were relegated to karaoke bars, car rides with the windows rolled up or the occasional bathroom mirror. Thanks to this game, however, we can firmly place ourselves in the spotlights we’ve ached for for so long. That spotlight would be the warm glow of your television.

Above: From N.W.A. to “It Was A Good Day” to... Are We There Yet?! 

As a karaoke game, Def Jam Rapstar fulfills all the requirements and then some. The game does a fairly good job representing some of the major milestones from the 30-odd years that Hip Hop has been around; from Run D.M.C.’s “Run’s House” to Drake’s “Best I Ever Had” there’s a good chance that everyone from the 36-year-old Hip Hop snob neighbor of yours to the 12-year-old swagger-aficionado will find something they’ll want to try. However, you’ll probably notice a surprising lack of heavy-hitters like Jay-Z and Eminem on the playlist, something that I hope will be remedied via DLC in the future.

There are a few things that make Rapstar more than just a karaoke game. One is the use of the actual music videos for each of the songs and the other is the proprietary lyric recognition technology used to determine your score. Since the videos are their unedited versions, some of the older songs will yield pleasant surprises when you see their full clips. However, the small windows that the videos are presented in will make you wish for full-screen versions. While you will probably be too busy keeping up with the lyrics as they scroll across the screen to really watch them, it is definitely a nice touch. Boasting technology that determines if you’re actually saying the lyrics versus mumbling your grocery list raises Rapstar above the average karaoke title. While trying to work my way through Dinco D’s verse from A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” (the one that goes “Ship-shape crushed Grapes Apes that play tapes/Papes make drakes baked for the wakes”) the synapses in my brain started to misfire and my rendition started to sound more like “ship-shape oh crap wait… tapes! Some-drakes baked for… crap!” I was awarded a “Weak Lyrics” score accordingly. Any unfamiliarity with a song’s lyrics generally leads to amusing and frustrating results as you try to follow along.

Above: The scoring screen validates your efforts with your favorite late-90s urban slang 

With two players rocking the mics you can either choose from Duet or Battle mode. The former switches verses between you and a friend in co-op style play while the latter is self-explanatory. In Duet mode players are allowed which roles they’d like to play on multiple artist tracks which came in handy when I forced my male friend to take on Mary J. Blige’s part in “You're All I Need/I'll Be There For You” while I did Method Man’s verses.

Even being completely familiar with a song doesn't guarantee complete success while playing Rapstar. Lyrical accuracy, pitch and timing are all used to determine your score and you'll find that just knowing the lyrics front to back isn’t enough. Matching your breathing rhythm with the artist may be one of the bigger challenges as some of the faster-rhyming emcees will have you missing lyrics while you gasp for air. Because this is rated T for Teen all of the swearing and mentions of illicit activity are edited with breaks in the lyrics which can confuse those of us who are more familiar with certain tracks. All of them are edited to their daytime radio versions lyrically. Thankfully, it is impossible to fail out of a song so even stumbling through one you despise just to unlock everything will just be a test of patience rather than skill.

Two features that, while interesting, will probably be underutilized are the game’s video recording and Freestyle modes. 30-second videos can be recorded using your existing console camera and then edited in-game. During play you’ll be able to unlock extras that can be used during video editing; from blingy stickers to Ed Hardy-esque animations. Uploading your video to the Rapstar community allows others to view and rate it thus immortalizing you and your friends’ dip into becoming more like Souljah Boy. Freestyle mode allows you to pick a beat by producers like DJ Premier and Just Blaze and try your hand at spitting original rhymes.

Above: Introducing the G-Ryderz - Cheryll “el-double” Del Rosario, Lizzie “LC Stunnin’” Cuevas and Michael “Notorious B.L.T.” Grimm

Overall, Def Jam Rapstar is a great introduction to the realm of Hip Hop based karaoke gaming. As a party game, both viewers and participants will be entertained with the song selection and visuals and most, if not all, of the songs are familiar enough with today’s Hip Hop fans to yield entertaining results. The technology incorporated makes the game much more challenging than it looks, and even hardcore Hip Hop fans can appreciate the addition of freestyle modes backed by beats by some of today’s biggest producers. The rather small song list is somewhat disappointing, but at least the range of artists is more than adequate.

Oct 21, 2010

More Info

Available Platforms: Xbox 360, Wii, PC, PS3
Genre: Role Playing


  • CRUNKMUFFIN - October 24, 2010 9:45 p.m.

    Cheryll is based as hell...I wish for more of these karaoke videos.
  • cj12297 - October 22, 2010 8:51 p.m.

    censored lyrics... uh oh ReCAPTCHA: fiaties censured coincidence
  • GamesRadarCheryll - October 22, 2010 4:56 p.m.

    SolidEye - That comment was made because it's hard to imagine the target audience of this game (who are probably not as familiar with Fear of a Black Planet as they are Blueprint(s) 1, 2 or 3) not noticing that those two emcees aren't included. If this game had been made for fans like you and I it would probably include entire discographies from artists like Rakim, GangStarr and De La Soul.
  • SolidEye - October 22, 2010 11:11 a.m.

    "you’ll probably notice a surprising lack of heavy-hitters like Jay-Z and Eminem on the playlist, something that I hope will be remedied via DLC in the future." I wouldn't miss them. I can tell you Public Enemy all by themselves are heavier hitters than both of them combined. Only those who grew up thinking hip hop begins and ends with Eminem would make such a stupid comment.
  • Ninjadmin - October 22, 2010 8:15 a.m.

    "Censored lyrics" Are you shitting me? I thought this looked pretty decent but that turns it into an instant fail. You cant do hip-hop with censored lyrics. It just doesnt work. Not doubt it'll really mess you up when words are missing or if they have the radio edits on there too. What a load...
  • ViolentLee - October 22, 2010 7:29 a.m.

    Redeater: Do you just let your fingers wander the keyboard on every article, just to get SOMETHING up on the comment board? EA has nothing to do with this game; it's Konami published. Quit making things up just to get a post, man. You're almost as bad as all these spam posts.
  • The4X - October 22, 2010 5:27 a.m.

    Censored lyrics? Baahahaa!
  • Bonesqaw - October 21, 2010 11:47 p.m.

    This review just makes me wish Cheryll would appear on TalkRadar again
  • abbottfrizzell - October 21, 2010 11:24 p.m.

    Oo so much for the "perfect sound effect" .. If i wasn't so incredibly white.. i'de get this
  • zigs - October 21, 2010 10:57 p.m.

    That screenshot of the stats screen seems to totally snub Pete Rock! It ain't just CL Smooth on T.R.O.Y! I imagine Jay Z and Eminem have some sort of exclusivity with Activision and DJ Hero, considering the Renegade Edition with their mixes for the first game, and their songs appearing in the second.
  • TURbo - October 21, 2010 10:49 p.m.

    Bitch! You ain't from da hood!
  • Strangleme - October 21, 2010 10:46 p.m.

    Hop! Sweet review!!! By the way, Cheryll and Lizzie look so fuckin' hot rappin'!! I'm sorry but I can't help how hot they are!!!
  • Robx - October 21, 2010 10:33 p.m.

  • Tymiegie - October 21, 2010 10:23 p.m.

    I probably would have bought this reading your review, but I don't think I can get past the censored lyrics. And I really wish I could cause I'm sure I'd love it :(
  • Felixthecat - October 21, 2010 10:17 p.m.

    Well, it has B.I.G, 2Pac, Big Pun, ATCQ, Beastie Boys, Outkast, Run DMC, The Sugarhill Gang, Public Enemy, Wu Tang Clan and Nas on the track listing, so it can't be that bad, but it also has it's fair share of crap too. I would of liked to of seen Gang Starr on the track listing, as their songs would of probably been perfect. The censored lyrics to something like Still Not a Player is ridiculous though. That song has a lot of swearing in it, and without it, it doesn't flow as well as it does. I was never really interested in this anyway, so I dunno why I'm complaining...
  • Redeater - October 21, 2010 10:11 p.m.

    I'm suprised at the high score. Didn't they mention on tdar EA held this game from reviewers?

Showing 1-16 of 16 comments

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