NBA 2K6: The Tracks

Artist: Various ArtistsTitle: NBA 2K6: The TracksRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Max Herman

Hip-Hop has become the sonic backbone for countless video games today—more so than any other form of music. As developers often began utilizing virtual urban backdrops for their games a few years back, they also began looking to Hip-Hop to help compliment these settings (see Tony Hawk’s Underground and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for prime examples). But no longer is merely featuring Hip-Hop tracks in games enough. With NBA 2K6: The Tracks (Decon), the alliance of Hip-Hop and video games is taken to the next level as this soundtrack is entirely comprised of exclusives from the likes of Lyrics Born, Common, Aesop Rock and many others.

The strength of this soundtrack not only lies in the impressive lineup of MCs, but in that the lyrical content is universal enough to be enjoyed whether you’re playing the PS2 game or just listening to it in your system. While these tracks were exclusively recorded for NBA 2K6, they aren’t all necessarily basketball themed. Instead, these largely up-tempo cuts are designed to get the listener hyped-up, which is why they sound so well while playing ball. If there’s one recurring theme, it’s self-confidence. Thus some of the strongest numbers like Lyrics Born’s “Big Money Talk” or “Set ‘Em on Fire” by The Roots feature enough first-class boasting and hard-hitting drums to get anyone amped. Meanwhile, Zion I keeps the energy going while taking things a bit deeper with their around-the-way poetics on “Ride.”

As expected from a video game soundtrack, though, everyone from Redman to The Roots tend to keep it simple. These may not be the best-written tracks of these MCs’ careers, but they more than serve their purpose of keeping game players hyped-up. And with the inclusion of both independent-minded (e.g. Hieroglyphics) and commercially viable (e.g. Redman) acts, even if you don’t like basketball or video games, NBA 2K6: The Tracks is both diverse and consistent enough to be enjoyed by any fan of Hip-Hop.

This soundtrack should serve as a benchmark for how the union between Hip-Hop and video games can successfully intertwine these two sub-cultures like never before.