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Monthly Archives: June 2010

“So he thought back to childhood/and how he survived in such a wild hood, then he realized they didn’t hate him/and whatever didn’t break him, that’s what made him.”

–Random, a.k.a. Mega Ran

In recent years, the gaming community has been blessed with a growing number of musicians who pay tribute to the catchy tunes of classic games from the 80’s and 90’s. One of these artists is simply known as “Random” or “Mega Ran”. In his latest outing, entitled Forever Famicom, Random and producer K-Murdock have created an album that transcends the genres of “video game covers” and “nerdcore” and takes them to a whole new level.

Whereas groups like The Oneups and Select Start create clever arrangements of beloved video game themes and bands like The Megas and The Protomen dramatize the mythos of classic franchises, Random’s style in Forever Famicom is equal parts video game nostalgia and autobiography. Some tracks are chapters from his life story laid over enhanced chiptunes, like “Forever”, “Episode III (A New Day)”, and “Player Two”. He creates an engaging and often moving picture of a man who grew up in a rough neighborhood and made it out alive by staying indoors and losing himself in the “little gray box with the red lights”. The third track,“Dream Master”, uses a gorgeous groove from Capcom’s Little Nemo: The Dream Master as a backdrop for the universal and poignant story of a kid trying to fit in. We’ve all felt like outcasts at some point in our lives, and this track effortlessly locates that deep-down part of your heart and reminds you of how bittersweet childhood can be.

A few tracks serve as comments on current gaming culture. “Drop The Load” playfully criticizes the big-budget video game distributors of today, comparing them unfavorably to the era where cartridges ruled and cutscenes were few. One of the funniest tracks, “CONtact”, serves as a helpful list of rules for anyone who attends a comic book or video game convention. It finds a nice balance between his playful rap skills and his abilities as a compelling educator (it should be noted that he works as a schoolteacher as well as being an internet sensation).

Many people will tell you they don’t care for rap or that they’ll “listen to anything but rap”. Personally, rap doesn’t comprise that much of my music library. However, I hope you give this album a chance regardless of what you think your music tastes are, because the majority of the tracks sidestep the classification of “rap” or “hip-hop” altogether and enter a category all their own.

I’ll be honest: Random is not the most meticulous or dazzling lyricist I’ve ever come across*. The music arrangements, while competent and creative, are occasionally too straightforward and don’t always surpass the aural limitations of their chiptune samples. But the reason I’m recommending this album comes down to one word: heart. It’s not just about nostalgia, it’s about a living, breathing human being. I have never met Random, and we have only exchanged a few emails, but after listening to this album I feel like I know him. He celebrates the culture of video game addicts with “For The Gamers”, dips his toes into satirical game parody with “Double Dragons”, and retells the plot of an obscure title with “2k10”, but the lasting elements of Forever Famicom happen when Random opens his heart and shares it with the listener in a way that I don’t think anyone ever has before.

PROS: Great use of both popular and obscure tunes from the golden era of gaming. Heartfelt lyrics, often transcending the genre. Solid mixing and many interesting musical arrangements. Appearances by featured artists spice up the style & vocal sound.

CONS: Lyrics occasionally seem to lack craft, some arrangements rely too much on the original 8-bit or 16-bit audio.

BRENT’S FAVORITE TRACKS: #2 Forever, #3 Dream Master, #10 Epoch, #12 CONtact

OVERALL SCORE: 3 ½ STARS OUT OF 4

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Forever Famicom is available for an $8.00 instant download here.

You can listen to the entire CD before buying it.

*for the record, neither am I.

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