From Guardia With Love, Richie Branson's hard hitting hip hop tribute to Chrono Trigger and more

From Guardia With Love, Richie Branson's hard hitting hip hop tribute to Chrono Trigger and more

I had the chance to catch Richie Branson perform at MAGWest a couple months back, and what a performance it was. Definitely got to catch this guy live, if you have the opportunity. This is his album from 2013, and also happens to be the album Branson sold to me, and then signed for me at MAGWest. It was the only album he had on him, but still, sold! It's not often I hear an album on CD.

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A loving tribute to the music of Yasunori Mitsuda in 'Piano Collections: Chrono Trigger' by Trevor Gomes

The debut game soundtrack by Yasunori Mitsuda is still considered one of the greatest in video game history. Trevor Gomes pays tribute to some of the memorable themes from the 20 year old SNES game.

“The Chrono Trigger Piano Collection takes the same sort of pristine, crafted quality of the Final Fantasy Piano Collections to a beloved classic that had not yet been explored on the piano to such an extent. The vibrance and creativity of Chrono Trigger translates to a piano album that is dynamic and versatile, with a fusion of classical, jazz, rock, Japanese pop and more, but in such a way that feels organic and essential. Each track has been carefully selected to create the most complete picture of the game possible in ten tracks.

While the arrangements have been written to give a sort of new life to the originals, at the heart of the Chrono Trigger Piano Collection is the desire to honor its source material and fill its listeners with the same bittersweet nostalgia that the game so immediately evokes.” - Trevor Gomes
— Materia Collective

DREAMERS by Zebes System, a chiptune rock tribute to Koji Kondo & Nobuo Uematsu~

Chipped and chopped up video game covers that will make you want remakes of classics, demakes of new games and everything in between. Zebes System pays tribute to the illustrious musical careers of Koji Kondo and Nobuo Uematsu in his 2010 album DREAMERS.

Sometimes I dream,  I wonder how my life would be different if only I heard this album when it was first released. So many nights would have rocked just that much harder. Don't suffer the same fate as I.

Tribute Album of Koji Kondo and Nobuo Uematsu Works
— Zebes System

Lame Genie goes boss rush mode in VG metal album, 'Who's the Boss (Battlles)'

One more battle. 

Man I am dying to have that video game metal podcast. SOMEDAY! Until then, I just have to be content about merely writing articles about incredible VG metal like the latest jams from Lame Genie. Nothing but boss battles from the most intense bosses from the most classic games. FFVI, Super Mario RPG, TMNT, a personal all time favorite Kirby Super Star theme, and more are featured in this 6 track EP all for free download!

Ladies and gentlemen,
We proudly present to you our new EP Who’s the Boss? (Battles). Free for streaming and name your price for download!
Enjoy! (And please share!!)
— Lame Genie

Listen to The World is Square get down in their rearrangement of Frog's Theme from Chrono Trigger

All you can say is 'damn!'

I didn't know that TWIS had made a video for what may be my favorite track on their latest album. I'm jamming to this beat all over again and it's awesome.

This also seems like a good time to implore you to vote Frog in Smash Bros!

This is our variation of Frog’s Theme from Chrono Trigger
Recorded By: Andrew Gonzales
— The World is Square

Amazing tribute to Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana, at the same time, A Mana Trigger album by SRMusic

nintendo-rpg-secret-mana-chrono-trigger-tribute

A stunning series of arrangements of music from the classic role playing games Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana. The album is masterfully done, and will move you to your nostalgic core as you think about some of the greatest moments in those two games as Sébastien Ridé performs classic themes on piano. 

My personal favorites are any time something from Chrono Trigger is played, as I am not nearly as familiar with the catalogue of music from the Secret of Mana series. I expect several people to scold me for that fact after this post.

If you enjoy the album as much as I did, you can purchase it via loudr starting at $5.

Boss Battles for the Soul - a collection of SNES 'bonus tracks' by Kyo

Boss-Battles-for-the-Soul -Kyo_vgm-remix-album

The first time I heard this album, I hit play and let it run in the background as I did other tasks. The moment the second track on the album came on, an alternate battle theme from the SNES classic Super Mario RPG Legend of the Seven Stars, I could only focus on the album. This arrangement would easily fit into Yoko Shimomura's original soundtrack. 

Boss Battles for the Soul is a fantastic title for the album, as each song doesn't simply use the soundfont of SNES classics, Kyo takes the spirit of the music into consideration as he arranges each track. Seven classicSNES games are represented on the album. In all, the album includes Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 6, Earthbound, Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, Legend of Zelda, Link to the Past, and the aforementioned Super Mario RPG. I didn't really plan to list every game, but they are all great. 

If you have ever wished a game like Link to the Past could have had just one more boss fight, or if there was just one area of Earthbound you hadn't seen yet, then this album is worth a listen. Sit back, listen, and imagine what could have been.

Grab the seven track album for $5 over on Kyo's bandcamp page.

Trigger Happy, an album of Chrono Trigger based hip hop remixes by Raisi K.

trigger-happy-raisi-k-raisin-chrono-trigger-hip-hop

Raisi K. casts Slow. Creates chill Mitsuda beats.

An album of banging beats crying out for some dope MC to spit hot fire all over. Could that MC be you?

Regardless of your notoriety in the hip hop game, this is one amazing beat tape. G.A.T.O. is a bass filled remix of the always catchy theme of everyone's favorite silver point dispensing robot. ASVP FRXG is an uplifting, almost overwrought homecoming style theme for Glen the cursed swordsman. 

The full album consists of nine tracks that span both space and time. You'll be using your epoch to rewind this one.

Listen to remix of Frog's Theme from Chrono Trigger ASVP FRXG by Raisi K.

Over the top, pompous, fully loaded hip hop remix from Raisi K. This song is truly befitting my favorite cursed swordsman.

This song gives a bit of a foreboding chill but the lively horns keep morale high and the beat bumping.

Chrono Trigger's Wind Scene by 8 Bit Instrumental

As most gamers my age, I am absolutely in love with nearly every aspect of the Square classic Chrono Trigger. The game originally launched on the SNES in 1995, and essentially decimated all competitors to the RPG throne. One of the reasons this game is so well regarded is the unbelievable breadth, style, and memorability of the soundtrack. Yasunori Mitsuda was the composer for Chrono Trigger, which was the first game he ever headed in such a major capacity.

The video above is a 2008 rendition of Wind Scene from the Chrono Trigger soundtrack by 8 Bit Instrumental, from their album The Number of the Bit. 8 Bit Instrumental is a group of Brazilian musicians who have spent years arranging amazing live renditions of classic video game themes. Relax and let the sounds of Chrono Trigger sooth you before that next big boss battle.

Youtube description of "8 Bit Instrumental - Wind Scene (Chrono Trigger)

chrono_trigger_by_jumpix-d46mtbt

Uploaded on Dec 16, 2008 ___ Música que faz parte do álbum "The Number of the Bit" (dez/2008). Essa versão foi gravada ao vivo. Baixe a versão do álbum no nosso site. ___ This song is part of the album "The Number of the Bit" (dec/2008). This version was recorded live. To download the album's version access our bandcamp.

Thanks!

2mello - 'Chrono Jigga' full interview transcript

Chrono Jigga Read the final interview at gamentrain.com. This is the full, unedited transcript of my 2mello interview, in which questions get a bit more in depth about the culture surrounding nerdcore rap and video game music and also learn a few more interesting facts and opinions of 2mello's. Enjoy the full take (and if you already read the Game N Train article, just skip ahead to the red questions.)

Q: Did you have any clear concept or goal in mind as you worked on Chrono Jigga?

A: I was looking for something bizarre to do, something that people would go crazy over. I was pretty sure that I would take something from geek culture and mix it up with hip-hop culture, but I didn't know if it was going to be a concept album, a remix, or what. When Chrono Jigga came to me, I wanted to do it very genuinely. I care about both Chrono Trigger's music and Jay's tracks deeply, and I wanted people to be able to hear that through the music. As I created the first few tracks, I realized what I was doing, interpreting my favorite Jay-Z songs through one of my favorite games to make them even more poignant to me. From there, I started thinking about Jay-Z having this geeky alternate ego that would show everyone how much of a nerd he was by making an album of videogame raps.

Q: Beyond the clever album title, what was the driving force that sparked the idea of combining the music of Yasunori Mitsuda with Jay-Z’s lyricism?

A: I have always been frustrated with a lot of Jay-Z's production. I think that, sometimes, his rhymes are a little more poetic than they might sound over some of the beats he is provided. Sometimes, the energy of the beat might be a little distracting. I wanted to marry his songs with Mitsuda's compositions to more strongly convey the meaning of his songs both musically and lyrically. I chose the music of Chrono Trigger because nothing is more epic than the music of a wide, twisting story told through many time periods. A lot of Jay-Z albums can have radically different feels from one track to the next, and what better way to show that than to select from a widely varying soundtrack for the beats?

Q. As a fan of hip hop I have long lamented the simplified club beats of mainstream rap (including Jay-Z's). Do you believe there is a reason why hip hop lyricists fail to pursue more musically complex or interesting instrumentals?

A. My stuff has a lot more in terms of changing instrumentation and composition than you would hear in some modern beats. I think the reason why there aren't as many really cool instrumentals as there used to be is split. Partly, I think that audiences' standards for what makes a "good beat" have lowered, and that this constant lowering was forced on them by artists. The issue on the artist side, is that there are not many producers doing interesting things, and too many rappers. Some of the old faithful producers are stagnating and hip-hop production is generally in a state of transition. I think we are making a recovery from when it was getting too "clubby" and ripping off 90's techno sounds. That was just bad.

Q. Were there any tracks that you would have really loved to include from either Chrono Trigger or Jay-Z that you were unable to include for some reason?

A. I had really desired to do more stuff from Reasonable Doubt, but there were very few acapellas available for that album, one of Jay's finest works, and the ones that were available were of such low quality that they would stand out painfully. As for Chrono Trigger music, I had wanted to do more with Lavos' Theme and Magus' Theme but wasn't able to fit it in. There is always a chance that I will be able to work them in and release more "B-Sides" in the future.

Q. I know many mashup musicians are artistically constrained by the acapellas that are available to them. Did you consider this a hindrance, or a challenge when creating this album?

A: As I said above, the lack of Reasonable Doubt acapellas really hurt, but aside from that, since Jay-Z actually made most of his acapellas available in full studio quality, it wasn't too hard to find the songs I wanted. I would definitely consider this to be a challenge; I love being forced to make something special out of songs I might have not even paid that much attention to previously, because they're the only ones I have.

Q: Do you think there is a reason artists are creating this very specific type of musical hybrid?

A: I think it is mostly because remixing became most prominent after hip-hop was created, so people associate remixing most strongly with hip-hop, even though it has been happening since the start of music. Mashups are our current most evolved form of remixes, in my opinion. Therefore, if you set out to do a mashup, one of the first few genres that comes to mind to do it in is hip-hop, since this genre is so connected with remixes already. Also, mixing something as unique and pure as videogame music with hip-hop is going to be eye-catching; it's going to intrigue some and infuriate others, but either way both are going to listen. Personally, I like to mash rappers and video games together because there is a chance it will get rap fans to play cooler games, and gamers to enjoy rap music.

Q: It seems that a small niche of music/video game lovers have been especially receptive to the melding of these two musical worlds. Why are some folks in love with hip hop over video game derived beats?

A: There are some people that were just waiting for something like this to happen and maybe didn't even know it yet. There were a lot of news headlines about Chrono Jigga suggesting that this was the case. "The Chrono Trigger and Jay-Z Mashup Gamers Have Been Waiting For But Didn't Know It", etc. I discovered more people that were fans of both the game and the artist than I expected. Hearing familiar game music on the beat while listening to the artist makes it a little more comfortable for gamers who might not like hip-hop to transition into the genre, if only for the duration of a mashup album. It's bridging the gap.

Q. During the albums outro, you speak candidly about being unable to identify with Jay-Z’s lyrical content, and lamented the idea of those lyrics pushing talented artists away from a career in rap music. Why do you think Jay-Z's words could make people shy away from exploring hip hop further?

A: As soon as an aspiring lyricist or listener begins to examine hip-hop lyrics, they see that the most financially successful and well-known rap music is usually about drugs, violence, gang relations, sexual activity and male bragging. Jay-Z alienated a lot of up-and-coming rappers who had never been involved in drug trafficking or wanted to talk about what goes on in the streets, but the fact that the most successful rapper is writing about these things makes it seem like that is the only way to go. They'd think that straying from the formula will leave you unheard, and they'd be right. At the same time, listeners who might want to hear something more personal from a rapper would be turned off. A lot of press for Jay's most recent album has been backing me up on this, and it seems listeners are finally getting tired of hearing about how wildly profitable he has been and how much richer he is. I don't know what this means for hip-hop but I hope it gives more unique rappers a chance to step in.

Q: In an era when technology, video games, and the internet are so ubiquitous, why do you think that an artist influenced by these things has not entered the mainstream?

A: We're definitely getting better. Younger, fairly successful artists like Childish Gambino, XV and Danny Brown are garnering a lot of fans by taking note of the three primary geeky things that are very visible in this time--Internet culture, videogames and film/tv culture--which established rappers are somehow ignoring. Hip-hop has been threatening to go into nerd mode for years now, with the amazing Wu-Tang Clan (a bunch of Asian-film nerds who rap) getting extremely popular, and Kanye West (who started off quite poindexter on his debut album) getting to become someone that a lot of rappers and producers look up to. Things seem to be moving quickly, so the first star nerd rapper could hit any day.

Q. Jay-Z has gone on record that he supports mashups as musical endeavors, and applauded Danger Mouse's Grey Album (a mashup of Jay-Z and The Beatles). If Jay-Z heard Chrono Jigga, what do you think his reaction would be?

A. I think that he would admire it musically, but that he would be a little confused about the instrumentals and what exactly I did with them. Not being a fan of Chrono Trigger, he wouldn't know how much came from me and how much came from Mitsuda unless he listened to the Chrono Trigger OST. I doubt Jay is a fan of RPGs, let alone a specific one from the 90s. One thing I really hope he would notice was how much attention I paid to making his lyrics fit over the beat; I hope he would really respect my diligence in the repurposing of his rhythms and flow over the new beats.

Q: Has creating Chrono Jigga given you any new insight or perspective on either Jay-Z or Chrono Trigger?

A: Definitely. I often think about Jay-Z as a time traveler now. Going back in time using the Epoch not to save the world, but to right his wrongs and maybe change things he wished had gone different. If the events of Chrono Trigger were real, and happening, who knows how all of our lives could be touched by a guy like Crono, quietly passing through and nudging us here and there to reach a desired goal? When you start to apply the story framework of a video game to one part of real life, I guess you start thinking about how it would all connect. On my most recent remix album, Nastlevania, I have Nas battling Dracula and I actually had a version of Jay-Z arrive from the past, when he had beef with Nas, to the present, to help Dracula defeat Nas. It's becoming sort of a mythology, I'm weaving my favorite rappers into great video game stories.

Q. You've recently dropped your second mashup album, Nastlevania (combining the street lyricism of Nas with the music of Konami's Castlevania series). Were your artistic goals for Chrono Jigga and Nastlevania significantly different? Do you want listeners to come away with a different reaction to Chrono Jigga, as opposed to the feelings you hope to evoke in Nastlevania or another upcoming mashup album?

A. They are extremely different, though I am including them both in a "trilogy" of video-game and hip-hop mashups, of which Nastlevania is the second entry. With Chrono Jigga, I wanted to express my personal opinion that there aren't enough nerdy hip-hop artists/artists open about their geek sensibilities. Nastlevania wasn't a vehicle for my opinion; rather, I simply wanted to create my own Castlevania adventure through music. I want them to feel like Nas is actually a Belmont, and he actually defeated Dracula. I love changing people's perception of these idolized rap figures and, for gamers, giving them even more of a reason to idolize them. It's just so believable for Nas to be a vampire killer. Kind of like when you see a movie where an actor you like plays a role so perfectly you forever associate it with him. That's the feeling I want to get across. When people finish Nastlevania I want it to feel like they're walking out of a theater and having a moment like that.

Q: Do you think there is a disconnect between the audience that enjoyed this album, and those who enjoy your original music? If so, is this something you expected?

A: I remember when a lot of fans I had become friends with suddenly seemed to trail off in their connection to me as a result of this. There was definitely a moment when I saw interest shift. I guess that even though this was about as personal and original as a remix project gets, I knew there would be problems. I have always put being a producer ahead of being a rapper, though, and remixing was what my producer side wanted to do at the time. It got to the point where I could tell who came to me through the remixes and who was a fan of the rapping, but I'm always overjoyed when I find someone who discovered me through Chrono Jigga and went back into my catalog, or someone who was with me from the start. I hope that I won't lose these fans permanently and that they will come back for the original material I'm releasing again soon.

 Q. Was there any animosity or dissociation from the nerdcore community or other nerdy artists towards you, the album, or your quest to create such an album? Any specific exchanges or comments you have read?

A. There have not been any other artists directly attacking me; most of the ones I heard from were pleased by it. The community was not nearly as nice. A few people would tell me they just didn't understand what the point of me doing the album was, and didn't see the originality, I guess. A lot of folks got upset in comments sections on articles of the sites that promoted me. The worst thing I saw was very generalized comments about how rap is awful and should never be mixed with videogame music. A lot of people said I ruined their favorite soundtrack, and I think I actually got a death threat at one point from a friend of a friend on Facebook who shared my music. You know how nerd rage goes. I am very disappointed by how few nerds like hip-hop, and how nerds will both defend and attack things blindly.

Q. Conversely, were there individuals within nerdcore that commended this musical endeavor?

A. I was especially grateful to get a co-sign from YTCracker, the nerdcore artist who has done probably the best original Chrono Trigger-related project out there. Mega Ran was also very supportive, and helped me with a lot of my questions about the legalities and danger zones of doing this kind of very blatant videogame music sampling. Several artists in the community who had been watching me decided to step up and propose collaborations; can't yet go into specifics there.

 Q: Which character from Chrono Trigger is your favorite?

A: My favorite character is definitely Frog. The reason why would be a bit of a spoiler for those who haven't gotten too far into the game. Frog simply has the best backstory and arc in a game full of characters with great arcs. He was once human, a squire to a knight he saw killed right before his eyes by Magus. Before he can do anything, Magus turns him into a frog and he's helpless. He walks around that way for years, knowing that everyone can see the mark of how he failed, but ignoring it. He does his job and waits for revenge against Magus, when it seems it will never come. But finally, he realizes that he, not Cyrus, was meant to hold the most powerful sword all along, the Masamune. It's that, the moment when Frog gets the Masamune, that is the best character-driven moment in the game for me. Easy question.

Q: What's your favorite Jay-Z album?

A: Either Reasonable Doubt, which sadly lacked any acapella versions for me to use, or the Blueprint. It's tough to say. Reasonable Doubt has a young Jay-Z, fresh new face and voice, talking about real issues and giving us a streets-eye view that not too many rappers had at that time in East Coast hip-hop. The Blueprint is a little more developed, showcasing a Jay that's a little more classy and poetic than he started, a lot richer and much stronger in the music game. The Blueprint is the mix of the Jay that we started with and the one that came after that album's release, the one we are all very familiar with now. I might have to break the tie and give it to Reasonable Doubt just because the Blueprint was the first album that, while good, destined Jay to become the shallow billionaire rapper that he is now. I guess he told us all this would happen when he said he was a business, man.

Q. Anything else you would like to add to wrap up the interview?

A. Yes. I hope I haven't cast myself in a type by making such a successful video game mashup! I have original material coming this fall that all fans, past and present, should look out for. Even though a lot of them may know me for the video game remixes, I do stuff on a traditional hip-hop tip just as impressively, in my opinion, and I hope I can be one of the successful nerdy rappers I spoke of in the outro to Chrono Jigga.

Thanks again to 2mello for his time. Go check out all his music over at 2mello.com.

* Title Chrono Jigga artwork from ahoodie.com.

A Closer Look: Frog's Theme by 8 Bit Instrumental

Much of South America seems to have the same infatuation with Nintendo that their North American counterparts have (In fact, the spread of Nintendo and video games in general through South America is something I would like to know more about. If anyone cares to enlighten me, well, my email is on the right.) This proliferation of video games has lead to several great bands rising from the continent. The Brazilian band 8 Bit Instrumental is the first of these bands that I had the pleasure of hearing, and I am glad to say that they have been creating some very diverse content over the last several years.

The vibrant live sounds of 8 Bit Instrumental first reached my ears with the debut of the groups fourth release, Beat the 8 Super Robots with 8 Bit Instrumental, a collection of songs from the illustrious Mega Man II released back in 2008. Within forty-five minutes they turned Mega Man into disco, funk, dance, and more. The live instruments and strong recordings made this album an instant favorite of mine. I credit this collection of arrangements, especially the closing track, Vacation in Miranda's Beach? (Ending Theme), with introducing me to both 8 Bit Instrumental, as well as the standard of VGM that is Mega Man II. That album got plenty of plays, but when their next release hit the internet at the tail end of '08, I was quickly smitten with the direction they took this time around.

The group went in a more stripped down, and serene style for much of their follow up album, The Number of the Bit. That brings us to this article's track, an acoustic, rhythmic rendition of Frog's theme from Chrono Trigger. I could imagine watching a band performing this arrangement while I bet on a race or chug beers (I mean sodas) at the Millenial Fair itself. That same upbeat style is felt on several more Chrono Trigger pieces, as well as in tributes to Zelda, Bomberman, and to greatest effect in several rearrangements of music from Hirokazu "Hip" Tanaka's Super Metroid soundtrack. (As an aside, I believe very few renditions of music by Hip Tanaka are done justice. Just remember, I consider Metroid Metal to have set the gold standard. If only there were a world where Grant Henry created Mother Metal, just to hear him recreate more Hip Tanaka songs. Sigh...) Though this album carries a more cohesive sound, a variety of styles that 8 Bit Instrumental has control over is still on display. Several tracks travel a great musical distance, as genres blend into arrangements of Alex Kidd and a powerful rendition of the title theme to the aforementioned game Chrono Trigger.

Yasunori Mitsuda found himself in the hospital during his time composing for Chrono Trigger. After toiling away as a sound engineer and programmer, Square handed composing duties of a brand new series to Mitsuda. Like that, Yasunori was composing his first game alongside such names as Yuji Horii and Akira Toriyama of Dragon Quest fame. With artists as well known as these (at least in Japan), it could rattle the nerves of even a seasoned musician. Mitsuda poured himself into his work regardless, and proved to have a highly perfectionist nature as he worked intensely throughout the games creation. By the time Chrono Trigger neared the final leg of production, Mitsuda found himself diagnosed with stomach ulcers and confined to a hospital bed. This led to renowned Square composer Nobuo Uematsu stepping in to finish a remaining ten compositions to round out Chrono Trigger's epic soundtrack. A soundtrack that would end up spanning three discs in its initial CD release.

I don't expect every musician to put themselves in the hospital when they make a new album, but I would imagine it takes a similarly focused artist to ably rearrange the themes of the Super Nintendo classic Chrono Trigger. 8 Bit Instrumental is such a group of artists. A clear, thoughtful musicianship can be heard throughout this and their other albums. I'm also glad to say, that when I was researching The Number of the Bit, it would seem the album has gotten some cover art that may not have been there when the album was released. I mention this, because it is some nice album art that fits the music quite well I think.

Their longtime site seems to be down as of this writing, creating another broken link throughout the archives. Lucky for you, 8 Bit Instrumental have a new bandcamp page. You can plunder four of their full length albums for free there. Sadly, it seems like a few of the lesser known albums and EPs are not to be seen. The largest travesty of the groups site being down is the loss of a handful of straightforward rock renditions of classic Pokemon Red/Blue music for an upcoming (at the time) fan remake of the classic games. As an aside, 8 Bit Instrumental also has a side project known as Chiptots, a band surprisingly different from the one performing the vibrant sounds of Yasunori Mitsuda's classic debut, but I'll have to save their chiptune inspired sounds for a future article.

References.
 1. Chris Kohler, Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave 
the World an Extra Life (Brady Games, 2004) p. 146-150
 2. 8 Bit Instrumental artist page at VGMdb.
vgmdb.net/artist/2689 Last accessed 7 October 2011.
 3. 8 Bit Instrumental artist page at bandcamp.
8bitinstrumental.bandcamp.com Last accessed 7 October 2011.