This is exactly why we need a Hip-Hop board game.

When we started making Rap Godz, we had no choice but to ask the question: Is there a place for a hip-hop board game? In our mind, the answer is undoubtedly yes. Going far beyond just a music genre, hip-hop has carved out a level of cultural significance that seems to have no bounds. Music, movies, fashion, literature, and other art forms have all been touched by it. References to hip-hop culture concepts and slang have found their way into software and become relevant in a wide variety of businesses and corporations, both large and small. It would make sense that a hip-hop game is only a matter of time. So the better question might be…

Why isn’t there a hip-hop board game?

From what we can tell from a reasonable number of Google searches, few have tried (at least not very publicly). Here are some of the things we think are worth considering:

Reason #1 — Timing is important.

We are in a golden age of board games. With a combination of crowdfunding, relative accessibility of the technology required to create games (i.e. 3D printing and digital art production software), and desire for real life social interaction; the average person on a small budget can put themselves out there and make it in the industry. Hip-Hop and board games are generally on opposite ends of the social spectrum. It’s fair to say that our game wouldn’t fit at the start of such a gaming revolution, but we are far enough into it, where it’s starting to make a lot more sense.

Reason #2 — It’s blerd territory.

If you’re not familiar with the term “blerd” neither was I until someone referred to me as one. It’s short for “black nerd”. It’s a powerful term because it connects stereotypically disconnected things in a somewhat endearing way. That’s exactly what a hip-hop board game has to do. It has to exist in a space that might not fully accept it. We as designers, have to present it simultaneously to two entirely different communities in two entirely different ways. We have to “code switch” with our game pitch. It seems like there are very few possibilities for folks other than blerds who would be as well equipped to create and deliver such a game effectively.

Reason #3 — You can’t win.

Let’s be realistic. It’s going to offend someone. There will be a healthy number of stereotypes supported. As hard as we might try to keep them out, there will still probably be a few unsavory undertones and potential implications of violence and/or sexism. If you tried to cleanse the game of all these things, it might feel disconnected from today’s hip-hop and those closest to the culture wouldn’t accept it. In fact, we are trying to inject as much racial and gender diversity into the game as we can (and we might be vilified for that too). Also, no matter what shape the game takes, its creators will become the defenders/champions of everything that’s in it. That’s the unfortunate side effect bringing blackness to a historically non-black space. It’s something black cosplayers can tell you all about. Basically, haters gon’ hate.

Concept Card Art for Rap Godz by Hamu Dennis

Rap Godz is coming.

We think the timing is good. We are very satisfied with our blerd status. We are woefully aware of the challenges we will face. We hope to pave the way for others like us who want to bring their culture into a space where you wouldn’t expect it. But most of all, we want to make something that is fun. We love hip-hop and our goal with Rap Godz is to honor it and make fun of it in one entertaining package.

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