Sampling is fundamental to hip hop music. It began when club DJ’s noticed that the breaks in contemporary pop hits usually got the club live. Eventually, those DJ’s – or anyone with audio equipment – started looping those breaks to extend them, and finally, emcees began rapping over the breaks. Now, hip hop songs are usually comprised of multiple layers of sampled sounds, slowed down, sped-up, and otherwise edited together to form a single composition.
This is what I wanted to explore when I first built the Hip Hop Is Not For You game: the different layers of a song, and how adding and removing each layer affected the mood of the song. The gaming aspects serve mainly as an interface; this is not so much a game as a toy, which allows the user to experience what it’s like when certain instruments and sounds are brought into the song, and what each does to the sound.
Then, I went about creating a controller for it. As I mentioned, hip hop started with DJ’s, who would use turntables to extend the breaks; using two copies of the same song playing on two turntables, they could go back and forth between the records, essentially looping and extending the instrumental break beats that were so popular. Using two turntable-like wheels, users mimic the mechanics of this “beat juggling” while they play the game. Overall, players are engaging in three specific gestures reminiscent of club DJ’s:
- Controlling two separate turntables, each with different limits to the range of motion; the left turntable has a far more limited range of motion than the right turntable;
- Intermittently using both hands to operate different functions; in this case, once the user is comfortable enough with the mechanics, they would be able to use one hand to manipulate a turntable, while using the other push buttons;
- Focusing the user’s attention on both the on-screen visuals, and the controller itself – similar to the way a club DJ must be aware of both her equipment and the crowd.