In its most ambitious cross-marketing program to date, ESPN Videogames is featuring more than three dozen original or licensed tracks from 22 top hip-hop acts in "NBA 2K5," a fall release for PlayStat

In its most ambitious cross-marketing program to date, ESPN Videogames is featuring more than three dozen original or licensed tracks from 22 top hip-hop acts in "NBA 2K5," a fall release for PlayStation 2 and Xbox.

A companion soundtrack CD will be offered with purchase at such retail chains as Electronics Boutique and GameStop. A 45-date tour will feature key game/soundtrack artists, while a film crew and traveling audio studio will accompany the trek to capture material for a DVD/CD package due early next year.

"This is the first year we're licensing music and also commissioning original tracks for our games," ESPN Videogames marketing and promotions director Tim Rosa says. "It's not only our most ambitious 'multimedia' program for any game, but also one of the most innovative for the industry.

Contributing tracks to "NBA 2K5" are such acts as Del the Funky Homosapien, Hazen Street, Holla Point, KillRadio, People Under The Stairs and Aesop Rock. The soundtrack also contains selections by Skillz, the Roots, Aceyalone & Madlib and Hieroglyphics featuring Goapele from the compilation "True Notes Vol. 1" (Okay Player/Decon). Among the acts writing tracks specifically for the game are Truck & Mack.

"I've always loved gaming, so it's only natural to be a part of 'ESPN NBA 2K5' as a character in the game," Del tells Billboard. "I've even got my own dream team. It's also a kick to provide some of the soundtrack beats and to work together on the coming tour."

The Champion Sound tour (aka Cali Comm 2K4) presented by ESPN Videogames kicks off Oct. 13 at the University of California-Santa Barbara and will wrap Nov. 24 at San Francisco's historic Fillmore theater. The trek will also feature Aceyalone, Abstract Rude and Mikah 9 performing as Haiku De Tat, Bukue One and Zion-I.

Decon founder Peter Bittenbender is overseeing the tour's traveling audio/video studio. Tour footage and recordings will become part of the aforementioned DVD/CD, which Decon is targeting for February 2005 release, with distribution by RED/Sony.