In a marketing first for the embattled music industry, rap label Def Jam will soon release a compilation by some of its top artists -- not on CD or in a movie, but in a video game.

In a marketing first for the embattled music industry, rap label Def Jam will soon release a compilation by some of its top artists -- not on CD or in a movie, but in a video game. The hotly anticipated game, "Def Jam Vendetta," pairs Def Jam with Electronic Arts Inc., the largest independent video game company. Due in stores April 1, the game features such rappers as DMX and Method Man and a storyline that brings together the worlds of wrestling and hip-hop.

"I think that there is an integral relationship between video games and music," Steve Schnur, who runs music and game audio operations globally for EA, said. "Video gaming is an essential part of the hip-hop lifestyle." By weaving its tracks into a video game aimed at young and predominantly male hip-hop fans, Def Jam hopes to build an audience among those most likely to go out and buy CDs.

Although the game carries the Def Jam label, it has received more critical praise from the gaming press as a wrestling title than as a musical platform. "When you look at Def Jam, it's not necessarily the music: it's the lifestyle and the culture we partnered with," Jeff Karp, vice president of marketing at EA Canada, said.

Def Jam artists like DMX, Ludacris, Method Man, and Ghostface Killah were eager to participate in the game, which features their voices and animated likenesses. Wrestling on an underground circuit as they work their way up to a match with the master thug "D-Mob," players will have up to 1,500 different moves to throw at opponents. They will also be able to groove along with tracks like DMX's "X Gonna Give It to Ya," Scarface's "In Cold Blood," and Public Enemy's "Fight the Power."

Just as golf is the medium of choice for closing deals in the corporate world, gaming has become a serious platform for doing business in the world of hip-hop. "Ninety percent of the artists, athletes, and entertainers are gamers," Def Jam president Kevin Liles said. "I can't tell you how many deals were done over PlayStation 2."


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