A new football season dawns upon us and which means the release of another Madden that's not worth buying. I'm a gamer's gamer, so I'm type of guy that still plays Madden 12 because it was the last good one they made. EA Sports obtained an exclusivity clause with the NFL that killed any opposition in the football video game market, allowing them to be mediocre every year without worry. Shit, I don't even play Madden anymore: I've moved onto soccer, also known as "real" football by people that had to Google Colin Kaepernick last month.
There was a time when EA Sports was killing shit, but that was mainly thanks to their offshoot, EA Sports Big. Started at the turn of the century, EA Sports Big was a publishing brand whose umbrella covered vibrant arcade sports games. Starting with the SSX snowboarding series, the brand went on to create the Street franchises, providing an alternative to EA Sports sims that aimed for those who didn't need realism with their sports celebrities.
NBA Street and NFL Street brought to life the imagination of every kid that played football in the field or basketball on the concrete. People would play the game and then go outside to do elaborate tricks and make their friends look as dumb as possible (or, in my case, make myself look dumb as possible. Like when I tried to do the figure 8 move from NFL Street and ended up somersaulting on the parking lot and tearing a muscle).
One thing that EA's games always excelled at was licensed soundtracks. Their sound directors had a better ear for rappers than anyone working at Complex and XXL and still managed to include a broad spectrum of music genres. (I won't include the Madden 2000 soundtrack that was drenched in ska music. I think we'd all like to pretend ska music wasn't a thing). With EA Sports Big's kung-fu fantasy style showboating and EA's access to popular music, the Street games presented an atmosphere that perfectly encompassed the attitude and feeling of playing in your own neighborhood. EA Sports Big even got Rahzel to do the intro for their games, showing a connection with music soon as the game starts. With that said, I now present you my top 5 EA Sports Big soundtracks in order by most fire-ass tracks.
5. NFL Street 2
The first NFL Street soundtrack had 2 X-ecutioners songs on it, which is why it is not in my top 5. The second NFL Street made up for this by having two M.O.P. songs. No song on the soundtrack fit the urban gridiron game as well as "Halftime" by Ying Yang Twins and Homebwoi, featuring college band style horns and claps that made you feel like you were at homecoming. Shit, the song went on to become a mainstay at sports stadiums nationwide. With all of the hard hitting and trash talk, it wouldn't be a violent game in the 2000s without having Drowning Pool or Papa Roach on your soundtrack. Overall, the musical score for NFL Street was nonstop man-anger and rabid competitiveness. It's also the last time anybody heard from Yung Wun.
4. Def Jam Vendetta
It was really hard to choose between Vendetta and Fight For New York, but I found out EA Sports Big didn't even publish the latter, which made it much easier. With the game essentially being a Def Jam promotion device, it was only right that it had the best music. Featuring EA fighting game mainstay "Bring the Pain," "Focus" by Joe Budden, and 3 DMX tracks, you start to wonder if Def Jam was making a compilation project and decided to make a game to go with it.
3. FIFA Street
See, EA Sports Big games tend to have a pattern where you can tell the series is falling off because they'll let EDM producers do 5 songs apiece. Before they did that in FIFA Street 3, it had an eclectic mix of Baile Funk, grime and drum and bass (please correct me if I am wrong as shit. Everything over 140 BPM is either club music or EDM to me). Every video game soundtrack has that song that you're glad you discovered and for me it was "Un Canto a Mi Terra." It's the type of soundtrack that makes you go outside and practice futbol tricks to realize how out of shape you are.
2. SSX 3
SSX 3 is considered the best snowboarding game on PlayStation 2, if not the best snowboarding game of all time. The controls were smooth, the level design was excellent and the music was the icing ever so lovingly laid atop the cake. EA Canada even went as far as to add "Radio Big" where DJ Atomika would update you on events while spinning EDM remixes and chill ass hip hop songs. I'm honestly surprised Diplo hasn't played the whole soundtrack during a show and told everyone he made it yet.
1. NBA Street Vol. 2
Most rap fans would've seen this as a given. NBA Street Vol. 2 let Just Blaze and Bobbitto Garcia helm the score and create one of the best hip hop catalogs for any basketball video game. 2K Sports allowed Jay Z to "curate" the soundtrack for 2K and, as a result, we were forced to listen to Imagine Dragons. Have you ever watched a basketball promo with rock music on it? You'd get the same awkward feeling from watching a fight compilation while listening to Toro Y Moi. It could've earned this spot off of the strength of including The Choice is Yours and T.R.O.Y., but the soundtrack is rounded out by a smattering of Just Blaze instrumentals.