In the early aughts, EA dropped an unexpected fighting game that dominated the lives of every gamer I knew, including mine and my cousin’s. This partnership with the hip-hop record label Def Jam spawned three iconic brawling games, but the series has been MIA since 2007. Now, rapper Ice-T has seemingly explained why the Def Jam fighting game franchise hasn’t seen a comeback or a remake in nearly 20 years.
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Ice-T, born Tracy Lauren Marrow, took to X/Twitter on January 7 to dish on Def Jam. In response to some popular tweets—one is a TikTok repost of Jamaican rapper Sean Paul calling rapper Scarface a “raasclaat” (Jamaican for “ass wipe”), the other is a video of Ice-T calling rapper Redman a “punk”—Ice-T speculated the series hasn’t been brought back due to licensing agreements between publisher and talent.
“So many people ask me why this game hasn’t been brought back for newer consoles,” Ice-T said in a quote-retweet of his character pummeling Redman. “Maybe because they’d have to pay for voice and music rights again. Maybe?”
In response, a fan tweeted that if EA released an HD remake and a sequel to the Def Jam games, the company “will make millions UPON millions!” It’s hard to say if Ice-T agrees, but the rapper said he wasn’t paid much for his contribution.
“Here’s the BIG problem. I don’t think they paid ANY of us ANYTHING to be in that original game,” Ice-T said to the Def Jam fan. “I know I didn’t get any type of substantial money. It’s was [sic] a situation where you didn’t want to be left OUT of the game. Well….. Yesterday’s price is not Today’s price..!”
Hold On, What Were The Def Jam Games?
Def Jam as a fighting game series pulled up to the scene with 2003’s wrestle-brawler Vendetta. If you can imagine WWE with a bunch of rappers, like the late artist DMX and rapper-turned-internet-personality Joe Budden, then you’ve got the idea. This game’s success, which by some estimates sold 750,00 units by July 2006, spawned the 2004 sequel Fight for NY. This entry skyrocketed the series to mainstream status, with an expanded roster (featuring women artists such as rappers Lil’ Kim and Shawnna), a character creator, and deeper story about gangs taking down Snoop Dogg (who’s also the hardest boss in the whole game, fuck him). There was a third Def Jam game called Icon, but that one stripped away much of what made the games successful. It was held back by clunky mechanics, a smaller character roster, and limited movesets.
Aside from the idea of rappers beating the shit out of each other Royal Rumble style, the series’ biggest draw was the soundtrack. Most of the characters in the franchise were artists on the Def Jam label. You had folks like Ludacris and Warren G, and you also had some of their most banger tracks in the background as you bodied them. This blend of hip-hop and wrestling was unexpected, but it absolutely made sense in the context of rap culture and the concept of beef.
Kotaku has reached out to EA for comment about Ice-T’s claims.
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So, if Ice-T is right I guess we aren’t getting a Def Jam reboot or remake any time soon. I’d say you can still play them, but unless you can find hard copies of these games and the hardware they’re playable on, it doesn’t seem like any of them—not even the Xbox 360’s Icon—are backward compatible on modern hardware. This one’s just stuck in the past, it seems, and that’s a bummer.