"If I'm behind this, this will be the most popular thing to do in gaming on the planet," says legendary DJ Grandmaster Flash about October's upcoming DJ Hero, Activision's long-awaited turntablist twist on their multi-billion-dollar Guitar Hero franchise. Flash tells Rolling Stone that he has been involved with the game for a little over a year, contributing exclusive mixes, doing voice-overs and even advising the suits on what type of language to use.
Flash says Activision pulled him into a screening room at New York's Bowery Hotel about a year and a half ago, asking him for assistance. He got on board because he believed the DJs that Activision were seeking out at the time were authentic; names like DJ Shadow, DJ AM, DJ Z-Trip and the still-unconfirmed DJ Jazzy Jeff. "I have major respect for those people," says Flash. "It's not gonna be DJ Suitcase, DJ Receiver and DJ Coffee Cup. It ain't gonna be that." More than 12 DJs have produced more than 80 exclusive mixes to be used as part of the gameplay.
For the music itself, Activision has licensed more than 100 songs for blending and mixing, including Beastie Boys "Sabotage" sliced into Foo Fighters's "Monkey Wrench" and Black Eyed Peas' current Billboard-topping smash "Boom Boom Pow" getting a house makeover when worked into a Benny Benassi banger. While still unconfirmed as actual gameplay items, Flash was most bowled over by Activision's intention to use many of the classic breakbeat records he used to spin in late-'70s park jams, like the Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache" and Chic's formative "Good Times." "All the shit that I played," says Flash. "The shit that's in my boxes. I'm looking at the list and they even had some of my songs that were secrets that I scratched the title off of 'em. I'm like, 'How the fuck did you find this shit?' "
Flash provided two DJ mixes to the game — Herbie Hancock's "Rock It" vs. N.E.R.D.'S "Lap Dance" and his own "Here Comes My DJ" vs. Gary Numan's "Cars." He provided the voiceovers for the gameplay tutorial and, of course, will appear as a character in the game. "It looks like me," he says of his pixelly doppelganer. "And the fuckin' shit acts like me too. I think I probably would have had a pair of Nikes on instead of Adidas, but other than that I'm good."
Activision is hoping to capture a bigger audience with DJ Hero than its Guitar forefather. By using a wider swath of music, DJ Hero will cast a wider net than a Guitar Hero track list that always limits itself to guitar-based music. In an age where turntables have been outselling guitars since the beginning of the decade, Flash believes more people want to grow up to be superstar DJs than guitar gods. "Maybe I'm just being very biased, but I think more people want to be DJs secretly than wanna play a guitar," he says. "Like a good friend of mine, Chris Rock. I remember him coming into my dressing room saying, 'Shit, I always wanted to be a DJ, Flash. But I just could never get that shit.' I'm gonna make sure he gets a copy of this. Chris, this is your turn right now."
Confirmed mixes in DJ Hero:
David Bowie - "Lets Dance" vs. KRS-1 - "Jack Of Spades"
Nirvana - "All Apologies" vs. Rick James - "Give It To Me"
Zombies - "Time Of The Season" vs. Chuck Brown - "Bustin Loose"
Grandmaster Flash - "Here Comes My DJ" vs. Gary Numan - "Cars"
Herbie Hancock - "Rockit" vs. N.E.R.D. - "Lapdance"
Jay Z - "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" vs. Eminem - "My Name Is"
Marvin Gaye - "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" vs. Gorillaz - "Feel Good Inc"
Dizzee Rascal - "Fix Up, Look Sharp' vs. Justice - "Genesis"
Gwen Stefani - "Hollaback Girl' vs. Rick James - "Give It To Me"
Jurassic 5 - "Jayou" vs. Herbie Hancock - "Rockit"
Tears for Fears - "Shout' vs. Eric Prydz - "Pjanoo (Radio Edit)"
Black Eyed Peas - "Boom Boom Pow' vs. Benni Benassi - "Satisfaction"
Beastie Boys - "Sabotage" vs. Foo Fighters - "Monkey Wrench"