July 22, 2017

An Open Letter to Twitch: Revive the Hip-Hop Gaming League

Simultaneously the best and worst video game tournament of all-time, the Hip-Hop Gaming League Championship was an event no one remembers.

An Open Letter to Twitch: Revive the Hip-Hop Gaming League

Throughout the archives of forgotten tournaments and leagues within gaming history, there is one winner that almost no one has heard of. The Hip-Hop Gaming League Championship.

Dusty on a shelf somewhere in GGL’s or MTV’s archives lies the tapes that no one watched, that no one cared about, that no one has even heard of. the forbidden fruit.

Despite Snoop Dogg’s extreme prowess of esports structure and foresight, the series (few) knew as the HHGL, the Hip-Hop Gaming League Championship, died a silent and unnoticed death.

It was, in the eyes of anyone with a proper taste for real entertainment and competitive gaming, the best tournament to ever exist.


HHGL’s Start: Everyone Close Your Eyes

We often see headlines discussing large tournaments that have become household names among the scene. Your MLGs, DreamHacks, LCS, WCS, and others… but one stands above them all — the collaboration of over 20 chart-topping rappers playing a sports game that no one had any real interest in watching, but watched anyways because every competitor was a famous hip-hop artist. The Hip-Hop Gaming League.

The Hip-Hop Gaming League was something of legend. Tucked away in the annals of esports, over a decade old. Riddled with on-screen typos, queues that were completely off, more FUBU jerseys and over-sized Dipset-inspired t-shirts than a machine could count, it was both the pinnacle of cringe and awesome. It elevated pseudo-competitive gaming on a pedestal no higher than a blade of grass, but for hip-hop fans stateside, it was the greatest thing to ever. There was never anything like it in gaming history, and more than likely, there never will be.

The idea of competitive gaming is, in relation to traditional sports, very new. It is in constant flux, between being taken seriously and being seen as a joke in mainstream media — cyber-athletes mashing keyboards to win virtual matches for real money is what most see it as.

That’s for the viewer to decide, but for me personally, it’s always been about competition at any level, as long as it’s an even playing field and entertaining to watch. Entertainment drives and pulls numbers; complex and intricate gameplay, when at too high of a level, pushes viewers away.

For The Culture: HHGL Removed Negative Stigma

HHGL was something that achieved something few tournaments can say they’ve done — remove negative stigma from the video game scene (even if only temporarily). There were relaxed interviews with rappers which seemed real and informal, giving a genuine appeal to the whole show itself. Today, interviews feel too forced and calculated.

HHGL was something that allowed people that weren’t into video games or hip-hop to appreciate and tune in, to check out what was going on, and to see which one of these hip-hop artists could actually play at a respectably high level in a sports video game. That was something cool for viewers to see.

Hip-hop artists are notorious and infamous for being unfiltered and true to what’s on their mind, in comparison to other genres. It was the unfiltered hype that made this league so incredibly entertaining to watch, despite it never getting any good ratings or appeal at a mainstream level due to production quality, marketing, and other such factors. This is something Twitch could turn on its head and improve ten-fold.

It bridged the gap between what was, and still is, one of the largest cultural movements in modern society, with the so-called “nerds” that played video games. If rappers played video games, it gave a sort of pass for others less fortunate to also play — those slapped with stereotypes.

Playing video games to the public en masse, even if only for the duration of the HHGL, was something cool and accepted.

Twitch’s Reach: Let’s Utilize It to Revive HHGL

Let’s not lie to ourselves — Twitch has unmatched clout in the streaming industry of video games (with their territory expanding dynamically). Utilize that clout and pull in some of the top music artists we know today in the hip-hop game (or music game in general) to come for an event.

MURS, Lupe Fiasco, and T-Pain are just a few well-respected names that come to mind on top of the original HHGL competitors who have a penchant for all things video games and have a large presence on Twitch. In fact, MURS participated in the first season of HHGL.

Shaq himself was even involved with ELEAGUE’s celebrity SFV event. This type of event works, and is a huge net positive.

So while the outcome was about as unsurprising as it can possibly get, there is still something special about seeing major sports veterans and hip hop stars on a TBS stage playing Street Fighter V for charity.

Exactly right. No one cares about the outcome to these games. They want the entertainment and fun that goes along with it, and that’s all that would matter. This isn’t meant to be molded into one of those big serious tournaments, as aforementioned. It is, however, meant to be itself.

With social media being the primary resource hip-hop artists communicate through, now more than ever (by a huge margin), it is a better time than ever to put something together like HHGL, schedule-permitting.

With the extremely fortunate and rare ability to reach tens of millions of people around the world simultaneously through such an easy-to-use and accessible platform unlike ever before, it’s interesting to think what a show like this, 10 years removed from the original, would be like and what sort of impact it would have if it became a regular thing, with new artists coming on and showcasing work.

Something uncensored and unfiltered.

Something not run by 30 sponsors having to be plugged every 15 seconds.

Something different, while maintaining DJWheat as the host and Snoop Dogg as the commissioner to recognize the roots from the GGL era.

Closing Thoughts

Hip-hop is extremely close to my heart and it’s something I grew up with. Fans of the culture know that it’s just that — a culture. It’s larger than music, it’s larger than life itself. Something that speaks a story from its origin, be it the streets or from a bedroom. It allows people to express their mind and have a voice, when no one will listen.

HHGL is something that I’ll always cherish and hold in the top spot for gaming tournaments. It’s got a special place. It was something special that is often replicated, but can never be truly duplicated.

Somehow, among all the other stuff going on in competitive gaming at the time, HHGL went totally unnoticed and slipped under the radar as the gaming scene went on, but I like to look at it as a diamond in the rough.

It’s something that’d perform well with a proper revival, and hopefully as more than just a gaming tournament. A platform, and a way to bridge the gap between modern society’s views of gaming, and the passionate gamers out there that enjoy video games for what they are — entertainment and fun.

It could be expanded on a global scale if successful, bringing together hip-hop artists from all around the world, providing entertainment for everyone.

With that, I ask Twitch to consider bringing HHGL back. Somehow, one day soon, utilizing their resources as much as they can to make this a spectacle of an event. For the world to see, for hip-hop fans to cherish like I cherished the HHGL, and for newcomers especially — to take a long and hard look at how hip-hop and video games can coexist, while being so extremely different and diverse from one another.

On behalf of those that never got to experience the glory of HHGL, and those that appreciated it as much as I did as a kid:

Revive HHGL — Please?