Today marks 20 years since the release of Rare's Donkey Kong 64 in North America (as was customary in the 90s, us Brits had to wait an extra few weeks). The game is a wildly overstuffed 3D platformer, and perhaps the epitome of the studio's love for a collectable or two thousand, starring not only Donkey Kong but an extended family of playable characters: Diddy Kong, Lanky Kong, Chunky Kong and Tiny Kong.
The game plugged a sizeable hole for the N64's software lineup and, thanks to Rare's experience with the console, felt like one of the few titles that truly took advantage of the console's 'expansion pak' (this add-on was mandatory). It is absolutely huge, packed with secrets (including versions of Donkey Kong and Jetpac), never seems to end, and then... there's the one element looming over everything else. The DK Rap.
This piece of music is hard to summarise: it's a song that opens the game, it lifts inspiration from the likes of Run DMC in terms of the setup (which is basically a cycle of verses about the Kongs' different abilities), it is also a chiptune with bad lyrics and bad singing, and it's also a bit of a pisstake.
Is this inspired, or awful? Is it so bad it's good? Is it something that Rare should put on display in its front lobby on an endless loop, gradually driving the receptionist to despair, until they smash a nearby glass case, grab an award and bludgeon the next passerby to death while screaming THIS CRAZY KONG JUST DIGS THIS TUNE?!?
The DK Rap went on to enjoy something of an afterlife, at least, unlike Donkey Kong 64 itself: Rare is now owned by Microsoft, and the game stars core Nintendo characters, so it's unlikely we'll ever see this on anything outside of a Nintendo 64. The rap, on the other hand, went on to make an appearance in the Gamecube's superb Donkey Konga and Smash Bros. Melee., before once again returning in last year's Smash Bros. Ultimate.
There are two raps in video games that I'll always remember. One is Mickey Rourke's grunted outro for the appalling Rogue Warrior, and the other involves Lanky Kong being extolled with couplets like this:
He can handstand when he needs to
And stretch his arms out, just for you.
Bars! Move over Eminem. I don't know where to end with the DK Rap because the truth is it never ends. I played this game when it came out and I've always remembered the DK Rap: hell, here I am seeing that DK64 is 20 years old and the first thing I think is "So they're finally here, performing for you!"
Earworm. Parody. Silly. Basic. Atrocity. And in some way I hate to admit, unforgettable. Just put me on the decks with Cranky Kong, because at least he knew not to sing along.