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In 2009 T-Pain released the best mobile phone app ever made by a rapper. The “I Am T-Pain” app condensed the humongous supercomputers that went into Cher’s “Believe” by Auto-Tuning anything said in the cell phone’s microphone. You could choose from different musical keys or use the same personal frequency as Tallahassee Pain himself. There were a few free instrumentals and more available for purchase to sing or rap or make scatting noises over.
It was three dollars, and much like T-Pain, painfully ahead of its time.
Rappers making their own mobile phone apps has finally started trending six years later. Whether people are getting inspired by Kim Kardashian raking in piles of money from her Kim Kardashian: Hollywood game or Dr. Dre possibly becoming a billionaire from selling his Beats Music company to Apple, there are now a couple of medium-profile rappers attempting to cash in on cell phone games. Ringtones have gone the way of voicemail (if you leave one, you’re trying too hard), so current laughingstock-with-a-point Meek Mill and Houston demi-legend Slim Thug have opened up shop in the app store and Google Play.
Meek’s game Bike Life seems especially cheap, though it did just get a small makeover with an update. The purpose is to drive an ATV through city streets to collect gold coins while avoiding all other vehicles, including cop cars and stalled trucks. It’s broadly like Temple Run, but it reminds me a lot of the game NBA Rush, which is an app where probably-active NBA players dunk on Earth-invading aliens.
Unfortunately, there are no dunks in Bike Life, but a recent update did make the game incentivize playing longer to get new bikes, riders, and clothing, rather than being forced to pay for any upgrades you might not want. Now you can unlock Meek Mill as a rider by playing for hours on end instead of only being able to buy his character for two dollars. At the same time, the gameplay is oddly difficult and gets boring quickly. Meek made a couple of Instagram posts about the game like a month ago, but he seems to have forgotten it completely like any other product promoted on Instagram.
While Meek released his app as sort of a supplemental piece of marketing for his new album and tour, Slim Thug seems to have made his as a legitimate standalone business decision. Thugga does in fact have new music out with two albums having dropped in 2015 (news to me), but I think he’s already tweeted more about Roll Like a Boss, his 8-bit inspired phone game, than either volume of Hogg Life. The concept of the game is simple: pick up chicks and avoid the haters. That all the women the game allows to be picked up are dressed like streetwalkers and flop around in the car like ragdolls, or that the “haters” include police barricades and tanks, along with flying pigs and bouncing sports balls seems to be beside the point. Stuff flies at your Cadillac and you touch the screen to jump over that stuff.
If someone like Joe Budden–someone with a sizable fan base that obviously doesn’t care about what’s cool or good–made some type of street-fighting app, that would probably sell.
Roll Like a Boss is better than Bike Life if only because it’s a little more simple and user-friendly. However, there are no real goals of the game—besides an online leaderboard you have to be connected to the Apple Gaming Center to place on. High scores don’t unlock anything. You can choose from five cities to “roll” through and the only difference is the background picture. There are eight other cars besides the default Caddy that can be unlocked, but they all cost a dollar and their only advantage over the Caddy is you can hit two more obstacles before the run ends.
Meek Mill and Slim Thug cashed in on this about as well as Soulja Boy did when he made the Flappy Soulja app, essentially the exact same game as Flappy Bird after the original was infamously removed by its creator. A mid-tier rapper is always going to have trouble promoting a product like this, but these weak attempts at profit likely show that there is a market for rapper apps, and not just bootleg voice modulators made by bootleg mobile app companies.
If someone like Joe Budden–someone with a sizable fan base that obviously doesn’t care about what’s cool or good–made some type of street-fighting app, that would probably sell. Anything like Def Jam: Fight for NY would work on an iPhone. Likewise someone as famous as Snoop Dogg could probably make a pretty penny doing his own version of Clash of Clans or that one app Kate Upton dresses up in costumes for. Someone needs to put the time and effort to make a game as addictive and profitable as Kardashian did. It could even be T-Pain, who re-released his “I Am T-Pain 2.0” app a couple of years ago with the ability to upload and share your Auto-Tune karaoke with the world.
There is money to be made in the app store, but it may still be a while before a rapper invents the next Minecraft.
Screengrab via Slim Thug/YouTube