PaRappa The Rapper came along in 1996 to the surprise of many gamers. Nobody had ever seen such a game and one could only laugh to see the first level, in which an onion dojo master teaches karate to a hip-hop dog. Sony Computer Entertainment took a bold chance on the game, but it paid off quite handily, thanks to the recognition of its incredible originality. The game's main focus is on the rap music genre (thus the name PaRappa The Rapper). Being a longtime listener of West Coast rap, I thought that I was in for a good laugh at this quirky Japanese take on rap. But that quirkiness is itself the best part about PaRappa The Rapper's soundtrack - it never takes itself seriously. Instead of laughing at it, I found myself laughing with it.
The hilarious 2D paper-thin characters coupled with a 3D world was more than enough to induce laughter, but the addition of some of the strangest songs you'll ever hear in a game added immensely to the game's appeal. Titles such as "Chop Chop Master Onion's RAP" are indicative of what you're in for when you pop this CD into your stereo. Although the game's creators claim that this music is rap, from my standpoint it is purely J-Pop. To ensure variety, most of the songs do add a certain extra element to the rap music, such as "Prince Fleaswallow's RAP", which is clearly inspired by reggae, or "Cheap Cheap The Cooking Chicken's RAP", which attempts to add a jazzy feel. The voice actors/singers were all chosen carefully, and each fits the character design to a tee. All the songs are extremely catchy; it is guaranteed that you will be humming/singing the crazy songs unknowingly until you notice that everyone is staring at you. How can you not fall in love with a soundtrack that includes such lyrics as "The skunk over here will bring you luck" or "Did you check the toilets on the right?"?
There are also three non-stage vocal songs. The first is "Jet Baby", a fun, rollicking song from the movie that PaRappa and his friends are watching in the game's opening. The two other songs are closer to what one might call real songs. The first of the two, "Love You RAP" has a slightly suppressed sound, due to the fact that it is played from a car radio in a cutscene. It's unfortunate that they couldn't have improved the clarity for the soundtrack album. The second of the two, "Funny Love" is a light-hearted pop song. While sweet and catchy, the singer's voice shows some obvious limitations as it strains on higher notes. Oh well, I suppose it only adds to the quirky nature of PaRappa's world. There is also an additional song, "Katy & Sunny Funny Band Anthem", which comes from the bonus area that is unlocked when you acheive a Cool rating on all stages. It's a nice dance song and is interspersed with little voice samples throughout.
The best part about this soundtrack is that it is very complete. I expected nothing more than the stage songs and the vocals, but every little musical piece is included, totaling 44 tracks. Most of the tracks are simple, short ditties that are played in the background during cutscenes. But it is still very appreciated that the effort was taken to include all music.
Masaya Matsuura has created a masterpiece in this soundtrack. When one thinks of the word "masterpiece", epic scores usually come to mind. But PaRappa The Rapper manages to carve out its own place in videogame music history and justifiably deserves to be called a masterpiece, despite its every resistance to the traditional definition of the word.