Def Jam Rapstar Review

By Dana Vinson - Posted Oct 13, 2010

There's nothing like pretending that you have a negligible amount of musical skill, especially when it comes to something like fun like rapping. Def Jam Rapstar does a great job of combining old school and new radio hits to get the party started.

The Pros
  • Amazing Track List Composed of Both Old and New Hip Hop
  • Party Mode Helps You Jump Right Into The Game
  • Easy To Use Community Features Help You Share Your Videos
  • It's An Incredibly Fun Game
The Cons
  • Swear Words Replaced By Blanks
  • Requires You To Really Know The Lyrics To Beat The Game

Def Jam Rapstar is simply awesome. Whether you’re a fan of the early days of hip-hop or current radio play, the game has something for you. It's not a radical take on karaoke gameplay, but what's impressive is the quality of the content and the presentation. DJR doesn't pull many punches, unless, of course, mama says to knock you out...or say the word p#%&y.

Sure, Today Was Not So Bad I Suppose

Developed by 4mm and Terminal Reality, DJR has an impressive track list. There's such a wide variety of artists: pour a little out for 2 Pac and Biggie, fight the power with Public Enemy and then turn your swag on with Soulja Boy Tell'em. While casual fans will be attracted to the radio hits, more hardcore fans will love the selection of old school tracks.

The gameplay is split up into three modes: Career, Party and Freestyle. Career mode is the core of the game, where you start off as a rapping nobody and battle your way through five stages to build your empire. As you perform, you earn golden microphones for each song -- the number depending on your performance -- and have to earn enough bling to advance to the next stage.

Advancing on Easy or Medium difficulty usually isn't hard, until you get to Stage 5 where the songs get just a little obscure. Because of the way DJR scores you, based on rhythm and pitch, you have to actually know the lyrics to play Career with any sort of success.

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Deaf Jam Rapstar

Even though the scoring is loose, you will find yourself getting way behind if you don’t know the rhythm and words. DJR is also going to teach you a very important lesson: you may think you know all the words to that Ludacris song you've heard a thousand times, but you don't know them well enough to be "Off the Chain" the first time around. 

Understandably so, the game doesn’t do a very good job of giving you feedback while you’re rapping because everything is happening so fast, so you don’t know that you’re actually off until the next section. Plus, the way the words come up on the screen, occasionally you’ll need to start saying them before they’re in your line of sight.

Because the lyrics are going by so quickly, it’s actually harder to read the words than it is to just say them, so it’s good to really know the songs so that you can just use what’s on the screen for occasional reference. DJR, however, does do a good job of helping you get to know the lyrics by giving you a practice mode along with a readout of the lyrics for every song that you can read at your leisure.

This does not work to diminish the fun of the game, though and if anything, adds an additional incentive to play through it multiple times. You get better at judging rhythms the more you play and some of the challenges you unlock are, well, downright challenging. It makes beating the game on the hard feel like an accomplishment, especially when you feel like you could be Twista's long lost twin after having to do "Slow Jamz" 100 times.

I Spit Hot Fire!

While the enthusiasts will delight in the robust Career mode, the game is easily accessible to all levels and you can jump right into it with Party Mode. Most of the songs are instantly available, with the exception of just a few that you have to unlock playing the career mode. Plus, most of the songs are accompanied by the original video, which is an incredibly awesome touch.

In general, the scoring in the game is forgiving on the easier difficulties and you can't fail out of songs; you can only embarrass yourself with your performance. Speaking of being embarrassed, you might as well drag someone else down with you and each song allows you to solo or duet in both Party Mode and Career Mode.

When doing a duet, you actually get to pick which part you want to sing. This is one of the most useful features in the game. It may sound silly, but Lips (for example) just slices up the songs randomly and you can’t assign specific parts to players. This is incredibly helpful when, say, one person only feels comfortable doing the singing parts and one person only feels comfortable doing the rapping...or, if you are way more Dr. Dre than Snoop.

Meanwhile, Freestyle mode is the best way to prove to yourself that you made the correct choice to not become a rapper. While it might be fun to challenge your friends to a rap battle at a party, this mode is not for the faint of heart. It’s just you, your brain and a beat. It can be very intimidating.

I Know You've Seen Me In The Video

Along with the actual gameplay, there's another major element to DJR: filming yourself and uploading it to the Def Jam Rapstar Community Site. Players can use their respective camera peripherals to capture their performances. It may sound silly, but it is really fun to go back and watch what you did.

The game includes video editing tools that are easy to use and guide you step-by-step through the process of improving your clips with the edition of video and audio effects. Then, players are able to upload their finished videos to and link them to their profile.

The community integration in the game is very impressive and it all works. You can rate other people’s performances, give them shout outs and even challenge other players to battles. In battles, your video is pitted against another’s player and users vote on which one they like the most. Even if you don't buy this game, you should check out and watch some of the videos. Trust me, it's worth it, especially for those who can actually freestyle with any level of success.

Blank Blank Blank Blank Breasts

While Def Jam Rapstar is a fun game, worth every penny, there is one glaring thing about it that really f&*$ing pi%@&es me off: there are no swear words. Actually, there everywhere and nowhere at the same time. DJR is rated T for Teen, which is great because it means it's friendly to a wider audience; however, the songs are littered with bad words and instead of substituting something less offensive, they just appear as blanks when the lyrics scroll up the screen.

It's frustrating, because you'll be rapping at a clip and suddenly encounter a blank. Sometimes, you'll know the song well enough to just spit out whatever belongs there, but other times, you'll get tripped up trying to figure out which word belongs. Might as well spin the wheel, because a lot of times, it could be anything.

There is a Lil' Kim rap solo that is three blank lines...and that's it.

Not only can the blanks interrupt your flow, but even if you do know the correct word, you may not want to let it come flying out of your mouth. Some are embarrassing for folks to say even when they're by themselves, forget in a crowd, so I found myself coming up with a list of substitute words such as spit, wussy, buck and others to sub in on the fly.

Parents are going to have to use their discretion when it comes to whether or not they should actually let their teen play DJR, because the content is still pretty adult, despite the blanks. Just because you don't see the word, doesn't mean you don't see the context or the intended meaning. Even adults begin to realize how filthy some of the lyrics are when they see them spelled out on the screen and you either embrace it or you don't.

We Takin' Over

Despite the lack of f*&$ing swear words, Def Jam Rapstar is an accomplishment. The track list is so good you don't need to buy the DLC, but you'll want to. There's a level of polish to the presentation and gameplay that other karaoke games should stand up and pay attention to. The community features should set the standard for sharing and viewing user created artistic content on a console. Even if you aren't a big fan of rhythm games, if you like rap, you'll love Def Jam Rapstar.