Mega Ran to bring video game rap to The Abbey

Performing in Orlando will be nothing new to Raheem Jarbo, the Philly-born rapper who goes by the stage name “Mega Ran.” The 41-year-old has been spitting his video game-related rhymes to Central Florida audiences for nearly a decade.

During that time, he has seen the genre of so-called nerdcore music expand.

“We have an interesting thing going on,” Mega Ran said in an email interview with The OVG. “We’re too experienced to be called a new genre, yet not accepted or noticed by the mainstream, but I’m able to come to cities like Orlando and see packed houses for our concerts. It’s pretty amazing. (It’s) very special to return and see old and new faces rocking out.”

Mega Ran’s next visit will be as one of the performers at Ongaku Overdrive, a Nov. 9 concert at The Abbey, 100 S. Eola Drive, #100, set to feature four bands that specialize in video game music. Tickets for Warriors of Light: A Final Fantasy Tribute can be found at the link.

Mega Ran will perform alongside Austin-based Descendants of Erdrick, the metal-plus-flute band The Returners and Knight of the Round, a Chicago band that pumps heavy metal into Final Fantasy songs.

Mega Ran, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, says his latest project – an updated remake of his Final Fantasy VII album “Black Materia” – is an effort to make the songs relevant to today.

He said one of the obstacles he faced on the original album was constraints on what is usually the free and purely creative process of writing music.

“You’re somewhat limited by what’s given to you,” he said. “You can’t make chocolate cake with no cocoa powder, so to speak. But the fun challenge lies in taking material, which in this case is 20 years old, written by a group of Japanese developers and making it work for an American rap song.”

Final Fantasy VII remains one of the most popular role-playing video games of all time.

Less than two years after the Sony PlayStation debuted on Jan. 31, 1997, Squaresoft released what would become a legendary video game.

Black Materia album cover

Its story line, which follows heroes through an epic story rife with the kinds of twists and turns usually reserved for movies, represented one of the first games on the console to appeal to players’ emotions.

Mega Ran was hooked on Final Fantasy VII once he saw the limit breaks and summons spells, which manifested in visually spectacular sequences.

Mega Ran traded in his Super Nintendo and games at Funco Land – along with a $10 coupon he found on a Sprite 12 pack – to buy Final Fantasy VII.

The rest, as they say, is rap music history.

“Final Fantasy VII just hit the cultural zeitgeist at the perfect time, alongside the perfect advancements in technology,” he said. “RPGs were usually top down, cartoon-y designed and FF7 kicked the door down with a new graphic style, phenomenal sound and a great story. It hit the bullseye.”

A former middle school teacher, Mega Ran started rapping as a youngster in Philly, being drawn to freestyle rap and later producing music in a studio.

At one point, he has said he considered quitting music.

But his decision to stick with it paid off when he was licensed by the video game company Capcom and his career took off after producing an album based on the Mega Man series.

“I believe I can make any game work with what I’d like to do with it,” he said. “It’s just a matter of if I want to put in the work.”

When asked which games he’d like to put his treatment on, he says Metal Gear Solid and Legend of Zelda came to mind.

But the scifi first-person shooter Bioshock tops his list of projects he would want to tackle, he said.

For now, he says he’ll continue to bask in the unexpected success of albums like “Black Materia.”

“I didn’t expect people to grasp it like they did,” he said. “People call this album a classic and things like that, and I just laugh because I never thought that would happen. I just wanted to make something that I would be proud of and that showcased what I’d learned about hip hop production and writing; and how it could apply to video games. It was a love letter to both. But I certainly didn’t expect a reply.”

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