2K Sports brought on musician and entrepreneur Jay-Z as the "executive producer" for NBA 2K13, but just as that's an ill-defined role in the film industry, the publisher is staying vague about his impact on the game.
Jay-Z characterized NBA 2K13 as "the next evolution in sports and basketball culture" in a press release announcing his participation, and that seems to be the impetus behind his collaboration with 2K Sports and developer Visual Concepts. Jason Argent, 2K Sports' vice president of marketing, told Polygon in a phone interview that "everything starts with ... gameplay itself," but that another important focus for the NBA 2K franchise is "bringing in elements of what the NBA represents."
Hip-hop culture is a defining aspect of the modern NBA, and Jay-Z — as a rapper and multifaceted business mogul, not to mention part-owner of the Brooklyn Nets — tops the short list of individuals who are appropriate for this kind of partnership. Luckily for 2K Sports, he happens to be a longtime fan of the NBA 2K games, so 2K Sports reached out to him to make this happen. According to Argent, he told 2K Sports that he wouldn't be interested in working with them unless he could take a hands-on role in the development process.
Jay-Z became "highly engaged" in the making of NBA 2K13. 2K Sports and Visual Concepts met with him on multiple occasions in his hometown of New York and during his recent "Watch The Throne" tour. Argent told Polygon that Jay-Z's executive producer title has a "loose definition," and added that 2K Sports let him define his role. His most apparent and immediate contribution was that he curated the game's 24-song soundtrack, an eclectic mix that includes six of his own songs:
Jay-Z - "The Bounce"
Jay-Z - "Pump it Up (Freestyle)"
Jay-Z - "Run This Town"
Jay-Z - "On To The Next One"
Jay-Z - "Public Service Announcement"
Jay-Z - "H.A.M. (Instrumental)"
The Hours - "Ali in the Jungle"
Too Short - "Blow the Whistle (Main)"
Eric B. and Rakim - "I Ain't No Joke"
Phoenix - "1901"
Puff Daddy and the Family - "Victory (feat. Notorious B.I.G. & Busta Rhymes)"
Daft Punk - "Around The World (Radio Edit)"
Santigold - "Shove It (feat. Spank Rock)"
Kanye West - "Amazing"
The Dirty Projectors - "Stillness is the Move"
Nas - "The World is Yours"
Coldplay - "Viva La Vida"
Roy Ayers - "We Live in Brooklyn, Baby"
Justice - "Stress"
Kanye West - "We Major (feat. Nas & Really Doe)"
Kanye West - "Mercy (feat. Big Sean, Pusha T, and 2 Chainz)"
U2 - "Elevation"
Mobb Deep - "Shook Ones, Pt. II"
Meek Mill - "Ima Boss (Instrumental)"
Aside from putting together that list, said Argent, Jay-Z was involved in defining the entire creative presentation of NBA 2K13. "He directed and helped add his vision to every single part of the game," Argent told Polygon. When asked if Jay-Z's production provides a presentation overhaul for the series, Argent clarified that while "it's not a night and day difference" from the look of NBA 2K12, his impact will be clear "from the moment you put the disc in the console." But there aren't any particular in-game nods to his part-ownership of the Nets. "We didn't want anything that called out something specific," Argent explained.
While the extent of Jay-Z's role in NBA 2K13 remains cloudy, this collaboration makes sense for 2K Sports, the NBA, and Jay-Z. Bringing Michael Jordan into NBA 2K11 marked a new height for the NBA 2K series: it became a cross-cultural phenomenon on the level of Madden, and reached unprecedented sales success. Putting Jay-Z's name on the box this year is a way to raise the franchise's profile in the popular consciousness, and the crossover between fans of NBA 2K, Jay-Z's music, and the NBA is likely high.
We'll find out when NBA 2K13 launches for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Wii, and PSP on October 2nd, 2012, and for Wii U this holiday season.