Anyone who owned an N64 in the 90’s can probably recite a lyric or two from Donkey Kong 64’s “Monkey Rap”. Besides being famous for its wonderful gameplay and visuals, the game has also endured through the strange music video that opened the game. Surprisingly, the little ditty is a cult favorite and in-joke for Nintendo fans.
The “Monkey Rap” came with a tongue-and-cheek music video that launched before the game’s title screen. The rap covered specific members of the primate family, starting with the king Kong himself.
The idea for the rap came from composer Grant Kirkhope, creator of famous game scores for Banjo-Kazooie and Golden Eye. Kirkhope wrote the song as a joke, however, the team behind the game decided to keep it in.
Kirkhope said in an interview with Nintendo Nation, “Unfortunately when it finally came out, everyone thought I was having a serious attempt at writing some kind of really great rap song. Which, unfortunately, I wasn’t at the time! So my hilarious joke sort of backfired and didn’t go down very well at all.”
Thanks to this miscommunication, the game launched with the silly song in tow.
The rap itself was performed by George Andreas and Chris Sutherland. Musically, it was most similar to RUN DMC’s 1983 song, “It’s Like That.” Like most hip-hop songs, the lyrics weren’t 100% E rated.
The word “hell” slipped into the piece. Although tame by most standards, the song received lyrical changes in subsequent remixes; softening it to match the franchises kid-centered fanbase.
Like other famous Nintendo themes, the song has been covered and re-purposed in other titles. Besides rearing its head in Donkey Konga, the rap was covered and remixed in two of the Super Smash Bros. games. Fans have even covered it themselves. These homemade covers range from polka, rock and roll, and to whatever this is.
Despite the theme’s immortality, it’s creator has never been quiet on his hate of the song. Worst of all, he hasn’t been able to escape it. During a Reddit AMA, Kirkhope was bombarded with fans reciting the lyrics, instead of asking questions.
“I think my tombstone will read, “here lies the body of Grant Kirkhope, he wrote the DK Rap, may God have mercy on his soul”.” He told Nintendo Nation during an interview.
Though he has created countless iconic pieces, fans still know Kirkhope best as the first member and creator of the DK crew.
The song may have begun as a joke, but its staying power is no laughing matter.