Tekken 8: Why UK grime scene is representing Japan’s big fighting game

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When it comes to fighting games, Japan’s Tekken series is one of the heavyweights.

First launched 30 years ago, the beat ’em up franchise released its eighth numbered installment last week to rave reviews.

And to mark the occasion the publisher behind the game, Bandai Namco, has released a single – Tekken 8 (The Anthem).

But instead of using a Japanese artist, it’s turned to rapper D Double E and producer Fumez The Engineer from the UK’s grime scene.

And if you know anything about the history of the British fighting game community (FGC), that probably isn’t a surprise.

Kobi Scarlett, better known as K-Wiss, has been playing Tekken since he was a child thanks to his dad.

He’s now one of the top Tekken players in the world, competing in and commentating on the biggest global esports tournaments.

And he says he’s building on a legacy that started in his hometown.

A man with headphones looks to the right, wearing a letterman jacket and in front of a backdrop that has the words Bandai Namco on itIMAGE SOURCE, KOBI SCARLETT
Image caption,

Kobi says Tekken is a game that’s made a big impact on culture outside of gaming too

“If you go back to the early arcade scene in London, the scene was very black,” he tells BBC Newsbeat.

Kobi’s talking about venues around the city where groups of fighting game lovers would spend hours with pockets full of change waiting to take each other on.

He says some of the scene’s top players now work for companies producing fighting games or putting on events.

And he says it’s reflected in other forms of entertainment.

“So you see it in hip hop, you see it in rap, you see it mentioned by all these,” he says, adding that the release of Tekken “is a bit of a cultural moment”.

Combos and collabs

Grime producer Fumez is another Londoner who says Tekken was his “childhood game”.

Now 30, he’s worked on tracks from some of the biggest artists on the UK’s drill scene, including Central Cee, and says getting a chance to work on TEKKEN 8 (The Anthem) – “feels very special”.

Speaking to BBC Newsbeat at his studio in north-west London, Fumez says it’s “a modern-day drill/grind fusion upbeat” sound, with lots of references to the game.

And he knows the track will have to be strong to stand up to Tekken’s regular soundtrack, known for its high quality.

“A game is continuously played, so these are the tracks that live with you throughout that Tekken journey,” he says.

A man wearing a light brown hoodie smiles while looking down, standing in front of a neon sign that reads "Studio with Fumez"
Image caption,

Fumez works with artists at his recording studio in north-west London

Like Kobi, Fumez is building on a long-standing crossover between fighting games and music, with many rappers and MCs referencing the genre in their lyrics.

Nicki Minaj mentioned Chun-Li from Street Fighter in 2018, and Dave’s 2017 track Six Paths includes the lyrics “dress in black with a bottle in hand like Lei Wulong”, the Tekken character known for his “drunken fist” moves.

And D Double E, the MC on TEKKEN 8 (The Anthem) has also previously recorded bars about a rival fighting game.

His 2010 track Street Fighter Riddim was filled with references to that series, but his latest set of lyrics required him to get up to speed with 30 years of plot points from Tekken.

But he thinks it will be worth it to expose the rest of the world to the UK’s growing drill and grime scene.

“It’s exciting, because sometimes when you do your music you’re banging on the same door unless you try to branch out,” he says.

“This is one of these pinnacle moments.”

A man wearing a green hat and a green scarf with a black sleeveless jacket sits in a black chair in front of recording equipment in a music studio
Image caption,

D Double E’s lyrics include references to iconic Tekken characters like Jin and Kazuya

Since those early days in the arcades, the competitive Tekken scene has moved towards consoles and online match-ups.

Despite an almost seven-year wait since the last game, Tekken 7, in 2017, the game’s stayed popular thanks to global tournaments and views on streams.

Tyrone, better known as Arsenalty on Twitch, says that’s partly because the game has always made an effort to feel international.

“The characters are from all over the world, and when they’re speaking in the game, they speak in their native language,” he says.

A man wearing sunglasses and a black t-shirt stands on a bridge facing the cameraIMAGE SOURCE, ARSENAL
Image caption,

Tyrone streams Tekken to his community of more than 19 thousand followers on Twitch

So it makes sense to him that the world of the fighting game would collide with the UK grime scene in the way it has.

“Tekken has historically had really good music,” says Tyrone. “I think they recognize how much the grime scene is growing, and they’re exploring different types of music.”

It’s a full-circle moment, with the artists influenced by the series now making tracks about it.

“I feel as though there are so many iconic characters in Tekken it’s easy to integrate them into music,” says Tyrone.

“A lot of people growing up would have been playing Tekken in the 90s – 8.5 million sold on the PlayStation 1.

“And I think as these artists grew up they would have included in their music as they got older.

“It was one of those games where it had such a big cultural impact.”

The video for TEKKEN 8 (The Anthem) is available on YouTube.

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