A_Rival has a geeky, nerd-core sound that is reinforced by his use of retro consoles to create his musical accompaniment, in a music style being referred to as "Chip-Hop." All of the music sounds like it's straight out of my childhood, with riffs reminiscent of Contra, Super Mario or Outrun, as well as cleverly used sound effects, such as fire sound effects from Street Fighter 2 or the sound of leveling up from The Legend of Zelda.
Video games aren't just for kids, and A_Rival's lyrics aren't for children at all. Expect a lot of references to old school consoles and nerdy computer geek lingo combined with adult situations, sex and other things of interest to people old enough to have grown up playing Pong, ColecoVision and NES. Some of my favorite gaffs are in the track, "Push it Down," where A_Rival uses the Contra code as a sexual euphemism and manages to make the action of loading an old-school NES cartridge sound truly nasty. ("Push it in, Push it down, turn it on" and "sometimes you gotta blow it.")
As you may have come to expect from rappers (or musicians, it seems), A_Rival does have a self-referential (and self-titled) song, "A_Rival," which is intended to give the listener a sampling of his musical styling while explaining a bit about who A_Rival is, with references to Lost, wave theory, and Ford Tauruses. Most of the songs on 8-Bit Pimp are full of gangsta-style bravado, but the bravado of a DJ who's both white and nerdy, whether he claims to be so bad he can breathe fire ("Burn Breather") or whether he claims that his style's so hard it will make you bleed ("Show Me Girl"). And regardless of how hardcore he may seem, he ends up defusing his own rep by mentioning his interest in time machines, wave theory, videogames and "achievements." In "8-Bit Pimp," Jimmy Pop sprung to mind when A_Rival busted out with gangsta rhymes that were just a little... "off"... such as "I kill MCs with ease like cheese I leave 'em shredded" and "I got pixelation of the brain, I'm so edgy ."
The songs on 8-Bit Pimp have a nice, thumping bass beat, making it nice for Cruis'n USA, if you're a Rad Racer. Every song features instrumentals made with retro consoles, which is a nice effect, but I found that for some reason, the balance seemed off; the lyrics are over-powered by the music, making it difficult to tell what A_Rival is saying at times. The good news is that, according to this posting on the Planet Skill website, A_Rival has added "8-bit Pimp" to the Creative Commons, making it possible for people to remix it at will. I am hoping that he will release the raw tracks (with the vocals and music tracks separated) so that DJ's can remix these levels separately.
What do I think? I like it. The only downside is the audio balance issue, which I can't completely tweak in my car or at home, but then again, since "8-Bit Pimp" has non-family-friendly lyrics and is the kind of music that JR Nip and I like to cruise around to with our windows rolled down and the sound system cranked to 255, it might be a good thing that you have to strain sometimes to understand the words. If you're curious about lyrics you might not have caught, you can read them at the A_Rival's page at BandCamp. If you're into nerdcore or Chip-Hop, I definitely suggest giving it a listen.