For over the last five years, video games have become a vehicle for releasing music, specifically Hip Hop, to the public. With hours spent gaming, users have often heard artists ranging from Lupe Fiasco to Uncle Murda to Wale for the first time on game consoles before radio or video.

The team at 2K Sports knows this. Late last week, HipHopDX spoke to Tim Rosa, director of brand and lifestyle marketing at the Northern California company. After five years with 2K, Tim says his job of putting music in games is, “Basically making a really good mixtape where you wanted something that was a little different, that kept it fresh and new, but not just the same song and feel over and over.NBA 2K9 features classic tracks from The Beastie Boys and The Pharcyde [click to read], as well as exclusives from artists like The Cool Kids and DJ Unk, all hand-picked by Tim. “If you make it eclectic and you mix it up, one, it makes it more interesting. Two, you can create something that has emotional connection with a lot of different people, and also introduce new genres and new artists to fans.

The Cool Kids‘ track, “2K Pennies,” is featured below for listening.

games are an important part of culture and our lifestyle. For years
we’ve been playing games, but have never been inspired by the songs in
” said Chuck Inglish of The Cool Kids . “When 2K Sports presented us with an opportunity to create an original song for NBA 2K9, we knew we had to create a song that embodied the sport of basketball. We had to make kids everywhere appreciate the song as much as the game.

With exclusive music on many of the games, 2K launched 2K Beats [click to view], a platform that allows users to get desired information about the artists that they’re getting exposed to. The idea started from the early days, when Rosa was being emailed by gamers, interested in groups. He used the Hieroglyphics as an example. The DIY Bay area operation was winning over fans, who wanted to know more. Today, gamers can easily access biographies, discographies and be turned into potential fans and consumers.

That type of marketing has changed the way labels look at licensing. Five years ago, Rosa described his job as “pleading” with the labels to get music. Today, he shockingly admits that through vehicles like his yearly Bounce Tour, which unites Hip Hop, sports and game culture, that “[2K] spends more money marketing these artists than some major labels do with their tier one, and definitely tier two and three artists.” With independent artists like Blockhead or Hip Hop veterans like The Pharcyde or Brand New Heavies, this is opening a window where radio and video may have once closed a door.

In addition to new exclusives with DJ Unk and The Cool Kids, 2K is committed to making the Hip Hop element of their games interactive and paying homage to legends. “If you can play as Q-Tip in the Streetmode, and reunite A Tribe Called Quest, we can do exclusive music that we [both] sell and give away, we do music videos, that is a huge, huge story. No one else in our industry is actually approaching it that,Rosa says. He may be referring to rival and fellow gaming giant EA Sports, who according to 2K, strictly licenses songs, failing to invest and create new content to the extent of 2K.

Labels respect it too. Just as with The Cool Kids, 2K is working with Koch Records on DJ Unk‘s project, shooting a video for “In Your Face.” 2K offsets some of the label’s cost, and helps deliver a potential hit to the masses for the Atlanta deejay. “Because he’s in the game, it helps tell a bigger story for the label. I think labels are finally starting to realize we take a different approach than some of the other companies.

With this business plan and collaborative partnership model in place, Rosa firmly believes that the game industry may have a heavy hand in spawning rap’s next superstar sensation. “I think it’s only a matter of time. There’s so much we’re doing than even the music industry isn’t. You see what MySpace did with Soulja Boy, and I feel confident that it’ll happen in the very near future.

The soundtrack tracklisting for NBA 2K9 is:

Beastie Boys — Root Down

Blackwizard — Dem Nah Ready fe We

Blockhead — Duke Of Hazzard

Bloody Beetroots — Mac Mac

Dangerdoom – Sofa King

Dawn Penn — You Don’t Love Me (Extended Mix)

DJ Rasta Root — RootZilla Beez

DJ UNK – In Yo Face **

Gnarls Barkley — Going On

Jamalski – That Undaground (Remix)

Mochipet — Sharpdrest

Mommy and Daddy – Pretty Loser

Money Mark – Silly Putty

N.E.R.D. – Spaz

Nickodemus – Funky In The Middle

Santogold feat. Switch & Freq Nasty – Creator

Skeewiff — Light the Fuse

Spank Rock & Benny Blanco — Loose (inst.)

The Brand New Heavies – Jump ‘N’ Move

The Cool Kids – 2K Pennies **

The Heavy — Coleen

The Limp Twins — Moving Closer to The Sofa

The Meters — Cissy Strut

The Pharcyde – Passing Me By

Ursula 1000 – Step Back (Deekline & Ed Solo Remix)

NBA 2K9 is in stores October 7.