Kevin Liles is a certified OG in the music game. His legend goes back to the Milli Vanilli days, all the way to present day Trey Songz success. GG got a chance to holla at the man that helped shape the careers of every one on the Def Jam roster like LL Cool J and Jay-Z to his most recent post as an Executive at Warner Bros. working with T.I. and Musiq. Right now he’s in his President and CEO role at Def Jam Interactive which has huge wins under their belt with the Def Jam video game fighting franchise of Vendetta, Fight for NY and Icon series. Next up is the incredibly dope Hip-Hop rap-a-long game Def Jam Rapstar. Read about his passion for the project and how he believes it will change the culture and way we think of Hip-Hop and gaming.
Moving From EA to 4MM
When we really did the fighting games with Electronic Arts, the CEO Larry Prost became a very good friend of mine. He was not afraid of innovation. That’s why they were the #1 publisher in the world for video games. I told him, no longer do we just want to license our music. We play games, our culture plays games, we want to be involved in games, how can we do something special together? As the President of Def Jam at the time I was like we are the both the best at what we do. We created the fighting franchise; the first game Vendetta sold 2.8 million copies. We said, oh shit, there’s a business here. We added Fight For New York and Icon. Like some things, it ran its course and he decided to retire. In order to take control of our gaming destiny, we not only needed to be a licensee but we also needed to get into the development place. So we searched high and low and that’s when we found the former founders of Rockstar Games and they said they wanted to do it again and we said, “Ok, we want to do it with you.” We then created a very special partnership.
Music Genre Vs. Fighting Genre
I think we made that choice because we could do it. I want to make great games, whether it’s music based, whether it’s fighting oriented…this idea has been brewing. How do you think I feel that a billion dollar business was created around a music based guitar game? I feel that our culture deserves an opportunity and access. We just needed somebody to believe there was a possibility. Similar to when Hip-Hop first started, there was no kind of space for us, we had to create our own space. I felt that we had to do it again in the game world. Now there will be a music-based game that’s about our culture. I didn’t say just having a couple of songs; I mean a music-based game that’s about Hip-Hop, you and your social network. Def Jam Rap Star is that game. It’s not about a music company, it’s about a gaming company, an interactive company that’s putting a rubber band around our culture once again. That’s what Def Jam Rapstar will do.
More Than Just Hip-Hop&n