I'm sitting at the back of Konami's E3 booth, getting my first demo of Def Jam Rapstar. There's me and two geezers from developer-publisher 4mm Games. Best way to show the game? Get on the mic and give it a go. So geezer-man asks me what I want to hear.
There's an impressive set to choose from but I go for Wu-Tang's era-defining anthem "C.R.E.A.M." (appropriate for the amount of money spunked at E3 this year). We're half-way through when the door of the private room opens and in strolls Method Man, giving a pound, spitting a couple of lines and wandering back out.
My jaw's like Castle Grayskull. While we're all still gobsmacked, Redman comes through, grabs the mic and gives us a full rendition of Slick Rick classic "Children's Story". I try to keep it cool but in reality I'm sitting there like I've been pulling on a sherm stick. And then Minkley rolls in with a camera crew and blows my buzz.
But for a few minutes I'm there, top of the world. I'm a massive rap nerd, a 30-something white boy straight outta Leicester. E3's pretty surreal as it is, but when two genuinely dope emcees wander into my demo and start performing for the fun of it, it's almost like an orchestrated plan to get me on board. I had to make a second appointment to see the game again to make sure I wasn't just being swept along with the moment.
Def Jam Rapstar is comparable to the first couple of hours I had with DJ Hero, when I felt like FreeStyleGames had made the game just for me. What's apparent within five minutes of messing with Def Jam Rapstar is it's a genuine game representing hip-hop music and culture - and isn't a clumsy cash-in.
First up, it's a rap-a-long experience. It's hip-hop karaoke. Like SingStar, the basic game is to pick up the mic and spit lyrics along to a pretty fine collection of tracks. With 40 in the box, another 70 mapped out post-release, weekly updates and day-one freestyle tracks promised, Def Jam Rapstar should cover all bases, from backpack to jiggy, hardcore to nerdcore.
You can choose to rap along to the master recording or you can switch off the original artist, and those with bigger balls can even cut out the on-screen lyrics. Players are rated on three levels - pitch, which is judged the same as in SingStar, and then lyrically and on timing.
Lyrical scoring is the software breaking down each syllable rapped (matching your voice against the original master track) using developer Terminal Reality's phonic recognition software. Timing is scored on pace and flow and whether you're on or off the beat.
At the end of the track you're given an aggregate score and rated dope, wack, off the chain and yeah, it feels a little like someone has swallowed the Urban Dictionary. Players can score multipliers by stringing whole sections together professionally, with on-screen prompts such as flames burning up the screen to let you know you're in the zone. You can also pull in a second player to spit alongside you, sharing the verses.