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Why The Horrible DK Rap Made It Into Donkey Kong 64

Fans of the "Donkey Kong" franchise celebrated the ape's 40th anniversary in 2021, looking back on the original arcade game conceived by Nintendo Game Designer Shigeru Miyamoto. The banana-obsessed protagonist has seen many iterations of games since the arcade classic, from the original "Donkey Kong Country" trilogy on the SNES, to the "Donkey Konga" games using the bizarre DK Bongo drums, to the newer "Country" games. However, one particular game has stood out for its music: "Donkey Kong 64."


Remembered for its wealth of collectibles and level design, the game also boasts a whimsical and varied soundtrack. British Composer Grant Kirkhope created the tunes for the N64 game, so when "Donkey Kong 64" celebrated its 20th anniversary back in 2019, Kirkhope sat down to talk with Forbes about his perspective regarding the game's music. Among the highlights, he laughed about the at-the-time infamous reception to the "DK Rap," which kicked off the game.

"I thought, 'Oh, this is great, people are gonna love this,'" Kirkhope said. "And my God, nobody did." So why did Kirkhope and the "Donkey Kong 64" team include the ridiculous sequence in the first place?

The inspiration for DK Rap

In the hilariously bad track in question, "DK 64" Director George Andreas of Rare served as the lyricist and one of the featured rappers, alongside Lead Programmer Chris Sutherland. Noting the popularity of rap music at the time, Kirkhope explained to Forbes that the team had included the track in the game's opening title sequence as a joke. He composed the track with the mindset that he "wasn't trying to make a proper rap track," but rather because he kept cracking up at the idea of a rap for monkeys.


"I just recorded them saying the lines and just built the track up and DK's got the trumpets in the background, Diddy Kong's got the guitar, Chunky Kong's got the drums. He's a beefy guy and all that–I was trying to imply to have a laugh," Kirkhope said.

The composer has since apologized for the DK Rap on Twitter, jokingly calling it "bloody awful." 

Some fans have finally come around to DK Rap

Unbelievably, the rap has transformed into a cornerstone of gaming culture following its 1999 debut, becoming the subject of countless mashups with songs like "Bring Me To Life" by Evanescence and "Take On Me" by A-ha. 


Kirkhope even revealed to Forbes that his 17-year-old son's friend group sang the "DK Rap" together at a birthday party. "None of them were born when that rap came out, so it's quite funny that it's managed to last and stand the test of time," Kirkhope said. "People have a good laugh with it now, which is what it was all about in the first place. I'm glad people are laughing finally after 20 years."

Kirkhope's reasoning for including the "Donkey Kong 64" rap makes for an amusing answer to question gamers have asked since 1999. Fans will have to wait for future updates on the "Donkey Kong" series, which has taken a bit of a hiatus since the 2018 port of "Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze" to the Switch. In the meantime, fans of older "Donkey Kong" titles have continued to make new discoveries about the series, like the Twitter user who revealed Rare's original plans to include the innovative "Stop 'N' Swap" mechanic in "Donkey Kong 64."