Other people were the tastemakers for the first five or so years of my awareness of music. Growing up in the ’90s, I was fed music through cassette tapes recorded off the radio, and later, on mix CDs still hot from the burner. I listened to what others gave me, like a seagull chick peeping for regurgitated sounds.
Fast-forward to 2000, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 changed all that. Here was music I’d not heard before: rock, rap, punk and the territory that lay in between. There was no messing around: the game’s opening song introduced me to Rage Against The Machine and Zack de la Rocha’s anger. I didn’t understand the politics of the lyrics, but I sure as hell understood the driving guitars and the punching drums. Bad Religion and Swingin’ Utters were my first encounter with 2-minute explosions of punk. Public Enemy and Naughty by Nature were my first encounter with hip-hop.
The music was just so painfully cool. It was rebellion, it was freedom, it was loud. While skating those mythical places – tailsliding ledges on Venice Beach or praying I’d land School II’s Leap of Faith with both legs intact – I was in my own bubble of music, whose walls were no longer dictated by what those around me were listening to. If it were geology, this would be the point where the continents tore off from Pangaea to form distinct landmasses. The game’s soundtrack provided me with my own map of this new world of music, reaching out to take my hand as if to say: “Here, this is good music. Now go and explore.”
From there, paths led off to Papa Roach, Linkin Park, Korn. Paths led to Eric B & Rakim, the Sugarhill Gang, Run DMC. Paths led to the Ramones and the Sex Pistols. I was buying albums with Parental Advisory stickers on them and playing them loud. I was breakdancing. I was skateboarding. I was drumming. My poor parents.
I’m reminded of this now as we’re three weeks away from a remake of that game, with the majority of the original soundtrack returning for the purists. I can only hope the 37 songs they’ve added to the list – including A Tribe Called Quest, Machine Gun Kelly, Skepta and Reel Big Fish – will prove as momentous to the generations having their first foray into music today as the original did for me.
Featured image. Stream a selection of the original THPS2 tracks below.