The most recent edition of the world's biggest fighting games tournament, Evolution Championship Series, was dominated by a slew of announcements, including a rollback netcode announcement for two fighting games in desperate need of it as well as some elegant character announcement trailers. However, what nearly did not make the event, thanks to some last-minute hold-ups on the part of music streaming service distributors, was the official soundtrack.
Believe: The Music Of EVO 2022 was intended to be the official soundtrack for EVO 2022. Not only does hip-hop artist and project organizer Zaid Tabani provide a long-awaited update to his 2011 FGC anthem Evolve, but keystay EVO games like Tekken, Street Fighter, Guilty Gear, and Mortal Kombat receive original songs as well, as well as well-known musicians like Tee Lopes, the composer for TMNT: Shredders Reven
The album was enjoyable to record, but Tabani was concerned about a last-minute delay from the company they'd selected to get it onto streaming services. On the final day of the tournament, Believe barely went online (luckily, EVO already had all of the tracks in hand) so viewers could still hear them in the live stream during the appropriate sections of each EVO tournament.
Believe: EVO 2022 is now available on all of the usual sites (also Bandcamp and YouTube) and is simultaneously a relaxing and a hype AF listening experience. I chatted with Mega Ran, Casey Williams, and Tabani about their experiences working on the soundtrack, and what EVO and the fighting game community means to them.
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Tabani gathered a group of musicians, whom Mega Ran referred to as a murderers row of talent, to form Believe in late 2021.
My aim was to make people who have never played an EVO, who do not know what the fuck Street Fighter is, and who have never heard of [anime fighting game] Granblue feel like they are part of the family. I want to be there, according to Tabani.
Tabani stated that, in order to add authenticity to the soundtrack, each musician must both be passionate about the games they composed songs for and possess a thorough understanding of them.
Mega Ran said that EVO is the most hardcore of the hardcore, and I mean that in the best way possible. However, these people can certainly detect a lie and will kick you to the carpet on it, so it's important to be genuine about what you're doing.
Tabani said he gave out (for example) an eight-page document of DragonBall FighterZ terms and a five-page document of Melty Blood terms to Mega Ran and Mason Lieberman, respectively, so that they could incorporate the FGC lingo into their songs.
Believestracklist is a collection of different genres of music, often alternating between metal, jazz, and rap, depending on the video game they are attached to.
Believe tries to enliven the album by including spoken-word confessions from prominent members of the fighting game community, such as James Chen, LI Joe, Sherryjenix, and Seth Killian. Each person spoke about topics such as the FGC's impact on them, and EVO's incredible transformation from a tiny community tournament to the largest fighting game tournament in the world.
Tabani said that a skit is a cheat code for getting you into the rap song. It's like listening to a Kendrick album and you're not from Cali. It's that essence that you're in.
FGC confessionals doubled as a means to smooth out the differences between the albums' different genres, where the musicians may go from belting out anime lines about Melty Blood to hollerin about fatalities in Mortal Kombat 11 in horrific detail.
Tabani said the musicians had to essentially sprint to complete tracks within the limited timeframe of late May to the end of July. Another obstacle for the group was deciding what EVO actually sounds like, all while artists were busy working on other projects.
Tabani said that while we had a budget for certain things, including hiring players here and there, mastering, mixing, we had to do different kinds of value props to get this project going. Mostly, people did it because of love for the community.
Contributors encountered the challenge of getting the album out on streaming services around the time of the EVO weekend, only to squeak out in full release at the end of the weekend. Thankfully, Soundrop has intervened to ensure that the FGC community does not have to wait weeks to purchase and listen to the event's official soundtrack.
Tabani said in a tweet that they just helped us instantly, without any promises of promotion or anything like that. They not only worked with us to make sure everything went smoothly, but they also ensured that our album got to stores in time for the Sunday finals.
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Tabani said that in three years, we have been dealing with a pandemic, EVO being shut down, and people losing their reputation because they are shits. These games are important, and I am very grateful that we have been able to do this.
Mega Ran referred to Mason Lieberman's statement, which equated the fighting tournament to a digital version of the Olympics.
Mega Ran stated that believe was created with love for the community by extremely talented artists who have done their best to ensure that nothing was left to happenstance. Everything is very deliberate and deliberate, and the heart came first.
Although Casey Williams, the vocalist of the Melty Blood anthem Race Into the Light, isn't a gamer herself, she said she follows the community like a hawk, and that's a big part of who she is.
Williams said that over the last few days, I've been extremely surprised and humbled, as I always am reading peoples tweets, um, and there was a tweet I read where someone said that while they were competing they heard the intro come on and knew who it was, which motivated them to perform well, and it made me cry.
Tabani believes the FGC and EVO have given him a chance to survive in a world rife with inequality for people of his skin color. Tabani appreciates the camaraderie and competition that EVO imparts to players who would not have been able to become friends if it werent for arcade fighting games.
This community has an art and a culture, and music is one of the finest ways to bring that out. Basketball has hip hop, streetwear, street-level games, strategy, and cultural discussion, according to him. Fighting games have all of that, but it isnt represented or elevated in the same manner, and it can and should be. Thats how you start making people feel understood.