Trading Rappers Is The Hip-Hop Card Game You Need

Photo: Courtesy of Trading Rappers.
If you are a Black American, chances are you're no stranger to a game of Spades or hip-hop as tools to liven up a party. Both elements of fun work to bring people together and build a sense of community around a common cause. And now, thanks to a Black woman named Kenyatta Forbes, these two activities are about to merge. Forbes just launched a Kickstarter campaign for her new card game, Trading Rappers. And according to the site, “The rules are simple. The discussions won’t be.”
Similar to Spades, each player drops a card, and the highest card wins the book. The person (or pair) with the most books after all the cards in the deck have been played, wins. While suit and number order determine which card is the highest in Spades, Trading Rappers relies on a completely different system. Each card in the deck has a rapper on it. All players must come to a consensus about which rapper is the best in order to determine who wins. In other words, the great hip-hop debate is now structured and formalized. I’m only surprised that no one else thought to do it first.
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But this isn’t Forbes’ first foray into the card gaming world. She is also responsible for Trading Races, the predecessor to Trading Rappers where players have to come to a consensus on which cultural or political figure is the “Blackest.” I spoke with Forbes about how she got into games, what she thinks about the merging of pop culture and politics, and, of course, her favorite rapper.
How did you start developing games?
"It was actually a little bit of happenstance. I have a traditional art background, but it's in film, video, and animation. So, when I was thinking about the content matter or the concept around having these conversations and discussions — around the malleability of race, specifically blackness — I was looking for a medium or vehicle to do that. I actually had the concept about 10 years ago, but I just couldn't figure out why video was wrong. I'm not a painter. I was kind of struggling with what to do with it. Then, last year, I had the concept of 'Man, maybe I should just make it a game.' Because I need to be able to talk about blackness within the black community, but also outside of the black community as well. I needed this duality. I needed it to also be humorous. So, there was a non-confrontational piece to it. That's how I ended up with a card game."
How do you think pop culture helps facilitate our conversations about race, and vice versa?
"Well, everyday it's something else. If it's not Ben Carson, if it's not Kodak Black, there's so many resources in terms of the conversation continuing. It's never-ending. For a while people thought we were post-race because we had a Black president. Nah. We weren't. We were just in denial for eight years. We had made progress, but as a country, we're still in a state of denial. People realized how much in denial we were when Trump got elected."
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Who is your favorite rapper?
"Of all time? That's a hard question. Top five, in no ranking order. I love Mos Def. I love me some J. Cole and Kendrick [Lamar], of course. I've always loved Black Sheep…. There's so many good ones... Lauryn Hill."
Do each of the people you've named have cards in the deck?
"The way that it's set up is that you get starter decks, then you get expansions. You can opt to get the female MCs, so then you get Lauryn Hill or Nicki [Minaj]. Those people will be in that deck. The starter is pretty diverse. You get a lot of new age people, freshmen, if you will. Then, you got a lot of O.G.s. It's pretty diverse in the starter pack — Dirty South, East Coast, West Coast, just to get the conversation going — then you can continue to build upon that by getting expansions. Speaking of expansions, I'm actually really excited because Fake Shore Drive will be curating an exclusive expansion pack. So will Drew from Enstrumentals and Brian from Sir & Madame. Brian loves Dirty South. Drew from Enstrumentals is going to hit up a Conscious deck and Andrew Barber is going to do a Chicago deck."
When will Trading Rappers be available?
"I've chosen to do a Kickstarter. With Trading Races I did a Kickstarter, as well. It launched in March, it concluded in March, and people had their decks by the end of April. ... It's a bit of a process. After the Kickstarter closes, there's a two week hold that Kickstarter enforces so you can dot your I's and cross your T's before they give you your funding. Then, you make stuff happen. What's kind of great about this process, as opposed to Trading Races, is that I was completely new to game design and how it worked. So, I was like 'Okay, manufacturer. Okay, box design.’ Since a lot of that is basically done, and I have a really good partnership with the people who produce my game, I say end of September as the final deadline, but I honestly think it might be faster than that just because. I know what to do now. It's not a learning process anymore."
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