How the EVO 2022 Official Soundtrack almost missed the show

Last weekend saw the world’s largest fighting games tournament, the Evolution Championship Series.colloquially known as EVO—featured a cavalcade of announcements like Rollback netcode coming to some fighting games that badly need it as well as some fancy announcement trailers for characters. But what almost didn’t make it, thanks to some last-minute delays from the music streaming service providers, was the fighting game tournament’s official soundtrack.

The new album Faith: The music of EVO 2022 was designed as the official soundtrack for EVO 2022. It’s not just the hip-hop artist and project organizer Zaid Tabani who delivers a long-awaited update to his 2011 FGC Anthem “Evolve”, but mainstay EVO games like Tekken, street fighter, Guilty gearand Mortal Kombat also received original songs. Other writers and performers include well-known artists such as Tee Lopes, the composer for TMNT: Shredder’s RevengeCasey Williams from RWBY Fameand Mega Ran.

A screenshot of the artist names involved in the EVO 2022 soundtrack.

picture: Zaid Tabani productions

All very good and judging by the cast the album came together beautifully. The only thing they didn’t anticipate was a last minute heist from the company they chose to release it for streaming services. This made Tabani falter, and in the end Believe barely squeaked into the internet on the last day of the tournament. (Luckily, EVO itself already had all the tracks in hand, so viewers could still hear them in the live stream during the appropriate portions of each EVO Tournament event.)

Definitely, Faith: The music of EVO 2022 is out now all the usual places (Also belt storage, youtube) while being a relaxing and hype AF listening experience. I sat down with Mega Ran, Casey Williams and Tabani to talk about their experiences working on the soundtrack and what EVO and the fighting game community mean to them.

Back in late 2021, Tabani assembled a group of musicians Mega Ran described as “the talents of a bunch of killers” to put together Believe.

“My goal was for people who have never set foot in an EVO, who don’t know what the heck street fighter is who have never heard of it [anime fighting game] Granblue I can listen to this and be like, ‘Oh man, it feels like family. I kind of want to be there,” Tabani said.

Alongside this guiding principle, Tabani said that in order to bring authenticity to the soundtrack, it is essential for any musician to have both a passion for the games they are writing songs for and a thorough understanding of them.

“EVO is the hardcore of hardcore and I mean that in the best possible way,” said Mega Ran. “But these people can definitely spy on a fake and will call you to the carpet on it, so it’s important that you really love what you’re doing.”

To ensure each song was on the rise, Tabani said he distributed (for example) an eight-page document Dragon Ball Fighter Z Conditions and a five-page document from melting blood conditions to Mega Ran and Mason Liebermanso they could incorporate the history and context of FGC lingo into their songs.

Zaid Tabani

Reflecting the variety of fighting games at EVO, Believe‘s The tracklist is a hodgepodge of different musical genres, often switching between metal, jazz, rap and, as Tabani put it, “Paramore-esque vocals” depending on the video game they’re connected to.

Believe also tries to bring even more authenticity to the album by intertwining it with spoken word from prominent members of the fighting game community like James Chen, LI Joe, Sherryjenix and Seth Killian. Each person spoke about topics such as the impact the FGC has had on them and the incredible growth of EVO from a tiny community event to the largest fighting game tournament in the world.

“If you ever listen to a rap album, a skit is like a cheat code to get you into the aesthetic,” Tabani said. “It’s like listening to a Kendrick album and not being from Compton or not being from Cali, but feeling that way. It is this distilled essence. That’s the power that music or an album could bring you.”

The addition of “FGC Confessionals” also served as a means to smooth the transitions between the album’s different genres, where the musicians can step away from the smash Anime lyrics about melting blood to roar about deaths in Mortal Kombat 11 in gruesomely catchy details.

One problem the artists faced in creating the album was the limited time frame they were given to complete the tracks. After Tabani was given the green light, Tabani said the musicians “basically had to sprint” to complete the tracks within the tight late-May to late-July timeframe. Another sticking point for the group was deciding how EVO actually sounds. This led to many emergency recording sessions between artists’ busy schedules on other projects, not to mention time juggling with their families.

“We had a budget for certain things like hiring players here and there, mastering, mixing — but we had to do different types of props to make this project happen,” Tabani said. “A lot of people did it for the love of the community.”

As if the time pressure to complete the album wasn’t enough, the contributors also ran into the issue of releasing the album on streaming services, and barely squeaked into the full release at the end of EVO weekend. Luckily, digital music distribution service Soundrop stepped in to ensure the FGC community didn’t have to wait weeks to purchase and listen to the event’s official soundtrack.

“We said so [Soundrop] the situation and immediately, without promises of advertising or anything like that, they just helped us, ”Tabani said in a tweet. “Not only did they work with us to ensure the process ran smoothly, they also made sure our album was in stores in time for the end of Sunday’s finals.”

Continue reading: Evo suspends CEO after allegations of sexual misconduct

Back in 2020, EVO was canceled due to Covid. Shortly thereafter, EVO Online was shut down due to allegations of EVO sexual misconduct suspended co-founder and CEO, Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar.

“We went through three years like a pandemic, EVO shut down and people lost their reputation for being shit,” Tabani said. “These games mean something and I’m really happy that we get to do that.”

While reflecting on what EVO means to him, Mega Ran referred to a Commentary by fellow musician Mason Lieberman which equated the fighting tournament with a digital version of the Olympics.

Believe was made with love for the community by top artists who did their best to make sure nothing was [left to] Coincidence,” said Mega Ran. “It’s all very intentional and intentional and the heart came first.”

Although Casey Williams, the singer of melting blood Anthem “Race Into The Light”, Not a huge gamer herself, she said she follows the community like a hawk and that’s a big part of who she is.

“I’ve been very happily surprised and humbled over the past few days like I’m always reading people’s tweets, um,” Williams said. “I read a tweet where someone said during the competition they heard the intro and knew exactly who it was and it motivated them even more to perform well and it made me cry. I thought it was so cool.”

Tabani said the FGC and EVO gave him a way to survive in a world full of inequality for people of his race. Tabani also appreciates the dichotomy of competition and camaraderie that EVO creates from players who couldn’t have become friends without arcade fighting games.

“This community has an art and a culture, and music is one of the best ways to express that. Basketball has hip-hop, streetwear, street-level games, strategy, and cultural discussions,” he said. “Fighting games have all of that, but it’s not presented or emphasized in the same way, and it can and should be. That’s how you start making the community healthier, that’s how you make people feel seen.” How the EVO 2022 Official Soundtrack almost missed the show

Curtis Crabtree

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