Together with Tangerine Dream and Jackson, Al and Oh would take their original beats and craft what would become the background to the multifaceted game itself, the soundtrack to the car-stealing, store-robbing and various other illegal or semi-legal activities tasked to the many characters of GTA V. But that was just one aspect, as Pavlovich pointed out—the radio stations are a staple of the series, and the latest were the largest and most complex the franchise had ever compiled.
“This time we’ve had more original songs than we’ve ever had in the past,” Pavlovich said, noting that people like Tyler, The Creator and Flying Lotus were really excited to work on original music for the game. “The different characters need soundtracks, the different environments need soundtracks, so the radio stations that ended up being in the game reflect all those different situations in the game.”
One of the biggest guidelines, music-wise, in GTA V was the game’s return to Los Santos, Rockstar’s fictionalized Los Angeles, which helped to steer the radio stations in a distinctly L.A.-centric direction. ”Whether it was classical radio or contemporary hip-hop radio, we wanted it to be reflective of Los Angeles and the music scene in Los Angeles,” said Pavlovich about the radio stations. “Whether it’s the classics or whether it’s the new artists and the up-and-coming artists. That was our mission: to be very faithful to what is being played in Los Angeles and the music that is coming out of Los Angeles.”
“I rode around in a low rider for a couple weeks,” laughed Alchemist when speaking about the L.A.-tinged score. ”Felt the vibe, went to the L.A. river, just rolled for a little bit, just to capture the essence.”
“We definitely had to bring some West Coast vibes to it,” added Oh. And the hip-hop that made it onto the resulting soundtrack is representative of that: Snoop and Dre, Tyler, Flying Lotus, Problem—much of the music comes directly from the source and is representative of a lot of the deeper cuts from the area’s rich musical history.
“We spent a lot of time internally with our teams researching,” said Pavlovich, adding that he’s been listening to a lot of L.A. hip-hop. “Our record collection is amazing right now.”
And the people seem to be responding. The game was always going to sell well—it was the first GTA in five years, after all—but the critical reception has matched the fan response. “I think it’s getting what it deserves,” said Al. “We’re back doing our own thing, but it was definitely a good opportunity for us.” —Dan Rys (@danrys)