Although the 4Kids dub of One Piece is often met with disdain among fans, there is one aspect of it that stands out as surprisingly enjoyable—the opening theme known as “The Pirate Rap.” Despite its simplistic nature and silly tone, the rap manages to captivate viewers in its own unique way.
The 4Kids dub of One Piece is notorious for its excessively childish approach, which many believe detracts from the essence of the series. However, this very quality is what makes the theme song so great. It’s important to note that the 4Kids dub, including the opening, has received its fair share of criticism for various reasons. Yet, it’s precisely because of its flaws that “The Pirate Rap” manages to transcend the realm of “bad” and become a guilty pleasure.
Sadly, the 4Kids dub’s flaws extend beyond the opening theme. The company attempted to adapt the anime for a younger American audience by toning down its violence and censoring certain mature themes. While this approach might have worked for shows like Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon (despite their own dub-related complaints), it proved ill-suited for One Piece’s intricate narrative and complex themes. As a result, the 4Kids dub was met with universal disapproval and abruptly ended after the Alabasta arc, leaving fans on a surprisingly dark note. However, amidst the criticism, there remains a silver lining—the existence of the Pirate Rap.
The Pirate Rap of One Piece is a quirky and simplistic rap song, written and performed by Shawn Conrad, who had prior experience in the music industry, including collaborations with artists like The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z. It begins similarly to the Japanese opening, with a voice-over describing the execution of Gol D. Roger and the dawn of the Great Pirate Age. However, once the rap kicks in, it goes on to introduce and describe each of the Straw Hat crew members and their collective goal of finding the legendary One Piece. The lyrics even touch upon Luffy’s Devil Fruit powers with the line “He took a bite of Gum Gum.” While the rap may not provide an exhaustive depiction of every character and their idiosyncrasies, it manages to cover them all in a catchy and memorable manner, enabling viewers to easily identify each member of the crew.
Critics argue that the rap oversimplifies the rich tapestry of One Piece’s narrative and character development. However, for newcomers who stumble upon an episode on a Saturday morning, the Pirate Rap proves remarkably helpful. One Piece is celebrated for its intricate storytelling and its skillful handling of a vast array of characters. Yet, for those unfamiliar with the series, the depth and complexity can be overwhelming, particularly for younger viewers. This is where the Pirate Rap comes in, condensing essential information into a brief and infectious introduction that sticks with children and helps them grasp the core aspects of the story.
The rap’s enduring popularity can be attributed, in part, to its catchy melody and rhythm. Love it or hate it, the Pirate Rap has garnered millions of views on YouTube, and Shawn Conrad even released a follow-up on his own channel featuring the crew members who joined the journey later on. While some may forever scoff at its lighthearted lyrics, for many Western fans, the One Piece Pirate Rap holds a special place in their hearts and is considered just as great, if not better, than the iconic Japanese opening theme “We Are.”
In the end, the 4Kids dub of One Piece may be remembered more for its shortcomings than its successes. However, the infectious and unabashedly silly nature of the Pirate Rap manages to carve out a unique space in the fandom, allowing fans to appreciate it as a guilty pleasure and a nostalgic reminder of a different era in the series’ localization history
Luffy, Zoro, Sanji, Nami, Usopp, Chopper, Kaido, Bigmom