I'ma let you finish but Hbox is one of the best Melee players of all time

June 28 2018

Unlike the majority of esports, Super Smash Bros players have the option to listen to music during their matches, one of the luxuries of playing a 1v1 game. And there's nobody that takes advantage of this more than Hungrybox.

What Smash fan doesn't remember seeing Hbox soulfully nodding his head to "Yeezus" during the Loser's Final at Big House 3, the stream catching him playing air drums a few times as he defeated PPMD? On Sight.

Hbox's animated antics — laying on the floor in ecstasy after taking first at EVO 2016 comes to mind — are worlds away from the calculating and analytical nature of some other members of the Five Gods. And it's no surprise that instead of writing down careful calculations and perfectly planned out strategies, Hungrybox lets the music guide him to victory.

(And to one fifth place at CFL Smackdown 168, but we don't have to talk about that.)

Full of exhilarating first place finishes, hilarious antics and even emotional interviews, Hungrybox's career has flourished. And there's no better way to follow his journey to becoming arguably The Best Smash Player in the World, than to delve into the music that played in the backdrop during each important phase of his life.

Linkin Park – "Hybrid Theory" / "Meteora"

That pukey green hue is recognizable for any millennial who spent time watching nu metal music videos. It's that portal back to being a middle schooler, slamming doors, turning up the volume and screaming along those lyrics that made parents uneasy. “I need a little room to breathe, because I'm one step closer to the edge, and I'm about to, BREAK!” But it was that fast paced aggressive chorus that not only caught the attention of Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma, but Melee players everywhere.

He recalled watching combo videos back in his casual Melee days in '05 — “... back when all I wanted to do was beat my friends” — where Linkin Park was often heard in the background. For him, the music was not only speaking to “young, confused kids,” but it was music that “motivated you.”

“I'm tired of being what you want me to be,” moans lead singer/rapper Chester Bennington in an authentically pained voice. “Every step that I take is another mistake to you.”

It's the quintessential pre-teen rebellion battlecry to parents they see as overprotective and just plain mean. It's for the tweens who want to wear their Hot Topic Tripp pants without their dad saying, “Those are weird pants. Do they need all those strings and straps on them?”


Linkin Park provides that adrenaline and motivation to kids who are just starting to figure out what it is that truly defines them. What makes them a little different. And for Hbox, it was Melee.

And while there isn't a lot of information on Hbox's early years with his family, we all remember that emotional win at Dreamhack 2015, where Hungrybox not only made history, but surprised the live Twitch stream by sharing some very personal thoughts.

“My dad just passed away,” he started. “He told me, 'You'll never be the best.' Well, I hope he sees me now. All is forgiven, but it's a lot of closure for me.”

The display of honesty and emotion gained Hungrybox a lot of respect in the Melee community. Fans of the game could easily relate to a parent not fully supporting the idea of video games, especially as a career. And while Hungrybox and his father may have clashed over his dedication to the game, it was a powerful message to Hungrybox that chasing after your dreams and passions — and being who you truly want to be, despite what people may say — was the right decision after all these years.

Gorillaz – "Demon Days"

Hailed as a “genre-busting, contemporary pop milestone,” by Mojo, Gorillaz' Demon Days is usually credited as one of the best albums of 2005. For Hungrybox, the chart-topping album helped him with his “Melee mentality” by introducing him to the concept of “things might not always go your way.”

A slightly abstract collection of haunting and mesmerizing songs, a lot of tracks revolve around the destruction caused by the human race, both to humanity itself and the world.

It was an ode to experimentation. And when DeBiedma graduated middle school, he wasn't only angsty and confused anymore. He was curious. Melee had opened up so many possibilities in his mind. He wondered what he could do with his newfound passion.

Pick yourself up, it's a brand new day so turn yourself 'round
Don't burn yourself, turn yourself around into the sun
To the sun, to the sun
To the sun, to the sun
- Gorillaz, “Demon Days”

Radiohead – "In Rainbows"

Around this time, Hungrybox had started to make his mark in the local scene by winning local events. He was also ranked the best Jigglypuff in the state of Florida.

Said DeBiedma: “As I was figuring out my Melee style, it seems I was also figuring out and finalizing my true taste in music.”

To Hungrybox, Radiohead's "In Rainbows" had some of the most beautiful songs he had heard in his whole life, and a “love affair” with Radiohead began in his sophomore year of high school. He began researching the band's discography, and he found similar indie bands to fill the void when he wasn't listening to Radiohead.

The song that started Hungrybox's obsession with Radiohead, “Nude,” is a far cry from Linkin Park. The song almost appears to be in slow motion, with sparse lyrics spaced out from each other, separated by simple yet haunting guitar riffs and a steady drum beat.

For more insight on what this album may have meant for Hungrybox's budding interest in Melee, I reached out to Team Liquid's Semi-Professional Music Expert Who Has Taken Music Theory Courses Sarah Enders.

“This pick surprised me at first,” she admitted, “but makes sense from what we now know of his life. Radiohead's music can be really deep and self-revealing. I don't think it's a coincidence that he was starting to come into his own at Smash while 'deep diving' into Radiohead's discography. Their music has a way of making you think.”

And not only think, but clear your head.

According to an interview with Pop Matters, Hungrybox has listened to Radiohead's Moon every day since it's been out, despite his first memory of the album. The album had come out just a few days before a tournament loss to Mango, he recalled, and he remembers his feelings of depression and frustration as “Burn the Witch” played in the background.

“And it was like, 'Oh my god, everything makes sense now.”

By his own admittance in a Reddit Q&A, Hbox didn't have a lot of self-esteem in his early years. But times were changing.

“Stay in the shadows,” warns Radiohead in “Burn the Witch.” It continues: “Cheer at the gallows. This is a round up.”

It's about trying to conform. Trying not to stand out in the crowd. To be safe. But at what cost? Hbox was done with the status-quo. Growing more confident in his Jigglypuff prowess, the aggression that Hungrybox felt when trying to prove himself to his friends back in middle school had dwindled, and was instead replaced with a steady determination. A goal. He wanted to be the best. No matter how unique his play style was getting.

Let them whisper.

Kanye West – "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy"

Hungrybox was starting to see results from his determination to be #1. Around this time, he was ranked amongst the best Melee players in the world, taking first at Apex and Revival of Melee 3 (and many others) in 2010.

The pros and audience alike were beginning to take notice. Not only because DeBiedma was starting to defeat fan-favorites like Armada in the finals, but because he was doing it in a way nobody had quite seen before. With Jigglypuff.

This introduced many new strategies to the once-static world of professional Melee, dominated by Fox and Marth mains. Others had dabbled with Jigglypuff in the past, but not many had brought it center stage like Hbox. And not everyone was a huge fan of the drastic changes to the meta.

At first shocked and surprised by Jigglypuff's success, the community quickly began to call Jiggly's moves “gimmicks,” and some fans almost seemed to be turning on Hungrybox, despite the blatant skill and precision on display during each match.

It's no surprise that someone with such a unique play style (and character choice) would love Kanye West's strangely composed, experimental album. Because people hate on Kanye, but nobody can deny his genius take on rap. Nobody can avoid listening to his albums without nodding their head along with the enchanting beats, smiling at the clever lyrics and unabashed honesty.

“People don't like Kanye because he has too much confidence for his own good,” said Enders, “though it does him good musically.”

I’m living in that 21st Century, doing something mean to it
Do it better than anybody you ever seen do it
Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it
I guess every superhero need his theme music
- Kanye West, “Power”

With lyrics describing calling out haters while climbing to the top, Kanye's lyrics were perfectly mirroring Hungrybox's quick rise to Melee infamy.

Bon Iver – "For Emma, Forever Ago" / "Bon Iver"

“What would college be without introspection?” explained DeBiedma. Attending the University of Florida for Chemical Engineering, these two albums “lined the course of friendships and relationships which came and went, providing a soundtrack for me as I paced past the sprawling corridors of an unfamiliar college town.”

These were albums about heartbreak. Albums about loss. Of acceptance and bargaining. The stages of grief, really.

Because even though Hungrybox was now considered one of the Five Gods of Melee, he still had “real life.” He still had the same college drama us mere mortals faced. Breakups. Arguments. Misunderstandings. Bad grades. Horrible professors. And, most importantly, wondering what's next. What's after college? What'll happen “in the real world,” whatever that is? Would he try to make Melee a full time career, or pursue something related to his degree?

“I remember listening to these when I would travel between Gainesville and Orlando in the evenings,” he told me. “The ambient sounds of setting suns and laid out snow would make me wonder whether or not I was choosing the right future in school. Melee was beginning to look like it had a future for me but it was also competing with other Smash games.”

Animal Collective – "Merriweather Post Pavilion"

“The lyrics are pretty insightful,” said Enders. “They're about life, happiness, and finding 'one's groove,' I suppose you could call it.”

And that's exactly what Hungrybox had set out to do.

But the path wasn't so linear.

“Experimentation is necessary for people to advance their skillset,” Hungrybox explained. “This album sort of told me to take risks in Melee, and to think outside the box. Music has layers, school has layers, Smash has layers... It's all a layer cake and it's fucking delicious.”

You got to weigh all he said
He helped you shape the way you play
You gotta get rid of the mourning
Sort out the habits of your mind
- Animal Collective, “Brother Sport”

Perhaps DeBiedma felt he had to start experimenting with his play style a bit more during this time and beyond because — while he was one of the best — he wasn't the best. After coming in second at EVO in 2014, Hungrybox was getting, well, hungrier and hungrier to be the best. The number one Melee player. To beat Armada, Mang0 and the other Gods who seemed just inches from his reach.

He had to start rethinking his defensive strategy.

And with help from his coach, Crunch, Hungrybox began to do more gameplay analysis. Focusing in on areas he could improve on. Picking apart his opponent's strategies and go-to moves.

Kanye West – "Yeezus"

For an instinctual player like Hbox, analyzing games is not something he could – or would – do on his own. But he knew he had to experiment if he wanted to become the best. He said: “Sometimes you have to let your favorite artists do what they want. Have an open mind in both life and work. And Smash of course.”

Hungrybox has said he will “forever ride or die” with "Yeezus", an album he listened to well over 100 times. He plays it as a 40-minute long song, not skipping a single track.

And while he has been open to more analyzing and more strategy lately, Hungrybox is still a gritty player who admittedly plays Jiggly how he wants. So it's no surprise that Hbox had this intense album bumping in his headphones as he defeated PPMD at Big House 3. The image of him jamming out on stream will forever be ingrained in my memory, as I'm sure it is for other Hbox fans.

As Kanye states in “New Slaves”: “There's leaders and there's followers.”

Hungrybox remains one of those leaders. Not only a Melee God, but someone who changed the meta. Someone who disregarded haters, and kept on resting on them. Someone who isn't satisfied with just winning. He wants — needs — to keep winning. And 2018 looks like a continuation of that streak, with one first place finish almost every weekend of the year.

And no matter what album is on in the background, Jigglypuff will be singing to it, putting her opponent's to sleep.

Writer // Olivia Richman
Contributor // Sarah Enders

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