With Marvel’s Black Panther set to release February 16th, new trailer clips and reactions from the premiere have set the internet ablaze like a wildfire. Following his appearance in Captain America’s Civil War film, T’Challa, otherwise known as the Black Panther was badass - throwing hands with the Winter Soldier, Captain America and anyone else in his way, even sans his suit. Thanks to his introduction in Civil War and the comic books the character is based off of, a great amount of intrigue surrounded the character as the movie ended which has been evident through people’s high anticipation of the forthcoming film. An amazing cast was revealed for Black Panther backed by a sensational director at the helm, Oakland native Ryan Coogler, so it was only right for the soundtrack to the film to be of equally great proportions. It was revealed some months back that Kendrick Lamar and TDE would be manning the soundtrack duties, executive producing the entire project. On January 31st, a full tracklist was revealed for the film’s soundtrack that has only furthered our expectations for what is shaping up to be one of the best installments of Marvel’s cinematic universe yet.
The soundtrack’s tracklist has garnered quite the reaction in itself, an entirely original production with some of the biggest names in music and even some unlikely pairings. TDE has outdone themselves with this, and while we’ve already had a taste of two of the tracks - Jay Rock’s all star cast on “King’s Dead” and SZA & Kendrick’s collaborative piece “All The Stars”, I can’t wait to hear the rest and even see how they tie into the film. Of course, I would be remiss in forgetting to shoutout Kendrick or Ryan Coogler (whoever was responsible) for ensuring that the Bay Area’s SOBxRBE are represented, not to mention Sacramento’s own Mozzy who just received a shoutout at the Grammys from K.Dot as well. A soundtrack of this proportion hasn’t been seen in some time in the hip-hop community, despite it once being a staple. The tracklist for Black Panther The Album had me recollecting a time when copping the soundtrack to a film was equally as important as the movie itself.
1985’s Krush Groove is reportedly the first film to have featured a hip-hop track, Run DMC’s “Krush Groovin”, and yet it wasn’t until Ice-T’s “Colors” in 1988 that a hip-hop joint from a feature film hit the charts (“Colors” is also cited as one of the tracks that birthed West Coast gangsta rap). As the years went by we saw a number of hip-hop tracks get tied to films, (sometimes without any real correlation towards the movie’s narrative) eventually paving the way for folks like Def Jam or Death Row Records to executive produce a film’s soundtrack. In honor of those that paved the way for Black Panther’s stellar soundtrack, I’ve revisited some of my favorite soundtracks and songs from them that not only provide us with an undeniably cohesive marriage to a film but are predominantly hip-hop based.
I’m sorry but this has to be one of the hardest soundtrack joints of all time. Not only does this track perfectly embody the Monstars, but it brought together an all star cast of rappers to do so. B-Real, Coolio, Busta Rhymes, LL and Meth all came together and turned this track into the NBA All Star Game, dropping some amazing verses - not to mention prime Busta Rhymes lighting this up like Jordan in the Finals. The soundtrack is probably best known for featuring Seal's "Fly Like an Eagle" and R.Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly", though it also boasts appearances from Monica, D'Angelo and Salt-N-Pepa. Quick anecdote: Space Jam was done while Jordan was on his hiatus from the NBA following his father's death and his attempt to play in the MLB, so how he addressed his critics in the movie was pretty funny. Not only did he lead the greatest fictional basketball comeback of all time against the Monstars but he also returned back to the league to win the 96 Finals in the same year as well. I don’t know who had more clamps, the Monstars or East Oakland legend Gary Payton.
Bad Boys II
Man, I know this track had the clubs going crazy back in 03. I just know it. This joint permeated mainstream culture to the point that it had middle school dances poppin, and later won a Grammy after having stormed the charts to take #1 - marking Murphy Lee’s first and only appearance at the #1 spot. Rumor has it that Bad Boys 3 is on it’s way, so hang tight and hopefully we’ll get another stellar soundtrack to accompany it. This one was great though, as it gave us “Shake Your Tailfeather” but also one of Freeway’s most successful singles in “Flipside”, a sleeper Jay-Z/Pharrell collaboration “La La La” and brought Diddy, Lenny Kravitz and Skateboard P together for a track too.
Above the Rim
Despite being known to many as a top 5 rapper, Pac was making his case as being a great actor in his own right before his passing. 1994’s Above The Rim was Tupac’s third appearance on the big screen, following Juice and Poetic Justice and was accompanied by a Death Row Records produced soundtrack. The soundtrack is a good listen, Lady of Rage’s “Afro Puffs”, Warren G’s “Regulate” and SWV’s “Anything” with Wu-Tang not to mention Pac’s “Pour Out a Lil Liquor”. However, Above The Rim produced one of Tupac’s greatest songs, making this soundtrack even more special in my book - if you’ve never heard it take the time out to give “Pain” a listen.
2 Fast 2 Furious
Shoutout to the year 2003 for being a pivotal year in my upbringing. Just a month prior to the release of Bad Boys 2, we were blessed with 2 Fast 2 Furious. Could anyone have foreseen what Tyrese would become to the Fast & Furious franchise? In Vin Diesel’s absence, 2 Fast 2 Furious set the tone for future releases with Ludacris and Tyrese playing integral roles in the film (shoutout Ja Rule for his cameo in the original movie). You just don’t have 2 Fast 2 Furious without “Act A Fool”, which brought Ludacris in his prime to the table to craft an anthemic track for the movie and later that year would go on to drop arguably his best album Chicken N Beer. The 2 Fast 2 Furious soundtrack introduced a younger me to Pitbull with his track “Oye”, and featured David Banner and Lil Flips incredibly hard “Like a Pimp”. Though the first movie’s soundtrack featured Ja Rule’s “Put It On Me” and Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” from Furious 7 peaked at #1, it’s undeniable that “Act A Fool” embodies the Fast & the Furious franchise.
Friday has permeated culture to the point where kids these days don’t even know where they got “Bye Felicia” from. That in itself says so much about the film’s importance, and the soundtrack is equally as great - likely one of the most well rounded movie soundtracks based in hip-hop. The title track is one of Ice Cube’s greatest, and despite the movie being LA-centric, Cube does manage to drop a quick shoutout to Too $hort in the song, and makes sure of E-A-Ski’s appearance on the soundtrack as well. West Coast legends are all over the soundtrack, from Dr. Dre to Cypress Hill, but the soundtrack also boasts an appearance from The Isley Brothers. This soundtrack is great for the simple fact that most of the songs are actually worked into the film, which is what I’m hoping for this upcoming Black Panther film.
“Deep Cover” was the rise of a legend. After leaving NWA, the world was anxious to see what Dr. Dre would do and this song would only foreshadow what 1992 held in store for the LA pioneer. However, it’s not Dr. Dre that this track is truly significant for but rather it was the world’s introduction to a rapper by the name of Snoop Dogg. Come December with the release of The Chronic, Snoop’s place amongst hip-hop legends would be cemented forever - but it all began with the soundtrack to this Laurence Fishburne and Jeff Goldblum feature film.
Men In Black
As corny as this may be today, it’s undeniable that this song was everywhere in the late 90s, in large part thanks to the infectious hook provided by SWV's Coko. Men In Black was a staple of my youth, the days without cable and a handful of VHS tapes, and this record went #1 in 1997 - only the second hip-hop soundtrack song to do so in history. Shoutout to “Wild Wild West” while we’re at it, Will Smith may not be known by many as a hip-hop great but he damn sure managed to stay at the forefront of culture for years. Can I just quickly mention that Jaden Smith’s SYRE is one of my favorite albums since it’s release? In case ya’ll sleep.
Hustle & Flow
The film that's damn near responsible for the Terrence Howard meme eruption back in January, Hustle & Flow featured a great soundtrack that aimed to embody Southern rap (the film set in Memphis) with appearances from 8 Ball & MJG, Juvenile, Webbie & Boosie, T.I. in his prime, and the tracks that "DJay" recorded in the film. Who could forget in 2006 when Three 6 won an Oscar for their work on Hustle & Flow? The Memphis rap group that's responsible for much of what's going on in today's current musical climate had ascended to the top of the ladder in Hollywood, and triumphed on "the largest of stages". It feels like a good time to note this article from 2012 citing 91% of the Oscar's voters are white, and 76% are male, just as a reminder that these award shows don't validate much of anything. Credited for writing DJay's "Hard Out Here For A Pimp", Three 6 Mafia was the first hip-hop group to win an Oscar and later followed that up with an amazing reality show on MTV.
This may well be the best soundtrack on this list. The Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan film arrived in 2002 with appearances from Mos Def (now referred to as Yasiin Bey), Queen Latifah, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G. Rap, Pete Rock, Slick Rick, De La Soul and many more in the motion picture itself. The soundtrack brought us tracks from The Roots, Erykah Badu, Yasiin Bey, Jill Scott and numerous others, with Common bridging the gap from Erkyah's "Love of My Life" to The Roots "Act Too" penning nostalgia for the genre we all know and love.
Though this soundtrack is the most eclectic on the list, and not really a hip-hop heavy one I had to include this simply for the Method Man joint. Looking back, Batman Forever was actually pretty solid of a film, with Jim Carrey as the Riddler and Val Kilmer as Batman, Gotham looked sinister but also like a moving comic book. Though Seal's "Kiss From a Rose" is undoubtedly the high point of this album, it's Method Man's "The Riddler" that captures my intrigue as an adult. The same year that "Wu Tang Clan Aint Nuthin Ta F' Wit" dropped, Method Man was enlisted to unleash this track which surely has been forgotten by many. Looking back at this list, it's almost an affirmation of how versatile Method Man is as an emcee with his appearance on Space Jam's soundtrack and this one where he falls into character incredibly well and steals the show.
Black Panther hot takes are on the rise as the film approaches, but Kendrick and SZA's "All The Stars" visuals are truly some of the best I've seen from a soundtrack thus far. Kendrick and TDE continue their work as a creative powerhouse, and I can't wait to listen to the album (check it out now). Each of these soundtrack albums does a great job of embodying the films and stamping them in time of when the film took place. As producer Soundwave told NPR in a recent interview, Black Panther is no different; "The movie's not set in 1910, or the 1960s when Black Panther first came out — it's set in today. There's 'today' moments happening in the movie, so we want the whole soundtrack to sound like that too. I think it was a perfect marriage for us to blend the two worlds".
Undoubtedly I've missed some soundtracks, as there's so many great ones out there but these are some of the ones that I grew up on and that I felt were necessary to revisit. I had a lot of fun writing this, if you enjoyed the article hit me on Twitter and let me know what are some of your favorite soundtracks or drop a comment below!