10 Films With The Best Hip-Hop Soundtracks

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Jim Jarmusch’s 1999 drama tells the story of Ghost Dog (Forest Whittaker), a contract killer and master of the samurai sword, who faces trouble when a completing a job for small time mobster Louie, a small time mobster who saved his life many years ago and who he pledges loyalty to, goes sour. The film features an original score produced by Wu Tang Clan member RZA, also featuring tracks from the Wu themselves, and affiliates Killah Priest and Public Enemy. It is the first of RZA’s first fully scored film works.


F Gary Gray’s 1995 comedy favourite, tells the on goings of an event filled Friday afternoon in South Central LA. The film, featuring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker is known for its hip-hop and R’n’B gems, such as Ice Cube’s “Friday” along with top tracks from Cypress Hill, Rick James and Dr Dre. Released on CD and cassette later that year through Priority Records, it reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200, where it held the position for two weeks, the soundtrack and the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart for six weeks.


Also from F Gary Gray, this epic biopic on notorious gangsta rap group NWA features tracks from the whole clan, consisting of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, MC Ren, Eazy-E and DJ Yella. NWA were known for their ground breaking in-your-face articulation of first-person street gang rhymes, irreverent and humorous stories, and anti-establishment social commentary on deindustrialized black life.


Jim Sheridan’s 2005 crime biopic loosely based on the life of hip-hop artist 50 Cent, shares its name with the artist’s 2003 debut album.  In December 2005, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the album platinum. The album, featuring tracks from 50 cent, G-Unit, Mobb Deep and Lloyd Banks, has so far sold over 3 million copies worldwide.


The 1993 American hood thriller directed by the Hughes Brothers features tracks from the likes of Martin Gaye, Hi-Five, The Isley Brothers and Too $hort.  The film follows the life of a young man named Kaydee “Caine” Lawson and his close friends. Gaining notoriety for its scenes of violence, profanity, and drug-related content, it received critical acclaim for its powerful underlying messages, which the soundtrack undoubtedly accelerates.


Shot on location in New York City, Steve Gomer’s 1996 basketball movie tells the story of gym teacher Phyllis Saroka (Rhea Perlman) who takes over the coaching of an inner-city high-school basketball team, transforming both herself and her team from losers to winners. The soundtrack features one of the first solo appearances from Wu Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah, amongst other highly regarded artists such as the late Tupac Shakur and Aaliyah.


1992 American crime drama thriller film directed by Ernest R. Dickerson touches on the lives of four youths growing up in Harlem, and garnered much attention due to the lead role casting of Tupac Shakur. The gritty portrayal of inner city life revolving around police harassment and rival neighbourhood gangs is matched by a raw soundtrack from early hip hop legends, including Eric B & Rakim, MC Pooh, Big Daddy Kane and Salt-n-Pepa.


1991 American crime film New Jack City is based upon an original story and screenplay by Thomas Lee Wright, and directed by Mario Van Peebles.  Wesley Snipes plays Nino Brown, drug lord in New York City during the crack epidemic. Ice-T plays Scotty Appleton, a detective on a dangerous undercover mission to stop Nino’s criminal activity. The soundtrack consists of eleven original songs, heavily influenced by the new jack swing genre of R&B, most of which were performed by chart-topping R&B and hip-hop artists of the time including Guy with Teddy Riley, Keith Sweat, Color Me Badd and Johnny Gill.


Set in Detroit in 1995, Curtis Hanson’s 2002 drama follows the life of young rapper Jimmy Smith Jr. (Eminem), and his attempt to launch a career in rap, a genre dominated by African Americans. Eminem features on 5 tracks in the film, alongside other artists including Nas, Rakim, Obie Trice, 50 Cent and Jay Z.


Justin Tipping’s 2016 coming of age crime film follows the life of 15 year old Brandon (Jahking Guillory) who after acquiring a new pair of Nike Air Jordan 1’s is violently robbed by a group of hoodlums. The film also stars Christopher Jordan Wallace Jr., The Notorious B.I.G’s son. Kicks is rich with subtext surrounding social tensions in poor inner city area, using drive the narrative of a distinctly personal tale. Rap songs are used for rap music to help chapter opening cues in this coming of age story, from artists from a range of different eras, such as Nas, Kendrick Lamar, Tupac Shakur and Jay Z.


KICKS will be available on digital download from 22nd May 2017 here.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.


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