I Normally Don’t Do This will be a segment where I review albums in my collection that aren’t necessarily hip-hop albums but are influenced enough by hip-hop that I’ll give them some love (or hate) on TimeIsIllmatic.
The seventies gave birth to Blaxploitation films, which if you’re not familiar with the term, a Blaxploitation film is a low-budget (which translates to low quality) movie, starring black actors and made for a black audience (i.e. Sweet Sweetback, Foxy Brown, and Superfly). With these films came music soundtracks to accompany them filled with funk and soulful songs from some of the music industries most well-respected soul artists of the time, including Curtis Mayfield, Roy Ayers, and Marvin Gaye, just to name a few. As the seventies and disco said goodbye, so did the era of Blaxploitation films. Spike Lee would emerge in the mid eighties to carry on the black movie legacy directing movies like Do The Right Thing, Jungle Fever, and X. Lee’s success would open the door for more black directors, which would lead to a string of “urban” movies, or as I affectionately refer to them as, hood movies. The nineties gave birth to some classic hood movies, like New Jack City, Boyz N The Hood, Menace II Society, South Central, Poetic Justice, Higher Learning, and Juice.
The story line behind Juice is of 4 childhood friends coming of age and their struggle to become men, make away for themselves and be respected. Things start to fall apart when 2pac’s menacing character Bishop, becomes consumed with obtaining “the juice”, which leads to him killing his homie Raheem and going to war with Omar Epp’s character, Q. Many believe Juice was the turning point in 2pac life as he would start to act more and more like Bishop in his own life, until his untimely death in ’96. Oscar Wilde was right when he said life imitates art. But I digress.
Like the Blaxploitation movies of the seventies, the hood movies of the nineties would also provide music soundtracks with songs from soul artist of the time. The Juice Soundtrack was released on the last day of 1991, and while it did include a few r&b songs the majority of it was hip-hop from some of the greatest to ever do it.
Yes, I own the New Jack City and Boyz N The Hood soundtracks. I chose not to include them on this blog because they’re both about half r&b, half hip-hop and also, because this is my blog and I can do with it whatever I want, son. Maybe someday when I’m current with this blog I’ll do something similar with my movie soundtrack collection. Don’t hold your breath, though.
Uptown Anthem – This was originally released as a bonus song on the cd format of Naughty By Nature’s self titled album, released a few months earlier in ’91. In case you didn’t read my review on Naughty By Nature, Kay Gee creates a bleak background with his dark synth sounds that Treach devours like Terio with a twelve piece at Popeye’s (“Ooh Kill em’). Oh yeah, Vin Rock raps on this one too.
Juice (Know The Ledge) – I believe this was the lead single, which is only right considering it’s the title song and all. Two fifths of the Bomb Squad hook up a rough up-tempo backdrop for the God emcee Rakim who proceeds to obliterate the track almost effortlessly. When you listen to this song, you are listening to a master at work. Bonafide classic.
Is It Good To You – You may recall Heavy D used this same instrumental, hook, and song title on his Peaceful Journey album, even releasing it as a single. Teddy Riley (who also produced Hev’s version) liked the instrumental so much he decided to lend it to Tammy Lucas to reuse and sing over, and she does a solid job. Matter of fact, I think I like this version better than Hev’s.
Sex, Money & Murder – Whatever happened to M.C. Pooh? Pooh was a Oakland emcee who came up under his homie Too Short, which might explain why he sounded like, uh, a poor man’s Too Short. Seriously, everything from the voice, to the delivery, to the content has Short Dog written all over it. Ant Banks hooks up a funky mid-tempo groove that Pooh uses to discuss the trinity of gangsta hip-hop (see the song title). If you can get past the Too Short imitation you’ll at least enjoy Ant Banks’ funky groove.
Nuff Respect – Hank Shocklee and Gary G Wiz get their second production credit of the evening for another top 10 of all time emcee, Big Daddy Kane (Rakim and now BDK? Add KRS-One and that’s a concert I’d give my left arm and leg to go see). Over a busy up-tempo but very entertaining instrumental, Kane drops raw rhymes in his signature baritone voice that are sure to entertain and have you kneeling to pay your respects. Long live the Kane.
So You Want To Be A Gangster – Speaking of Too Short, he also has a song on the Juice Soundtrack. Although Short became rich and famous from his songs of misogyny, he has been known to drop an occasional lesson or two on the listening public. Over a funky Ant Banks instrumental (who is now batting 1000 for the evening on the production side of things) Short warns of the dangers of living the gangster lifestyle. Solid joint.
It’s Going Down – EPMD meshes a Marvin Gaye sample into this slo-mo funk collage that they attack in their signature approaches. Nice.
Don’t Be Afraid – As much as I listened to this soundtrack back in the day I never really paid attention to the production credits on the liner notes. Too my surprise, I had no idea how much Hank Shocklee and Gary G Wiz were involved on this project (Hank even got executive producer points) as they produced this song as well. This time the duo hook up a bangin’ bass line mixed with heavy drums and a melodic piano cord to smooth things out a bit. Aaron Hall (who for those who don’t know or might have forgotten, was basically the voice of Guy) then lays down his church like vocals as he prepares to get his first piece of putang (at least he claims it’s his “first experience”, but he talks a lot of shit for a rookie; his first line of the song is “you’ll be crying daddy to me, boy please don’t hurt me”). This is a perfect example of how hip-hop and r&b can walk together in perfect unity. Classic. A few years later Aaron would also include a few different mixes of the song on his debut solo album and released it as a single. The instrumental for the video version was a bit more cleaned up and r&b. I love the rawness of this mix.
He’s Gamin’ On Ya’ – Salt N Pepa drop by to warn their sisterhood to beware of these dudes, or as Salt affectionately puts it at the end of the song “punkmuthafuckas”, who run game on the ladies. Hurby Luv Bug lays down a decent instrumental for the ladies to do their thing over. This was decent.
Shoot ‘Em Up – Cypress Hill drops by to supply another one of their murder ballads. Muggs lays down a slow-paced drunken instrumental that B-Real and Sen Dog use to leave bodies laying all over. This one is okay but Muggs’ instrumental borders on becoming annoying after too many listens.
Flipside – Well, they can’t all be winners.
What Could Be Better Bitch – Hank Shocklee and Gary G Wiz return for their final production credit of the evening and its a thing of beauty. The duo lay down a smooth low-key instrumental for Son Of Bazerk, who always reminded me of Chuck D (which should come as no surprise since Hank Shocklee discovered him), to spit over. Bazerk’s rhymes aren’t suburb but his voice and delivery sound perfect over this instrumental. This is a slept on banger that sounds so good I want to track down a copy of Son of Bazerk’s debut album.
Does Your Man Know About Me – For some reason it irritates the hell out of me when a song title is phrased as a question yet the liner notes don’t punctuate the title with a question mark. Now that I got that off my chest: not to be confused with Khalil Kain’s character Raheem from the movie or Raheem DeVaughn, newcomer Rahiem sings (and even spit a few bars) over a r&b instrumental with smooth jazz ambitions, with the production credit going to Rough Daddy Smooth (which has to be in the running for corniest moniker of all time) & The Players and Tony “Champagne” Silvester. Not a life changing song but still decent.
People Get Ready (Remix) – The only difference between the remix and the original is the presence of the very underappreciated vocalist N’Dea Davenport who lays downs some strong vocals on this Brand New Heavies funk groove. The original was released on the Brand New Heavies 1990 self-titled debut album, so including the remix with Davenport’s powerful vocals on the Juice Soundtrack opened up a lot of new lanes for the then up and coming London based Funk/Acid Jazz band, as they would go on to expand their U.S. following and collab with many hip-hop acts, which would eventually result in a collab album that I’ll get to in the next few months. Or years.
The Juice Soundtrack is the best hip-hop hood movie soundtrack ever made. No argument. Its filled with great production and legendary emcees in their prime, who for the most part actually show up to spit instead of resting on their laurels. Even the r&b joints are quality and bring forth a bit of hip-hop appeal. There is one minor hiccup on the Juice Soundtrack (*cough* “Flipside”) but the rest of the record is so solid you’ll easily forgive that small transgression.