Photo Credit: http://www.pitchfork.com
Hip hop is a wide-ranging genre that covers the entire spectrum of human emotions, making it perfect for what we like to call ‘roller coaster narratives’ in film.
From the soundtracks to Romeo Must Die to Space Jam, we’re taking a moment to celebrate the very best hip hop movie soundtracks and hail some of the finest singers, rappers and producers in the game.
Speaking of hip hop, we’ve got an entire Discover hub dedicated to hip hop and R&B. Here you can enjoy a selection of albums, playlists and artists in the hip hop genre that could be perfect for your project, so check it out once you’ve read our round-up!
Best Hip Hop Movie Soundtracks
Space Jam (1996)
Box Office: $250.2 million
Music Producers: Rashad Smith, James Newton Howard, R Kelly and others
Best Songs: ‘That’s The Way I Like It’; ‘All of My Days’; ‘Hit ’Em High (The Monstars’ Anthem)’
Say what you want about Space Jam (personally, we’re a fan), but some features are undeniably extraordinary – namely, the seamless layering of animation over live action and the super-compelling soundtrack. Naturally, we’re particularly taken with the latter.
As a film soundtrack it’s a total slam dunk, with all the fierce energy of the mid-90s pre-millennial hip hop scene, featuring classic songs from the likes of Salt-N-Pepa, Seal, Spin Doctors and Busta Rhymes. It gives the soundtrack for the forthcoming sequel a lot to live up to.
Men in Black (1997)
Box Office: $589.4 million
Music Producers: The Ummah, Poke & Tone, De La Soul and others
Best Songs: ‘Men in Black’; ‘I’m Feeling You’; ‘We Just Wanna Party With You’
Featuring songs from the likes of Nas, The Roots, Ginuwine, Snoop Dogg and A Tribe Called Quest, the Men in the Black soundtrack is simply magnificent. And we’re not the only ones who think so, as the album went straight to the top of the album charts for two consecutive weeks when it dropped in the late 90s.
In the spirit of the film, every song is powerful and spirited. Truth be told, some of the songs are so damn catchy (especially Smith’s ‘Men in Black’), we almost wish we had our own neuralyzer (that’s sci-fi speak for a memory eraser).
He Got Game (1998)
Box Office: $22.4 million
Music Producers: Bomb Squad, Abnes Dubose, Jack Dangers and others
Best Songs: ‘He Got Game’; ‘Resurrection’; ‘Unstoppable’
The He Got Game soundtrack is not just a collection of great songs from the film – it’s also Public Enemy’s sixth studio album. The American hip hop collective reunited to bring Spike Lee’s film to life, and the album features some of the best Public Enemy songs ever – our favourite being the title track, with its gospel choir backing vocals, unconventional sample (from Buffalo Springfield’s ‘For What It’s Worth’) and thought-provoking lyrics. What more could you want?
Romeo Must Die (2000)
Box Office: $91 million
Music Producers: Aaliyah, Barry Hankerson, Jomo Hankerson, Timbaland and others
Best Songs: ‘Try Again’; ‘Perfect Man’; ‘I Don’t Wanna’; ‘Come Back in One Piece’
Granted, Romeo Must Die might not be your favourite flick ever (it’s certainly not ours), but you’ve got to appreciate its august soundtrack — it’s literally the sound of the new millennium. And it’s impossible to talk about it without paying respects to the late Aaliyah. The R&B star was executive producer as well as performing four of the songs on the soundtrack – the most famous being Try Again – alongside the likes of Ginuwine, Destiny’s Child and The Comrads. We miss you, our queen.
8 Mile (2002)
Box Office: $242.9 million
Music Producers: Eminem and others
Best Songs: ‘Lose Yourself’; ‘8 Miles And Runnin’; ‘U Wanna Be Me’; ‘Time of My Life’
What is the hardest-hitting rap song? Some would say it’s Eminem’s Academy Award-winning track Lose Yourself, which, as you probably already know, was created for the 2002 flick 8 Mile, a semi-autobiographical film that follows B-Rabbit – loosely based on Eminem – as he aims to make it big as a rapper. If you love your hip hop this soundtrack is a total treat, with songs from 50 Cent, Nas and Jay-Z.
Shark Tale (2004)
Box Office: $367.3 million
Music Producers: Hans Zimmer, Timbaland, Missy Elliott and others
Best Songs: ‘Car Wash’; ‘Baby Got Back’; ‘You Can’t Touch This’
Shark Tale is one of Dreamworks biggest hits, which makes us wonder why they never greenlit a sequel. Perhaps because they knew they could never recreate the original’s tour de force soundtrack, which features everyone from Bob Marley to Sean Paul to Will Smith and Ludacris. And the jewel in the crown, needless to say, is the ‘Car Wash’ cover by Missy Elliott and Christina Aguilera, whichm in our humble opinion, is a total banger.
Step Up 2: The Streets (2008)
Box Office: $150.8 million
Music Producers: T-Pain, Timbaland, Missy Elliott and others
Best Songs: ‘Low’; ‘Shake Your Pom Pom’; ‘Hypnotized’
Ah, Step Up 2: The Streets — a film that defines the Naughties. The main characters Andie (Briana Evigan) and Chase (Robert Hoffman) form a dance crew and fall in love, to a blistering soundtrack from the likes of Flo Rida, T-Pain and Missy Elliott. These tracks form a superb playlist in a film that often feels like one long music video – especially during the scene that involves the lovebirds dancing in the rain.
The Great Gatsby (2013)
Box Office: $353.6 million
Music Producers: Jay-Z and Baz Luhrmann
Best Songs: ‘No Church in the Wild’; ‘Bang Bang’; ‘$100 Bill’
Who’s the best rapper of all time? We’d argue it’s Shawn Carter (aka Jay-Z). And we’ll never forget how the Jigga man lent his audio wizardry to one of our favourite films of all time, Baz Lurhman’s The Great Gatsby. Jay whipped out his contact book and got a whole host of big-name stars on board, including Q-Tip, Will.I.Am and André 3000. He even got his wife involved. But the standout track from the album came originally from Jay-Z’s album with Kanye West. Entitled ‘No Church in the Wild’, the song, featuring Frank Ocean on vocals, works brilliantly with the film’s 1920s setting.
Black Panther (2018)
Box Office: $1.344 billion
Music Producers: Kendrick Lamar and others
Best Songs: ‘All the Stars’; ‘Paramedic!’; ‘Pray for Me’
Marvel Studios’ Black Panther is one of the most groundbreaking superhero motion pictures ever created – aptly, the soundtracks are nothing short of brilliant. We say soundtracks as there are actually not one but two Black Panther soundtracks in existence: Ludwig Göransson’s cinematic score incorporated elements of traditional music from South and West Africa, while Kendrick Lamar curated a star-studded hip hop contribution. FYI, both received Oscar nominations, and Göransson ended up winning.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Box Office: $375.5 million
Music Producers: DJ Khalil, Infamous, Louis Bell and others
Best Songs: ‘Sunflower’; ‘Familia’; ‘Way Up’; ‘Hide’
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was one of the biggest surprises of the 2010s – it offered a fresh animation technique, never-before-seen-on-the-big-screen Spider-Man and a totally infectious score and soundtrack. You already know where we’re going with this.
The album concept was prompted by the question: What would Miles Morales, a 13-year old mixed-race teenager in Brooklyn, listen to? The question led to the creation of some of the hottest hip hop tracks of the century, some of which are inspired by the young superhero’s Latin-American heritage.
Audio Network’s Hip Hop Collection
Now that we’ve covered the best hip hop movie soundtracks, it’s about time we reminded you of our hip hop collection.
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