What Happened to the Great Movie Soundtrack?

What happened to soundtracks?

Do you remember how soundtracks used to be extreeeeeeemely dope? The movie would come out, but half the time, the movie went to another level because of the soundtrack. Obviously, y’all know I have a great affinity for the Belly soundtrack. But then there was the Jason’s Lyric soundtrack, which justifies it’s very existence off the strength of “U Will Know” by Black Men United and “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” by K-Ci.  Forget the fact that the soundtrack included Mint Condition, Brian McKnight, Spice 1, Scarface, and Oleta Adams. You can even forget the fact that I’ve already called out K-Ci’s rendition of “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” is one of the great song snatchings of all time. Just think about one thing– “U Will Know” by Black Men United–and how it’s the only song they ever made. It’s like “We Are the World” for the neighborhood. Look at the names: D’Angelo, who wrote it when he was about 19 or 20 years old, plus Aaron Hall, After 7, Silk, D.R.S., H-Town, Gerald Levert, El Debarge, Johnny Gill, Joe, Lenny Kravitz on guitar, Stokely from Mint Conditon, Tevin Campbell, Keith Sweat, Boyz II Men, Al B. Sure, and some more people who are totally underrated. There was Christopher Williams, Intro, Portrait,  Damion Hall, and Silk (whose “Meeting in My Bedroom” was >>>>. I don’t know what happened to that CD.) Thin about how great that was, then think about how today, there are no R&B groups–everybody wants to be solo. And think about how BMU was a group of groups, a choir full of all stars. It’s like when you’re playing NBA 2K and you can draft whoever on your team, so you have a team with Michael Jordan and Shaq and Kobe and Lebron and Magic Johnson and everybody…the team’s so good you have Bill Russell and Larry Bird coming off the bench. Well, that’s what Black Men United did with “U Will Know.” You’ve got stars singing background, just to be a part of this. It’s unfair. Not only did they get people there to record it, but they got them all together for the music video. And they did all this for a soundtrack. Excuse me, I’m going in:

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The New Lauryn Hill Album You’ve Been Waiting For Is Probably The One You Never Gave A Chance

You have to understand how it was back then. Lauryn Hill was theeeeeeeee bidness. The Fugees had done their classic album, The Score, and Lauryn Hill’s vocals had really shone through on songs like “Ready or Not” and “Killing Me Softly.” Besides that, Lauryn had spit some serious lyrics throughout the album, proving herself to be a capable emcee. But more than that, the album was a masterpiece–I loved “How Many Mics” and “Zealots” in particular. And then she was doing a little acting, showing up in Sister Act 2.  Critical acclaim for The Score was nearly universal.

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While Lauryn was excellent, there was no guarantee that her solo album would be as good, for two reasons: first, The Score really was the product of a group effort. Wyclef, Lauryn, and even Pras (no disrespect, man) actually had a recipe that cooked up something delicious. It wasn’t like, say, the Black Eyed Peas, where the weight falls mostly on will.i.am and Fergie, or like Destiny’s Child, where it was clear that Beyonce was always going to be the star. Pras was more like Flavor Flav–no one can say exactly what he was doing in the group, but we all know that Public Enemy wouldn’t have been the same without him. And second, the bar set by The Score was really, really high.

And then she dropped The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. If you’re reading this, then I don’t need to tell you how great that album is–but I might need to remind you of how great that album was. At the moment it hit, there was nothing else like it. There have been women who have sung and rapped on their album before, but no one has ever done both as well as Lauryn has. I will grant you the possible exception of Missy Elliot. You might pay to hear Nicki Minaj rap, but you aren’t really excited to hear her sing. Faith Evans can actually rap some (and in fact, she should rap more), but if you’re going to hear her, you’re trying to hear “Soon As I Get Home.” I theorize that Jill Scott, if she really wanted to, could probably put together a very good rap album. But Lauryn actually did–“Doo Wop (That Thing)” and “X-Factor” are both great songs and they are both representative of the body of work. When she sings the hook and raps the verse on “Everything is Everything,” it was only natural. “Nothing Even Matters” with D’Angelo is a Get Down Tape All-Star.  And then there was the subject matter–not just the traditional themes for an R&B or hip hop album–but also motherhood, faith, spirituality, and some serious social issues.

A side question–why doesn’t more R&B and hip hop by female artists deal with motherhood? I mean, after “To Zion,” the next song I can think of is “Lovin’ You” by Minnie Riperton, and the next song after that I can think of is “Responsibility” by the Ghetto Twinz, which is really more about single motherhood and being angry at the absence of your children’s father. This is likely the first time the Ghetto Twinz and Lauryn Hill have been mentioned in the same sentence, and the circumstances under which that has happened are about as sad and pitiful as you would expect. Continue reading