Rap Movie Reviews

Movie Review – All Eyez on Me

Year of Release: 2017

Production Company: Summit Entertainment/Morgan Creek Productions/Program Pictures/Codeblack Films

It must be said: there is no denying that Tupac Shakur has maintained his popularity throughout the years, even more than two decades after his untimely demise. His deep-in-though lyrics really touched the minds and hearts of not just hip-hop fans, but also other people who have struggled in the things that were related to his music. It was apparent that a biopic would be made about the fallen rap star.

“All Eyez on Me” is the third rap biopic to be released theatrically, following 2009’s “Notorious” and 2015’s “Straight Outta Compton.” With the cultural impact that Pac had on the masses, there was no doubt that a biopic should be released in theaters.

However, unlike SOC, it’s sad to say that AEOM doesn’t have the best production value or even storytelling that SOC had.

The first thing that must be noted is that Demetrius Shipp Jr not only has a strong resemblance to Pac, but I have to give him credit for trying in his debut role. But I still had some issues with the film.

WARNING: There may be spoilers ahead.

The thing that was distracting about the film is that there was no real flow to the storytelling. The movie in a nutshell was mainly that Pac was interviewed by a journalist who was covering his life story. It talked about how Pac was brought up by his mother, who was a black panther and how he ended up starting off as an actor before becoming a rapper. Also, it showed a bit of his friendship with Jada Pinkett. So it talked about how he was first discovered by Digital Underground. I have to hand it to the casting director for casting the guy who played Shock G, as he looked so much like him and even had some of his mannerisms. Anyway, then it showed sequences filming certain scenes from movies like “Juice” and “Above The Rim.” I really wonder what the point of those scenes were. Yes, everyone knows that Pac was an actor as well, but I didn’t find any of that to be crucial to the story. I will say that I didn’t mind that those bits were recreated with some people playing the actors whom he shared those scenes with. I wonder if some scenes in that when he filmed “Poetic Justice,” “Gridlock’d,” and “Gang Related” were done but just left on the cutting room floor. I wonder about the actors who played Janet Jackson, Tim Roth, and Jim Belushi respectively, because the guy who was supposed to be Omar Epps looked nothing like him. The same could be said about Leon, the guy who played Pac’s character’s brother in ATR.

Another thing that I noticed was that clips of some music videos were recreated in some sequences like the video to Digital Underground’s “Same Song,” as well as “I Get Around.” Not to mention certain interviews in which every single word and mannerism were done to recreate them. As well as certain pictures that were shot, like the one with him and Faith Evans, and the infamous snapshot of him with Suge Knight right before the shooting in Vegas.

Of course, the film touched on the sexual assault charge that Pac was jailed for, as well as what led to his beef with Biggie. Speaking of whom, I noticed that the guy who played Biggie in “Notorious” was the same actor who played him in this film. I didn’t mind it, as Jamal Woolard is a rapper himself and had to use his prowess for rapping in a scene.

Then came when Pac joined Death Row Records. I am well aware of a lot of terrible and shady stuff that happened within that label, but certain sequences really made the film take it to a different level. It almost felt like I was watching a different movie. For example, during a scene at a dinner, when Suge Knight was about to confront someone, all of a sudden some ominous music started playing and then showed that he, along with other guys, started to torture this guy. In a way, I get that it was to show that Suge was a scumbag and a dangerous man, but that part made me think that I was watching a gangster movie at that moment. Same with when Suge and some other guys took some guy into a room and jumped him.

Another thing that was distracting was the guy who played Snoop Dogg. I actually wondered if Snoop lent his voice to dub the actor who played him. It sounded just like him that it could have been a dub.

Anyway, also, at that point, it talked about his romance with Kidada Jones, whom Pac was engaged to around the time of his death. That part felt shoehorned in, same with the bit of Jada Pinkett confronting Pac, which led to an alleged falling out between the two (More on this later). Same with how it showed the falling out between Snoop and Pac, and then came Vegas, and you know the rest. Oh, and I noticed that the real security footage from the casino beat-down that took place that very night was used. So it didn’t seem like he had to reenact that bit.

End Spoilers.

As I had stated before, I had no problem with Shipp’s portrayal of Tupac, as I can see that he tried his hardest to play the role. I also have no problem with some inaccuracies as I had noticed some of them in SOC.¬†Around the time of its release, Jada Pinkett had noted on Twitter about how there was inaccuracy in the film, like how Pac read her a poem, or her having attended any of his shows. But the main problem I had is that it just jumped around from one sequence to another. It could be argued that it was because Pac was being interviewed and had stories to show and tell, but it still didn’t feel like what happened after was very consistent.

I really wonder if Lionsgate is going to put out an extended cut later on with a little more footage or at least have it edited better than what was shown in the final product. I can’t say that I liked or loved the film, but I am just curious because of so many things that I would like to see. I really wonder if there was some footage of reenactments of when he shot his other films and music videos.

Overall, I very much preferred “Straight Outta Compton.” It’s been years since I have seen “Notorious,” but I may need to revisit that one. I really can’t give this film a pass.

2/5

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Uncategorized

Rest In Peace, Albert Johnson, aka Prodigy (1974-2017)

I was shocked and saddened to hear in the news recently that Prodigy passed away. I have read in the past that he suffered from sickle cell anemia all of his life. I can’t even begin to say how sad it was to hear about this. I also saw on social media that there was a picture with him hanging out with Ghostface Killah and others. What the caption said was that it was three days prior to his death and that he seemed healthy in that photo. All I can say is that nobody really knows when they will go. However, I will say that he will be missed.

Maybe in the near future I will critique Mobb Deep albums, along with Prodigy’s solo efforts. I can probably add in Havoc’s solo effort as well. Stay tuned for that.

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – State Property 2: Blood On The Streets

Year of Release: 2005

Film Studio: Lionsgate Films/Dash Films

I never thought that I would say this, but this film is more watchable than its predecessor. There I said it. However, that still doesn’t mean that this film is without problems.

Okay, I think I am getting a little ahead of myself here. Let me start over.

If you read my review of the first film, you will see that I did not have a lot of nice things to say about that film. But because I had also planned on writing about the sequel, I told myself to suck it up and sit through it.

I had never seen any scenes from this movie prior to watching it, unlike the first film. All I can remember is seeing that the DVD artwork was the same as the cover artwork for Beanie Sigel’s “The B. Coming,” which was released around the same time as this film. I wouldn’t doubt if some of his songs from that album were even in this film.

Anyway, this film sort of picked up where the first film left off, although I will note that a lot of what was shown at the beginning didn’t make any sense because of how the first film ended. Of course, there had to be a way to explain how everything turned out in order to set up the story for this film. Basically after the prologue, it shows Beans in jail for all of what happened and he ends meeting a fellow criminal named El Pollo Loco, played by N.O.R.E., who is a gangster from Miami. The two eventually become business partners, until one screws the other and then all hell breaks loose. Not to mention that Dame gets involved in the mix, Beans’ rival in the first film.

This film is different from its predecessor in a lot of ways. One of the most noticeable differences is how this film is a lot more comical than the first one. The whole movie does not take itself seriously and a lot of scenes come off as humorous in some areas. Even with some of the predictability, the movie was still a little entertaining. But even though it was a little entertaining, that doesn’t mean that the film was good. However, a lot of the editing and camera work kind of helped with the comical nature that this film had.

One thing that I had noticed is that there were A LOT of cameos in this film. One of the parts that stood out to me was a montage of different Roc-A-Fella artists appearing, and they were addressed by their own stage names, as if they were playing themselves. But they were playing characters, that of drug dealers or gangsters who are running their own streets. Cam’ron even appeared twice as two different characters. It was also funny seeing Kanye West (This was earlier in his career, like in the days of “College Dropout” and “Late Registration”) playing a gangster. I have never seen him play a role like that ever. Even the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who was signed to Roc-A-Fella before his death, had a funny cameo as a fry cook. Even the Young Gunz (Man, just noting this REALLY DATES this movie; I wonder what happened to them) made appearances, except they actually had bigger roles than the other artists who made cameos.

I was a little surprised to see that I found myself enjoying a LOT more than its predecessor. I don’t think it’s a good film, but it felt more self-aware this time around than the first one did. The first one suffered from cheesy acting and writing, not to mention a lot of gratuitous stuff. This film still had some gratuitous stuff, but at least it had some entertainment value. It’s actually a movie that you can laugh with or at. Whatever works for you.

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – State Property

Year of Release: 2002

Film Studio: Lionsgate Films

*Sigh*¬† I know that I haven’t keeping up with this lately. On one hand, I have been contemplating writing about the rest of my Fast & Furious soundtracks. Another part of me wants to write about Death Row albums, particularly post-Tupac death and also when Dre and Snoop departed the label (Probably because I have been on a Death Row kick lately, especially having written the Death Row Records documentary). Then I have remembered that I also wanted to review the State Property films.

I know that there are plenty of rap movies out there to talk about. The State Property films fall into the same category as when I wrote about Thicker Than Water and Hot Boyz. For all the shit that I had talked about with those two, I think I have found a film that kind of blows them out of the water in terms of badness. I am sure that in some areas I still get a little nostalgic for Thicker Than Water and while I have spoken ill about Hot Boyz (Note to self: Watch other No Limit films), I think I may have found a film that I can put above it in terms of some of the worst rap movies that I have seen.

State Property is basically a movie that stars Beanie Sigel as a character named Beans who is trying to make a name for himself in the crime world. He wants to be feared and known by everyone and has a bunch of guys working for him. Of course, there are a bunch of gangster movie cliches of “one guy messing up and getting killed for it” or “someone pissed off the wrong guy, so he has to get tortured.” Not to mention drug deals gone wrong and women getting kidnapped, as well as random shootouts taking place. You get the picture.

Usually with these types of films, I don’t expect great acting from them. Also, the story has every cliche there is. It’s no secret that this film sucks. Although I will admit that there were moments when I laughed AT certain parts. But when these rappers on screen are only good at playing certain personas, that just showed how they needed to take acting lessons prior to it. It didn’t help that there was not a single likeable character in this film. Though Beans was the protagonist, there was nothing about to make me want to root for him.

It also was of no help how this film was loaded with misogyny. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like looking at scantily-clad women just as much as the next guy, but there was no purpose in some of the scenes with closeups of a woman’s body. Also, a minor spoiler, but in one scene when a deal took place, the camera turned and closed in on a couple of women sharing a rather gratuitous kiss. There was absolutely no reason for that part to even be in the movie other than fanservice.

While the poster said had Jay-Z billed, he was only in it for about five seconds max. The other Roc-A-Fella guys had bigger roles than Jigga himself. Damon Dash had a bigger role than Jay-Z, for crying out loud. Hell, I didn’t even expect to see Amil (Remember her? As in the woman in “Can I Get A…”?) in the film. It seemed like this was a film project for Roc-A-Fella.

I really don’t know what else to say about this film except that this was a bad film, though I think you may have already gotten the picture after reading all of this. I will admit that I remember flipping through channels and coming across it on HBO a long time ago and seeing how bad the acting was from the two minutes I saw of it. However, only one positive I can say about it was that it had a good soundtrack, which I may write about in the future.

Of course, I am aware of the sequel, which I will do next.

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Documentaries

Documentary Review – Welcome To Death Row

Year of Release: 2001

Production Company: Xenon Pictures

For a while, I have been considering reviewing documentaries. I have done album reviews (Though I should also review more albums from groups and artists), as well as movies with rappers in them, and I also plan to write about a few biopics in the future, and there are so few of those (I guess I should also include the TV movies like the one about Hammer and the one about TLC, as well as others).

What I am going to talk about right now is “Welcome To Death Row,” which is the documentary on, you guessed it, Death Row Records and how it rose to the top of the rap game and fell from grace.

This film documented everything well, from how Dr. Dre and Suge Knight had started the label, to bringing in Snoop and Tha Dogg Pound, to people talking about how Suge was a nightmare to work with, and also to Tupac Shakur’s arrival to the label and everything else that lead to its downfall.

I remember having watched it on, I think, Encore or Starz a long time ago and ended up watching it from the part when it talked about Suge and Dre forming the label but trying to find a parent label to back it, all to the way to the end. So I got to see from the start, when it talked about when Dre was with N.W.A. and how he met Suge when he was a bodyguard for the group. Also, how Dre was still sort of in connection with Priority Records, which backed Ruthless Records, the label Dre was a part of when he was in N.W.A., which was a point in the whole feud between him and Eazy-E.

Now I am not going to summarize the whole story about its rise and fall. What I am going to touch on are the documentations of the events during the label’s reign. I have my read my share of stories about the shady dealings that the label went through, like how Suge had some fellow gang members work security for him or work for him at some other capacity in the label. Each of the interview footage that was shown told a lot of detail about what some people had gone through during their time working there or at least working WITH the label. It seemed like only a few people were interviewed around the time this documentary was being shot. The ones who I saw were recruited during that specific time were Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Jewell (Not, I repeat, NOT to be confused with Jewel Kilcher, the folk and country singer; this artist had that extra L in her name and it was pronounced “ju-ell”) and others who were journalists, publicists, rappers, and so forth. However, some other interviews were archived footage that were edited into the film, particularly the ones from Dre and RBX.

The only thing that was distracting regarding the interview footage was that some of the editing and camera work relied too heavily on odd camera angles and closeups. Sure, some of the footage was fine when it shot the interviewees from a standard angle and a minor closeup was fine. But it didn’t need to get to a point where one guy was talking, but you could see the majority of his face but not his mouth.

Also, being that I watched this on Xfinity On Demand, it seemed that this was an updated version as right at the end, it documented what had happened in recent years. It even mentioned about how Jerry Heller was portrayed by Paul Giamatti in “Straight Outta Compton,” which released 14 years after this had come out. It also even talked about how Death Row was acquired by WIDEawake and eOne, which had happened later, also.

I also must add that there has been talk in the past about how some people want to do an actual movie about Death Row one day, especially after the success of “Straight Outta Compton.” Personally, I am not even sure how they would do it. If they do it, should they cast different actors to play certain guys? The reason I wonder is because with “All Eyez on Me” coming out not too long from now, I wonder who could play Tupac. The guy who played him in AEOM? Or the guy who was seeing for a few seconds in SOC? Or even the guy who played him in that Michel’le TV movie, “Surviving Compton”? Also, would the guy who played Dre in SOC be brought back? That is a good question. Don’t get me wrong, the movie makes for a good story even on a cinematic level, but it just seems hard to cast some parts when there have been a couple of films that came out in recent memory with different actors playing certain people and one coming really soon and having other people play those same people. Though there are some exceptions. Suge Knight was played the same guy in both “Straight Outta Compton” and in “Surviving Compton,” while Biggie in “All Eyez on Me” was played by the same guy who played him in “Notorious.”

Anyway, this documentary gets a pass.

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Soundtrack Albums

Movie Soundtrack Review – 2 Fast 2 Furious

Year of Release: 2003

Record Label: Disturbing Tha Peace/Def Jam South/UMG Soundtracks

I have been slacking on this, but I am going to continue doing my series of Fast & Furious soundtracks.

In my review of the soundtrack album to the first film, I had criticized that album because of how a lot of songs were put on there despite having little relation to the film. Although there were some songs on that album that actually were in the movie, the rest of it just felt like they were put in just because. Now I did not hate that album. In fact, I like it, but at the same time it felt like a lot of the songs were just thrown together, even though a lot of the songs were good.

Now what I am going to talk about is the soundtrack to the second film of the series, 2 Fast 2 Furious. What also separates this from the first film’s soundtrack is that a lot of the songs on there were actually in the movie. Not to mention that unlike Ja Rule in the first film, Ludacris actually had a bigger role than his in this film as he had more screen-time. Oh, and he also had a couple of songs on the soundtrack. One of which included cast-mate Tyrese.

Being that Disturbing Tha Peace and Def Jam South had put out this album, this album actually has some southern hip-hop on here, as well as, of course songs, from DTP artists.

Many of the songs from DTP artists actually delivered, including “Act a Fool” from Luda himself. I still remember how that song was all over the airwaves back in 2003 as it was the lead single for this album. You can’t deny that Luda delivered some good lyrics as well as had that charisma to keep you into the song. It also had a good beat to back it. The other song, “Pick Up The Phone,” which also had R. Kelly and Tyrese is a decent track, but I will say that I have never heard R. Kelly rap before this song. It wasn’t bad, but it just seemed odd. Tyrese also provided some good vocals on that song.

Now what about the other DTP members’ songs? Well, “Slum” was actually a standout song from I-20, Shawnna, and Tity Boi (Later and better known as 2 Chainz). It definitely has that club-banger vibe. “Block Reincarnated” from Shawnna and Kardinall Offishall was another good track. Truth be told, I kept on thinking that Kardinall Offishall was Sean Paul. “Gettin’ It” from Chingy has a good beat from Trak Starz and Chingy’s flow really went well with it.

There was another song on this album that is from someone who had appeared in the movie. “Peel Off” from Jin was actually a decent track as it was fast-paced and Jin has a good flow and lyrical delivery, as well as rhymes, not to mention the song really goes with the driving aspect in the film. Speaking of driving, Lil’ Flip’s “Rollin’ on 20’s” was another standout track from H-Town’s own.

Many of the other tracks on this album have their own merits and are actually decent, if good. I can’t complain about “Hands in the Air” from 8Ball. “Hell Yeah” from Dead Prez is also a standout, with their political rhymes actually meshing well with a southern-influenced beat. The same could be said about Trick Daddy’s song. I can’t even complain about Fat Joe’s track on here. Not that I have ever complained about Joey Crack before. Hell, even “Pump It Up” from Joe Budden fit on this soundtrack. Don’t get me wrong, I like Joe Budden, but something tells me that this song was a last minute addition as his self-titled debut album was released not long after this one. Also, “Pump It Up” was already out prior to this film’s release. Also, Pitbull had a song on here before he blew up a year later, and it was actually a decent track to dance to. By the way, this was way before he rocked the suits and the shades.

There were only a couple of songs that I didn’t care for, which were the Dirtbag and K’Jon tracks. They really didn’t stand out in my opinion.

I must also touch on a few tracks that made it to other versions of this compilation. It seems that the German and Japanese releases had tracks that were not on the American release. Also, there was a song that was on a further release from this version. To tell you the truth, a couple of those songs were actually good, which were “Get Dirty” from DJ Desue, A.G. and Party Arty, and the other was “Comin’ Up” from Saukrates. The other two were passable and I didn’t mind them, but hearing them now makes it feel a bit dated. I am talking about “Cruisin'” from Sphere of Influence and “Remember” from Cronite. I have never of those two acts, so I can’t really say much about anything else from them.

The 2 Fast 2 Furious soundtrack is actually a good one. I actually enjoyed it better than the soundtrack to the first film. There are a lot of decent-to-good tracks and very little filler. So I give this a good recommendation.

4/5

NEXT UP: The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift soundtrack

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. Act A Fool
  2. Rollin’ on 20’s
  3. Slum
  4. Pick Up The Phone
  5. Peel Off
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Soundtrack Albums

Movie Soundtrack Review – The Fast and The Furious

Year of Release: 2001

Record Label: Murder Inc Records/Def Jam Recordings/Universal Music Group

It is amazing how far the Fast & Furious franchise has gone as it has existed for nearly two decades. Nobody I know, including myself, would have ever thought that it would have gotten to eight films as of this year. Not to mention that it had evolved from a story that was grounded in reality, with a few over-the-top elements, to a big movie franchise with even more over-the-top elements.

Each film had a soundtrack album to go with it. I will talk about the one that started it all, the soundtrack to The Fast and The Furious.

The one that I have always wondered about this album is why Ja Rule was featured on the cover. He didn’t have that big of a role in the film, despite having been promoted in the trailers way back in the day. It almost seemed like his presence in the film was made to plug the soundtrack. I will also point out that only a few songs from this compilation were actually in the film itself. I still remember actually seeing a trailer on TV back in 2001 that even promoted the soundtrack artists. It should also be noted that on Amazon back in those days, many consumers rated this so low because they were expecting a bunch of techno and house music that was in the movie. First off, they should have read the back cover, and second, they also should have looked at the list of artists on the front cover. Of course being the hip-hop head that I am, I was right at home with this album.

I had theorized that one reason that Ja Rule’s face was on the cover of this album was because he actually appeared in five songs on this album. But make no mistake about this, a few of those songs were previously released, but the majority of those songs actually appeared in the film. If you remember seeing the trailers or the TV spots from back in the day (You can always watch them on YouTube if not), one song that was used in the promotion was “Furious” from Ja Rule, Vita, and 0-1. Actually, the song was originally called “Fuck You” on the Rule 3:36 album, but to be fair, the beat actually gets you revved up and goes with the tone of the film itself, while Vita provided a good portion for the chorus and 0-1 actually did a good job in his verse. One thing that I must note is that a clean version of this exists with some lyrics changed a bit. I can’t find a video to show it, but it is heard in the credits of the film and I believe that the video was included as an extra on the DVD for the film.

The rest of the songs from Ja had on this album were decent. I liked the “Good Life Remix” with Faith Evans, along with Caddillac Tah and Vita. “Life Ain’t a Game” had a good beat from Damizza. I also kind liked the collaboration with Tank on “Race Against Time, Part 2.” It seemed that it was more Tank’s song here as he sang more verses whereas Ja only provided one verse. Of course, it’s not unheard of as many years later the roles switched between the two parts of “Love The Way You Lie” from Eminem and Rihanna as the first one appeared on Em’s album and the second one appeared on Rihanna’s album. However, I often wondered why the remix of “Put It on Me” appeared on here. My only guess is that because it got more radio airplay compared to the album version from Rule 3:36 and this version probably needed to get released on an album rather than just as a single. I can’t complain because I have always liked this version.

Regarding whether the rest of the Inc had a part in this album, there were only a few songs from some artists from that label as the rest were from people who weren’t on the label. One of my other favorite songs was “Pov City Anthem” from Caddillac Tah. I actually remembered seeing the video on TV back in the day and thinking it was a good song. It makes me wonder why for many years I skipped “The Prayer” from Black Child as that one was actually a good track on this album. Meanwhile, regarding other songs from Murder Inc members, the other two was a hit and miss. The hit would probably Ashanti’s “When a Man Does Wrong.” While it was out of place for an album like this and I really don’t remember hearing it in the film (Along with other tracks on here), it is still worth a listen. However, I can’t really say much about Vita and Ashanti’s cover of the Madonna song, “Justify My Love.” To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even know that there was a video for this song until now.

I can see that the video was similar to the video of the original. I can give credit where it’s due, but it is still kind of odd to listen to.

As for the rest of the album, a lot of them were decent, if good, but in a lot of ways I questioned why they were put in. Now I liked “Hustlin” from Fat Joe and Armageddon, as well as “Suicide” from Scarface, but I saw no reason for “Freestyle” from Boo & Gotti. I will listen to it, but it just seems out of place like it could have been put on a mixtape, with the uses of the beats from two Dr. Dre songs, “The Watcher” and “Fuck You.” Also, the inclusion of the rap version of “Rollin'” from Limp Bizkit was probably added in to go with the fact that it was a hip-hop compilation. A few seconds of the original version were heard in the film, but I guess Def Jam needed the hip-hop song to fit on here. I can’t complain as I was never a big fan of Limp Bizkit, not even when they were popular when I was in junior high (Although there are a FEW songs that I like of theirs).

It may seem that what was written in the previous paragraph that I didn’t think much of this album. Not the case. In fact, I actually like this album, but in hindsight, I can kind of agree with some people when they complained about how a lot of songs on here weren’t in the movie. As a hip-hop fan, this album is still a good one in my eyes, but at the same time it just made me wonder if Irv Gotti had a lot of creative control over this album and just included some other songs just because. I guess that explains why Universal and Island Records put out “More Music from The Fast and The Furious” much later on, which included some of the techno songs, but even I looked online and much of the songs on there weren’t in the movie, either. Not to mention that a lot of complaints surrounding that album had to do with it being copyright-protected and how it couldn’t be played on certain players. In many ways I am glad that I didn’t actually buy the CD of that. Regarding this album, one song that would have been great to be included was “Say Ah” from Shawnna, but it wasn’t. It’s such a shame because I liked what I heard. I can understand why “Area Codes” wasn’t in it as that was used for the Rush Hour 2 soundtrack, which came out that same year.

Overall, I recommend this album mainly if you are just looking for a decent rap compilation, not a soundtrack to the film itself.

3.5/5

NEXT UP: 2 Fast 2 Furious soundtrack

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. Furious
  2. Pov City Anthem
  3. The Prayer
  4. Hustlin’
  5. Good Life Remix
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