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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Compilation Review – Irv Gotti Presents: The Remixes

Year of Release: 2002

Label: Murder Inc Records/Murda Management

Here I am in my final review of the Murder Inc compilations. Okay, technically that is not true as I have the soundtrack to The Fast and The Furious to do, but I will do that for my Fast & Furious soundtrack marathon special when the eighth film comes out. But other than that, I had devoted this month to reviewing the compilations from The Inc. I may do some other stuff in the future like maybe try to review Ja Rule’s albums, maybe Ashanti’s albums and Lloyd’s albums as I am not opposed to doing reviews of R&B albums for this site. I also am considering finding a way to listen to the unreleased albums of Vita and Charli Baltimore, or at least some unreleased material that they put out. Until then, I am closing off this special with “Irv Gotti Presents: The Remixes.”

This album was released four months after “Irv Gotti Presents: The Inc,” which I can say that at the time the label was on fire (Until 50 Cent started making it a trend to hate on the label). While the second Murder Inc compilation was done to showcase what more the label had to offer during that time, this compilation was released to showcase, well, remixes, at least for the most part.

You would know if a song is a remix because on the back of the case it says “Remix,” but not all of the songs are remixes. Some of them are original tracks that feature some of the label’s talent, and I suppose that Gotti wanted to release them to help market them. Or maybe they didn’t make the cut for the previous compilation.

I first must talk about the remixes to Ashanti’s hit songs from that time. The main thing that I had noticed is that there are TWO remixes to “Baby,” one of which had Scarface and the other had Crooked I. The version with Scarface was similar to the original version and he did a couple of verses that went well with the song. I have a feeling that Face’s contribution to the song was probably because “Baby” had the exact same beat as his song called “Mary Jane” from his album, “Untouchable.” As for the version with Crooked I, he had a couple of verses, too, but there were some parts that I felt were a bit out of place when he rapped. No disrespect for Crooked I, but I didn’t exactly think much of that version. He had decent rhymes and is a good rapper, but his bit seemed out of place when he rapped about thuggin’ and stuff. Scarface, on the other hand, had some deep rhymes in that version. If anything, I think the Scarface version is better.

As for the “Happy” remix, while the original sampled the Gap Band’s “Outstanding” to some degree, this version had lifted the beat completely and it felt like a cover to that song. Ashanti even paid homage to that song in some parts, while Charli Baltimore, D.O. Cannon, and Young Merc added the raps to the song.

If you want to talk about a good remix on here, look no further than the remix to “The Pledge.” While Ashanti sang the chorus this song and the beat was the same, it felt like a different song from the original as there was more emphasis on Nas and Ja Rule rapping on this song. One thing that I noticed is that Ja took a few shots at DMX in this song (As they were beefing during that time) and he sort of bit 2Pac in some areas (Let’s not get into the closing parts of the song or the whole thing that escalated in his beef with 50 Cent), he did a good job in this song. Nas also did a good job in his part.

I could only think of one other remix to a song that was worth noting. The remix to “O.G.” from Black Child and Caddillac Tah actually improved on the original. However, the remix to “No One Does It Better” did not include Charli Baltimore at all as she was in the original. I didn’t mind it, but there could have been one verse from her when it was mainly Ja, Tah, and Black Child on it.

The rest of the album were original tracks that I wondered why they were there in the first place. One song in particular was “Me and My Boyfriend” from Toni Braxton, which Irv Gotti had produced. Now I don’t think it’s a bad song. Toni’s vocals are good as always she always impresses with her singing, but this song was more or less a knock-off or cover of 2Pac’s “Me and My Girlfriend,” but then again you also had “03 Bonnie and Clyde” from Jay-Z and Beyonce that came out around the same time. The rest of the original tracks felt like filler, with the exception of “Come-N-Go,” which was a standout.

For some reason, the album also included “Rainy Dayz” from Mary J. Blige and Ja Rule, and also “Unfoolish” from Ashanti and The Notorious B.I.G. I find this pointless considering how “Unfoolish” was already on Ashanti’s self-titled album and “Rainy Dayz” was on the 2002 re-release of “No More Drama.” In some ways I could understand the latter being on here, but in that case, there could have also been other remixes added to here like “I’m Real” and “Ain’t It Funny,” both of which had Jennifer Lopez. I am aware that they were released on different albums prior to this, but being that this was a remix album, why couldn’t they include those songs?

To Murder Inc’s credit, there were some decent tracks on here that stand out. Some of the other songs felt like filler. I am not really sure where I stand on this album, even though I very much prefer the other two compilations that they had put out. I know it’s a remix album, so it’s different, but at the same time there was some room for improvement in some areas. I would say that this album was just average at best.

3/5

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. The Pledge Remix
  2. Baby Remix (The one with Scarface)
  3. Come-N-Go
  4. I’m So Happy Remix
  5. O.G. Remix
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Compilation Review – Irv Gotti Presents: The Inc

Year of Release: 2002

Label: Murder Inc Records/Murda Management

Continuing with my special on Murder Inc compilations, the second one that The Inc had put out had seen the roster expanding a lot more than before. One could argue that the Murderers compilation had a lot more content considering there were more tracks on that one, but during the time this album had come out the roster had gotten new talent, and also had some selling albums in the process. Ja Rule had come out with “Pain is Love” the year prior, as well as “The Last Temptation” on the way later that year. Ashanti had come out with her self-titled debut album earlier that year, which had hit songs in “Foolish,” “Baby” and “Happy.” So The Inc had found its mark in the hip-hop and R&B industry at that point, which had the label put out another compilation album which showcased the talents and skills of the performers of that label.

While a few familiar faces had returned such as Ja, Vita, Ronnie Bumps, Black Child, 0-1, and Caddillac Tah (Formerly known as Tah Murdah), this compilation included the likes of new talent such as Chink Santana, Jody Mack, D.O. Cannon, and Young Merc (Pronounced “merce,” not “merk” like how it is often pronounced) as well as Ashanti, who had quite a presence up to the point of the release of this album, and Charli Baltimore, who was known before signing to The Inc and had an album that was shelved (I will try to hear “Cold as Ice” one day if I find a way). So she was a veteran in the game up to that point.

So with a lineup like this, it would seem that the best way to let the world hear what they are made of is through a compilation or mixtape. So did The Inc offer some good talent and songs to go with it? Well, let’s see.

Like the previous compilation before this, most of the songs were collaborations between different artists. However, unlike The Murderers album, there were less solo songs. In fact, there were only two this time around. In fact, the only solo tracks on here were from Black Child and Chink Santana. “O.G.” from Black Child has a laid-back beat to it but the content from the lyrics and the chorus left more to be desired than the beat. While “Hold On” from Chink Santana was actually a deeper track. He sang about struggles in the ghetto and also life in general. He also a good job in the production of this track.

When I said that there were a lot of collaborative songs on here, I meant that. Many of the songs have the subject matter of being thugs and gangsters and anything of that nature. Even the intro to this album was more of a song than an interlude with some of the rappers providing some verses here and there. “Gangstafied” is a definite example about living the gangster life with a good beat and chorus to go with it. The only part that seemed to be the one flaw of this song was Ronnie Bumps’s verse. It was not terrible, but it felt a little out of place. It was still a good song, though.

Every time I hear “Down 4 U,” it reminds me of the summer of 2002 because that song was everywhere during that time. People can say what they want about how Ja did a lot of R&B and love songs during that time, but there is no denying that he had a lot of hits that charted, including those lovey-dovey songs that he did. This was one of them, by the way. Ja had assistance from Vita, Ashanti, and Charli Baltimore in this song. Ashanti provided a good chorus with her vocals as well as a good verse. Vita and Charli Baltimore did a good job in their verses, too. Plus, the beat was nice, too. I have to hand it to 7 Aurelius for providing some influence in the production.

Speaking of 7 Aurelius, he also did some production for a couple of other songs on this compilation, which are “No One Does It Better” and “The Pledge.” The former is a collaboration between Charli Baltimore and Ashanti. It is really more Chuck’s track as she actually had verses while Ashanti mostly did the chorus of the song. Charli has a good flow and I have always thought that she was an underrated female rapper. While “The Pledge” is basically the closest to a solo Ashanti track on there. Bear this in mind, this is the original version as the more known version is the remix with Nas and Ja. Anyway, this song also had Caddillac Tah providing the rap on this song. I have always thought that this version was more underrated as it’s a good R&B track and it seems to be overshadowed by the remix. Ashanti did a good job on this song, with both the verses and the chorus, while Tah’s verse was actually pretty good.

Many of the other tracks are mostly songs with a lot of the then-new artists from the label showing the world what they have. Some of them stood out in some areas, others didn’t exactly measure up. One thing that I had noticed is that the song “Tha Nexx N****z” is a collaboration with a couple of Death Row artists from that time, Crooked I and Eastwood. I remember reading about how Death Row and Murder Inc were sort of collaborating at that point, which was the reason why there were appearances from those two. I am more familiar with Crooked I (This was way before Slaughterhouse, by the way) than I am with Eastwood, although I remember reading about him way back when. I think that this song is the only appearance from Dave Bing, who had a few more tracks on The Murderers compilation than he did here. Still a decent track, though.

One standout track in particular is the song “We Still Don’t Give A Fuck,” which is obviously a follow-up to “We Don’t Give A Fuck” from the previous compilation. One exception is that there is no sample of a Rocky song (Well, it’s actually Bill Conti’s score, but you probably would know what I mean) and that there are more people this time around. Also, Ja was not on this track at all, neither was Vita. However, it gave some of the other artists a chance to shine. This was song was also among the very few appearances of 0-1.

Although “Down 4 U” was the main single from this album, there was another song that was a single on this album, but it had existed before it came out. That song is “Ain’t It Funny,” the Murder Remix from Jennifer Lopez, Ja Rule, and Caddillac Tah. When I first heard this, I was a bit surprised to find it on here as J-Lo’s remix album had already been out before this one was released, but I guess because there was a Murder Inc influence to it that it was inevitable that it would be on this one. I am not complaining as it had a good beat, even though it was a direct sample of Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear.”

In the end, this album was not bad. It was decent, if good in some areas, but my main issue is that it felt like there was more focus on the newer artists on this. Also, being that Charli Baltimore was a seasoned veteran, there could have been a lot more songs that she could have rapped on. I have read that she even had an album on Murder Inc that was set to be released, but it didn’t happen. I wonder if there is a way to listen to it. Irv Gotti did a good job with the production. Of course, this compilation was mainly to give music fans a taste of what the label had to offer at the time.

3.5/5

Next Up: Irv Gotti Presents: The Remixes

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. Down 4 U
  2. Gangstafied
  3. We Still Don’t Give A Fuck
  4. The Pledge
  5. Hold On
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