Most "soundtrack" albums these days aren't songs composed for or even heard in said movie. But I've moved past that, and if one must be subjected to a haphazard collection of potential hit singles, then subject me to the Music From and Inspired by Shaft. From my perspective, it sounds like the folks at La Face album coordinators Kawan Prather, Bill Stephney and L.A. Reid got it right.
I'll go out on a limb and guess the wah-wah rhapsody of manliness "The Theme From Shaft" (RealAudio excerpt) most likely is in the film. And since this remake (which to my, um, mature ears sounds exactly like the original, just a bit more digitized) is delivered by the superlative Isaac Hayes (who did the original), this soundtrack gets off on the right foot.
Assuming any of the cuts containing vibey/vampy/porn/blaxploitaion grooves are in the film, that attention to sonic detail the fact that the producers of this soundtrack attempted to make some link between what could have just as easily been a bunch of songs is admirable and cool. Naturally, Shaft features a who's who of "urban" talent in this case, practically all of LaFace's roster but to its credit, even though this is some shortcut marketing tool (shut yo' mouth!), for the most part it doesn't feel that way.
Case in point: The always reliable R. Kelly delivers two winners the bluesy old-school "Bad Man" (RealAudio excerpt) (inspirational verse: "Yea though I walk through the valley of these streets/ I shall not feel these streets/ 'Cause I run these streets/ And I paid my dues with five pennies/ I'm a bad man") and the soul-drenched "Up and Outta Here," the latter of which has a Saturday-night-uptown-pimpy feel married to a hand-wringing-love lyric.
R&B man of the moment Carl Thomas comes correct with the aching, Latin-tinged "Summer Rain," while Donell Jones proves he's more than a one-hit wonder with the shuffle groove sway "Do What I Gotta Do." The underrated Sleepy Brown (from the Organized Noize collective) kicks in with the gritty, hip-hop infused "Automatic" (RealAudio excerpt). Also funky is Big Gipp from Goodie MOb with the southern-fried throw down "We Servin'." Fact is, most of the cuts on Shaft sound fine: perfect for barbecues, summer jams and late night macking.
Like the man said: right on.