The reason most rap soundtracks are hit-or-miss affairs is because producers
include tracks from many different artists in an effort to appeal to all
kinds of fans and, thus, boost album sales. The best hip-hop soundtracks
(Wild Style, He Got Game, Belly, Dr. Doolittle)
have been tightly focused around one artist or one segment of the hip-hop
nation. Looking back, the first Friday soundtrack was a remarkably
tight collection of West Coast hip-hop and funky R&B that was a success
precisely because it was so focused on those two genres. Plus, it had
great songs on it, such as Dr. Dre's "Keep Their Heads Ringin'," Rick
James' "Mary Jane" and 2 Live Crew's "Hoochie Mama." One would think that
if they hit upon a successful formula, they'd stick to it.
In the case of the "Next Friday" Original Motion Picture Soundtrack,
one would be wrong. Leaving the West Coast/silky R&B focus behind, the
brains behind this soundtrack (14 folks, including "Next Friday" star Ice
Cube) revert back to the watered-down something-for-everyone approach that
has dogged the vast majority of hip-hop soundtracks. Taken separately,
the bulk of the tracks on this collection are good, and in some cases
very good. Together, however, they just don't gel, and the resulting
listening experience is sometimes jarring. The majority of the tunes are
united by the lyrics having something to do with Friday (the day, not the
movie), but the theme is not strong enough to make a listener overlook
the broken overall flow of the CD.
The best of this bunch leaps off the CD. N.W.A's "Chin Check" (RealAudio
excerpt) is so good it makes me angry that the original lineup
(with Snoop Dogg replacing the late Easy-E to great effect) hasn't produced
any music together in 10 years. Pharoahe Monch's "Livin' It Up"
excerpt) is a club-ready song that lyrical headz will eat up just
as greedily, a move that may send this underground sensation to the pop
boiling point. Wu-Tang Clan's "Shoalin Worldwide" (RealAudio
excerpt) recasts a driving loop from Raekwon's "Knuckleheadz" as
a jumping-off point for the group (most notably the unstoppable-in-'99
Method Man) to slay the listener with skills that were lacking in the
bulk of the crew's recent solo releases. Lastly, Frost, Kurupt, Soopafly
and Don Cisco use "Mamacita" as a stab at the Latin music explosion of
1999 and they draw blood.
The remainder of the tracks are not stellar, but they're not bad. However,
there's no good reason to lump them all together on the same album. Aaliyah's
"I Don't Wanna" is a beautiful R&B lover's lament, and Ice Cube, Mack 10
and Ms Toi's "You Can Do It" is a fine Ice Cube song, but putting them
on the same collection doesn't do either any favors. Outclassing the whole
bunch is the powerful, seductive new Isley Brothers tune "Make Your Body
Sing," which most certainly shouldn't be listened to in the same stretch
as Eminem's sparsely instrumental robber tale "Murder Murder" or Vita and
Ja Rule's East Coast hardcore-by-the-numbers "We Murderers Baby."
So listen to a couple of songs at each sitting and you'll be glad you
purchased the album, but if you decide to listen to the whole CD straight
through, don't be surprised if you end up feeling a little queasy.