Rewind: Above The Rim soundtrack

above the rimThe 1994 film “Above The Rim” is a mostly forgettable piece of turgid hood drama, redeemed slighly by the out-there performance of 2Pac as Birdy and the comically awful effort given by Leon (why did anyone think this guy was going to be a star?) as a crazy former basketball standout.

However, the film’s soundtrack is arguably the best hip-hop soundtrack ever compiled – a amazing mix of R&B and rap classics that still holds up well today. No one puts a lot of effort into soundtracks anymore, but the mid-’90s were a different story. Films like “Menace II Society,” “Boyz N The Hood,” “Don’t Be A Menace…” and “Tales From the Hood” all had solid soundtracks befitting their urban milieu. But even random flicks like “The Corruptor” managed to put together a cohesive soundtrack.

Above The Rim had major backing from the start. Released on Death Row Records during the label’s heyday, it had the muscle of impresario Suge Knight and the musical stamp of Dr. Dre, who served as supervising producer. It proved to be a potent combination.

Warren G’s classic cut “Regulate” served as the lead single, and the track that played over the closing credits of the film. Now, I knew this song was going to be big when I first heard it, but would have no idea that 15 years later, it would still get major radio play. Warren G is not the world’s best rapper, but the mix of his verses, the great Michael McDonald sample and Nate Dogg’s crooning turns this into a near-perfect song.

There were some other big hits off the soundtrack as well, including The Lady of Rage’s “Afro Puffs” (produced by Dr. Dre), H-Town’s “Part-Time Lover” (produced by Devante of Jodeci) and the album’s opening track, “Anything” by SWV. Lost now to the sands of time (and only slightly remembered due to member Taj’s appearance on the most recent edition of “Survivor”), SWV was a melodic girl group that made incredibly catchy songs – I have no idea why they petered out. “Anything” is one of their classics, and its remix was bolstered by the appearance of the Wu-Tang Clan on the track.

One of the weird things about this soundtrack was that the cassette tape was better than the CD. For some reason (perhaps due to fitting all the songs on a CD), four songs were left off the CD release but on the tape – and two of those four songs happen to be some of the best on the album, featuring a hungry 2Pac making his Death Row debut. In 1994, I sure as shit hated buying tapes, but I was going to get my money’s worth with the extra songs.

“Loyal 2 The Game” is a posse cut featuring Pac, Treach of Naughty by Nature and some guy named Riddler who hasn’t been heard from since. However, all three MCs come nice on the mic, and the beat, which samples a Cameo song, is smooth. “Pain,” though, is the song that made getting the tape worthwhile.

An angry, aggressive 2Pac rips the track to shreds and gets an assist from producer/MC Stretch, who would be killed shortly after the release of this song. For years, the dialogue sample at the beginning of this song bugged me – I had satisfied myself in believing that it was from “Jacob’s Ladder.” Thanks to Wikipedia, however, I now know that it’s actually from “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” (?!), which trips me out even more. This is an amazing song that I think never got it’s due because it was only on the tape version. (Please forgive the video – I hate these uber-cheesy 2Pac web tributes – but this was the best I could do.)

In the end, the album went on to go double platinum, an incredible feat for a hip-hop soundtrack. I have no idea where my tape went, but thanks to the Internet, I do have all the songs in CD quality.

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~ by Elliott on June 12, 2009.

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