Whenever summertime rolls around, a few things are inevitable. The first is hip-hop. I listen to hip-hop year round, mind you, and some albums, like Liquid Swords for instance, still seem better suited to winter. Yet when the sun beats down and the beads of sweat start to trickle, only a chill beat will do. The other inevitable factor during the summer is spending a fair amount of time cooling off in a movie theater. Living in Southern California, Im used to sunshine year round, and Im well aware that Phoenix and Jacksonville are both about 20 degrees hotter right now, but when its hot, its still pretty unpleasant, and air conditioning and Junior Mints are the only prescription for what ails.
Now, combining hip-hop and summertime cinema is an even better idea, and Jonathan Levines The Wackness is just the vehicle for that combo, setting its tale of a teenage drug dealer in 1994 against a backdrop of classic hip-hop tunes. The film isnt actually being released until late August, but the soundtracks release date is significantly earlier, giving those jonesing for a great hip-hop compilation the opportunity to get their summer mix on.
From The Notorious B.I.G. to The Wu-Tang Clan, the music from The Wackness represents a prime selection of hip-hop and R&B from the early 90s. Every track here is good to essential, which is a rare occurrence in movie soundtracks of late. More importantly, it puts you in New York in the early 90s, especially during the hot summer months. Some of these tracks are timeless: The What by Biggie, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Princes Summertime, Nas The World Is Yours and A Tribe Called Quests Can I Kick It? A few tracks offer a damn, havent heard that in a long time kind of thrill, namely Craig Macks Flava In Your Ear, Biz Markies Just a Friend and R. Kellys Bump n Grind. And then of course theres Raekwon and Wu-Tang, of whom its merely a given that their tracks would be classics.
Though its extremely rare to find a soundtrack of all new material in 2008, and The Wackness is not an exception, its still refreshing to see a compilation that creates as vivid a setting as a films visuals. The Wackness puts you on the corner in front of a bodega, while the city zooms by under a merciless sun. This is one fresh nostalgia trip, whether you were listening to these tracks in your dorm room, your friends ride or at a house party, these are 13 tracks that everyone can groove to.
Various Artists – America Is Dying Slowly
Various Artists – The Show
Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.