Does The ‘Above The Rim’ Soundtrack Stand The Test Of Time?
Basketball and hip-hop have always gone hand in hand and over the years they have collided consistently, becoming the two favorite pastimes of inner-city youth. So when the ‘Above The Rim’ soundtrack dropped on March 22, 1994, the music matched perfectly with the hoops film of the same name starring Tupac Shakur.
With Death Row Records head honcho Suge Knight serving as the compilation’s executive producer, and Dr. Dre as supervising producer, the album became a major success. The collection shipped over two million copies and peaked at No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-hop charts (where it stayed for 10 straight weeks).
Being that today marks the 20th anniversary of the soundtrack’s release, we decided to give it a spin to refresh our memories and decide whether this ballyhooed release is all hype or if it truly stands the test of time.
SWV (Featuring Wu-Tang Clan) — ‘Anything’
R&B trio SWV immediately got heads bopping and bodies moving with the soundtracks opener, ‘Anything’ (featuring the Wu-Tang Clan). A huge hit on the radio, the song peaked at No. 4 and No. 18 on the R&B/Hip-Hop and Pop charts, respectively. Getting a memorable assist from Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Method Man, the Sisters with Voices and the Shaolin lyricists executed the R&B and hip-hop combo flawlessly, resulting in one of the more indelible cuts of the 1990s.
Sweet Sable — ‘Old Times Sake’
A decade before Alicia Keys made this Eddie Kendricks sample a hit, it utilized it for a G’d up musical trip down memory lane. Produced by Nikki Nicole, Sweet Sable sings sweetly about love, blunts, and Heinekens, topics most everyone can relate to. Despite failing to make much noise following this appearance, this number is definitely an oldie — but goodie — and still could get spins at a summer barbecue.
H-Town — ‘Part-Time Lover’
Uncle Luke proteges H-Town turn the lights down with this slow burner. Produced by Jodeci‘s Devante Swing, the song was a minor hit, cracking the Top 10 of the R&B/Hip-Hop charts. The content is typical bedroom fair, but still an option for when you and that special someone, or friend with benefits, are in the mood.
Tha Dogg Pound — ‘Big Pimpin”
Death Row members Tha Dogg Pound — Daz Dillinger and Kurupt — finally appeared on the soundtrack’s fourth selection, ‘Big Pimpin’ featuring Snoop Dogg and the late hook king Nate Dogg. The trio floats through the Daz-produced record with ease, recounting their daily movements in pimptastic fashion. The game thrown down at the end is the icing on the cake. Sonically, the song hasn’t aged a bit and passes the fresh test.
2nd II None — ‘Didn’t Mean To Turn You On’
The first trace of dust that can be spotted on the album comes courtesy of the DJ Quick-produced ‘Didn’t Mean To Turn You On.’ While possessing an admittedly funky — albeit outdated — beat, the lyrics do nothing to move you and is gets tossed in the pile of tolerable, yet forgettable, mid ’90s West Coast jams.
D.J. Rogers — ‘Doggie Style’
The hiccups continue with D.J. Rogers’ raunchy number, ‘Doggie Style.’ Cliche and uninspired, the hook is the only noteworthy quality we could find in the song, and even that’s subpar at best. Trash bin material in all of its splendor.
Warren G — ‘Regulate’ (Featuring Nate Dogg)
We could rave about how f—ing incredible and timeless this record is, but there’s a good chance you’ve probably read/heard/said that an innumerable amount of times. What we will say is that the intro is quietly one of the more underrated gems in the history of intros. ‘Regulate’ was also the soundtrack’s biggest hit, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. The G-funk banger has gone on to become one of the most timeless cuts in rap history, period.
2Pac & Thug Life — ‘Pour Out A Little Liquor’
The film’s supporting star, Tupac Shakur, was also tapped to contribute a song to the soundtrack. And in typical ‘Pac fashion, he definitely delivered. The song is an earnest composition dedicated to the homies no longer here. The uber-talented late rapper may have stole the show in the movie as well as on the soundtrack. R.I.P. 2Pac.
Aaron Hall (Featuring Jewell) — ‘Gonna Give It You’
Following two of the finest back-to-back selections you’ll find on a soundtrack, the streak is short-lived as this mailed-in duet misses the mark. The over-the-top vocals of Aaron Hall and Jewell making it a challenge to get through the skippable track. Along with the ’80s throwaway beat, this selection is an eyesore when viewing the tracklist.
Lady Of Rage — ‘Afro Puffs’
Lady of Rage’s ‘Afro Puffs’ was one of the biggest hits on the soundtrack’s initial release. The Dr. Dre-produced banger, which reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart, is considered the quintessential West Coast girl-power anthem. But time has diminished the song’s luster sonically and it doesn’t have the same punch as the other classic songs from that era.
Boss Hog & C.P.O. — ‘Jus So Ya No’
C.P.O adds to the growing list of songs that could’ve been left on the cutting room floor. His melodic, blunted out vibe could’ve made the song a winner, the snooze-inducing lyrics instead makes the finished product sound uninspired.
Paradise — ‘Hoochies Need Love Too’
The song’s title is sure to induce an eye-roll or chuckle and the content isn’t exactly romantic, but the song is surprisingly smooth. While not a musical masterpiece, it falls into the guilty pleasure category for us.
Al B Sure! — ‘I’m Still In Love With You’
Al B Sure! (of ‘Night And Day’ fame) sings a cover of Al Green and Willie Hutch’s ‘Still In Love With You’ with respectable results. The uptempo rendition adds just enough modern punch, without taking away from the vintage soul of the original. More contemporary than anything else on this project and slightly out of place, it’s not a disappointment by any stretch.
O.F.T.B. – ‘Crack ‘Em’
We get another rap tune courtesy of Los Angeles rap crew O.F.T.B. The smoothed out ‘Crack ‘Em’ is lyrically solid and sonically pleasing. Co-produced by DJ Quik, it’s a criminally slept-on song that should be more heralded than it presently constituted.
Rhythm And Knowledge — ‘U Bring Da Dog Out’
From the moment this track comes on, you have no choice but to bust a move or two. Dope vocals, great songwriting, and a funky beat are the three ingredients that qualifies this jam as a certified banger.
B Rezell — ‘Blown Away’
The dopey rap intro aside, this joint actually slaps. While a little reminiscent of Jodeci’s style, maybe because it was produced by Mr. Dalvin, the track is the perfect pre-game music for a night out with the fellas.
Jewell — ‘It’s Not Deep Enough’
The Death Row songstress redeems herself, partially, with this suggestive number. A big improvement from her duet with Aaron Hall earlier on the album, it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. Nevertheless, it manages to avoid the throwaway label as it’s a pretty solid track, all things considered.
Tha Dogg Pound — ‘Dogg Pound 4 Life’
‘Dogg Pound 4 Life, featuring Snoop Dogg, Daz and Kurupt, is a microcosm of everything you loved about the West Coast during its golden era. Produced by Daz, Tha Dogg Pound closes out the proceedings on a high note with this unapologetic, hard-as-concrete jam.
The ’70s featured a number of classic soundtracks, some even outperforming the very films they were meant to compliment. But in the era of hip-hop, few have garnered the accolades and recognition that ‘Above The Rim”s did upon it’s release. Spawning three classic and successful singles (‘Regulate’, ‘Anything’ and ‘Afro-Puffs’), there’s no question the album was a smash.
But does the album still pack enough punch to get any airplay in 2014? The answer is yes.
While it does have it’s share of lackluster tunes, there are a number of highly favorable songs as well. Managing to present a cohesive and focused project is an insurmountable task for an artist or a group making an album. But the ‘Above the Rim’ soundtrack completes that mission with its flawless execution. It’s certainly one of the best movie soundtracks in hip-hop history.
In the end, the ‘Above The Rim’ soundtrack has managed to stand the test of time — 20 years after its release.