During the Blaxploitation era, soundtracks were often more important than the movies they accompanied: Though 'Shaft' remains a classic portrait of black empowerment, it’s inseparable from Isaac Hayes’ theme song, and more people have heard Curtis Mayfield’s 'Pusherman' and 'Superfly' than ever saw the movie for which they were created. But by the early 1990s, filmmakers used these albums as much as savvy cross-promotion as a backdrop for their characters’ lives – which, it should be noted, became richer, more complicated and more interesting once the novelty of black stars wore off.

Looking at the movie soundtracks that have emerged from the hip-hop era, it would be easy to assemble a list of “the best” according to which sold the most copies, or had the most hit singles. But others produced not just pop smashes, but bona fide classics. Or introduced artists who became icons, because some forward-thinking music supervisor or producer hired them. Or were just incredibly consistent, providing songs that suit the themes of the film, or are of a quality that distinguishes them from the b-sides and also-rans that often take up space on compilations.

But even if 'Juice' remains my personal all-time favorite hip-hop movie soundtrack, quantifying the merits of these releases makes ranking them virtually impossible. Consequently, we’ve made a list of the 17 best hip-hop movie soundtracks of all time, arranged alphabetically.

More From TheBoombox