Motion Picture Music: 50 Great Soundtrack Raps

By 02.22.11


At some point, soundtracks disappeared in the cinema world. Think about it, when was the last time a really great soundtrack came around and in turn made the film it was catered towards that much better? It’s been awhile. That doesn’t mean the great ones of the past suddenly became irrelevant in the all but extinct field of “motion picture music.” In fact, it’s all the more reason to pay homage to them.

What the Crew decided was to reminisce on some of our favorite screenplay tunes from over the years and compile a list of 50. They aren’t necessarily a “top 50” or even ranked for that matter; just something to help bring you back to the days when Pac supposedly beat up the Hughes Brothers and when a movie was only as good as its soundtrack was. Grab some overpriced popcorn, soda and prepare yourself for the cheapest trip to the theater you’ve had in years.

1. Eric B. & Rakim – “Juice (Know The Ledge)” from the Juice OST

It is rare that a movie and the lead single from its soundtrack match up this well. Rakim’s legendary storytelling abilities are in full effect, as his tale of a man wrapped up in the street life echoes the film’s plot, while Eric B.’s racing drums and frenetic, classic bassline contain all of its desperate intensity.

2. Public Enemy – “Fight The Power” from the Do The Right Thing OST

The fact that the world’s most incendiary Hip-Hop group experienced their biggest, most hard-hitting, revolutionary smash to jumpstart a film further immortalized its legend to diamond status. Spike Lee was genius for the calculating of the song’s placement, seeing that swipes at John Wayne and Elvis fit right at home with the disdain festering outside of Sal’s Pizzeria. And if Rosie Perez’s unforgettable dance routine wasn’t enough to get your blood cells marching to revolt, we’ll say a moment of silence for you because you are no longer amongst the living.

3. 50 Cent Feat. The Madd Rapper – “How To Rob” from the In Too Deep OST

How do you go from unknown to brand ambassador in one year? You call out everyone, like Curtis Jackson did on his 1999 high-class hypothetical jack-move, “How To Rob.” Released during his fumbled deal with Columbia and less than a year before getting shot nine times, this game-changing song put this household name on the map and eventually earned the attention of would-be mentors Eminem and Dr. Dre.

4. Warren G. Feat. Nate Dogg – “Regulate” from the Above The Rim OST

The seminal West Coast classic is probably the most karaoke’d song in Hip-Hop history. The Michael Mcdonald-sampling masterpiece is amongst the most notable Hip-Hop songs ever, and the G-Child’s biggest hit.

5. The Roots Feat. Jaguar Wright – “What You Want” from The Best Man OST

The Fifth Dynasty providing a funky backdrop, Black Thought playing the consummate host and Jaguar’s soulful wails combine to create a powerful song for one of the most polarizing rom-com’s ever made. The fact that it succinctly summarizes the movie’s plot and makes a serious case for The Roots playing at your wedding is a bonus.

6. Ice Cube – “How To Survive In South Central” from the Boyz N The Hood OST

Early ‘90s O’shea Jackson would never lead you astray. With the setting of the movie taking place in area Cube knew all too familiar, it only made sense he crafted a record which depicted both the script and real life happenings. The crazy thing about the song was it serving as an actual audio pamphlet on how to stay alive in the most dangerous sector of Los Angeles.

7. Pras Feat. ‘Ol Dirty Bastard & Mya – “Ghetto Superstar” from the Bulworth OST

Ladies and gentleman, the folks over at Interscope presented to you a song so campy, it coincidently became a classic. ODB’s accidental studio crash session led to a monumental hit for the former Fugee and even bigger promotion for Halle Berry’s weirdest on-screen romance this side of Billy Bob Thornton. The track also marked Mya’s nationwide debut and most likely the first and only rap song Warren Beatty has ever heard.

8. Jay-Z Feat. Memphis Bleek & Amil – “Hey Papi” from the Nutty Professor II: The Klumps OST

It wasn’t enough for Hov to have “Big Pimpin'” and “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)” burning up both the streets and charts in 2000. He was so hot that he could afford to throw this jam on a soundtrack for a movie that was dead on arrival: sort of like Amil’s solo career.

9. Outkast Feat. Cee-Lo Green – “In Due Time” from the Soul Food OST

Quick, name Outkast’s most inspirational song. The most used answer would be the other song about getting up and out but the sleeper would easily be this tucked away, soundtrack gem. Organized Noize’s vibrant and refreshing composition gave the Aquemini twins a platform to deliver a humbling experience to reflect the trials and tribulations a nuclear family generally endures.

10. Main Source – “Fakin’ The Funk” from the White Men Can’t Jump OST

Actually found on the second volume of the movie’s soundtrack called White Men Can’t Rap, “Fakin’ The Funk” was Large Professor’s swan song with the group, released after their legendary album Breakin’ Atoms. Soon after the phrase “Fakin’ The Funk” was repeated Shaq shoe commercials and a movie of the same name yet the song remains the most memorable.

11. Erykah Badu Feat. Common – “Love Of My Life (An Ode To Hip-Hop)” from the Brown Sugar OST

“When did you first fall in love with Hip-Hop?” “Love Of My Life (An Ode To Hip-Hop)” was a perfect representation of the movie’s theme, a perfect video, and a perfect song in general. It was also a perfect subliminal as Ms. Badu and Common slyly consummated their relationship on wax for their entire world to witness. Producer Raphael Saddiq’s manipulation of the bass to mirror an infatuated heart only solidified the song’s greatness.

12. 2Pac – “Pain” from the Above The Rim OST

Although Warren G. and Nate Dogg’s “Regulate” is more recognized within the movie, Shakur’s “Pain” is more reflective of the tone of the film itself as it’s also featured in the movie’s opening credits. Where “Regulate” had its own identity, “Pain” emphasized the notion of what a score does to enhance the story. Shakur’s ability to poignantly express a particular emotion made him an icon. He effectively does so with “Pain.”

13. Davina Feat. Raekwon “So Good” from the Hoodlum OST

Steve Rifkind signing R&B act Davina during the heyday of Loud Records was surprising especially with an already proven formula of hardcore acts like the Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep and Big Pun. Introducing the signer with Raekwon helped “So Good” gain some notoriety, landing the track on the Laurence Fishburne mobster flick. Although we haven’t heard much from Davina since, “So Good” remains as one of the sleeper hits among the Loud Records faithful.

14. Mystikal Feat. Outkast – “Neck Uv Da Woods” from The Wood OST

The song’s inclusion on The Wood’s OST, as a lead single no less, is a bit puzzling since it doesn’t have much to do with the film. Still, that doesn’t stop it from being a monster record. The joint moves at 100 miles per hour, everyone ripped their verses and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

15. MC Eiht – “Straight Up Menace” from the Menace II Society OST

Not only is this one of the greatest instrumentals ever, the song itself was almost an exact representation of Caine and O-Dog’s tumultuous journey through the hood. Eiht never made pain and struggle sound so beautiful as he did here. “A f*cked up childhood is why I act…” Uh huh. You know what it is.

16. Mobb Deep – “Back At You” from the Sunset Park OST

The duo from Queensbridge were in their prime around the time Sunset Park was in theaters. This mellow cut from the soundtrack proved to be on one of the movie script’s shining moments and yet another butchering narrative of beef for the M-O-B-B. Isn’t that the same living room they shot the scene from Juice when Pac went on his tirade about “going out in a blaze of glory” though? Nah, it isn’t, but it sure looks like it.

17. Xzibit – “Year 2000” from the Black And White OST

A flashback to closing year of the 20th century would reveal Napster as a resourceful way of stealing obtaining music, a president’s third-party dictating his popular opinion and relatively unknown Xzibit preparing a healthy run at platinum and celebrity spoils. The record, equally gritty and reserved as its accompanying flick’s promotion, went on precede a Mike Tyson-induced ass-whooping well before The Hangover was a mere thought.

18. Son Of Bezerk “What Could Be Better Bitch” from the Juice OST

Son Of Bezerk had two notable songs in their short-lived career. The energetic “Change The Style” and the polar opposite, soundtrack feature “What Could Be Better B*tch.” The former was all fun and energy and the video owned Rap City for short period. “What Could…” played a polar opposite, sporting a reggae-influenced, marching 808 bassline and menacing tough talk. “I’m giving you jimmy, b*tch, so what could be better, b*tch?!”

19. Mista Grimm Feat. Warren G. & Nate Dogg – “Indo Smoke” from the Poetic Justice OST

You wouldn’t expect a Jheri-curled one-hit-wonder to have the best song on the soundtrack to a movie starring Makaveli and Janet Jackson, . However, thanks to some soulful assistance from OG Nate Dogg and a blazing beat from Mr. Griffin, Mistah Grimm lifted listeners to new levels with his ode to Indonesia.

20. Dr. Dre Feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg – “Deep Cover” from the Deep Cover OST

You mean this wasn’t off The Chronic? One of the most important and historical songs in Hip-Hop’s history–the birth of G Funk and Snoop’s debut–has long surpassed Jeff Goldblum’s movie, pushing the film into Hollywood’s trash bin. Dre finally perfected the sounds he’d been playing with at the end of the N.W.A. days and Snoop’s immediate charisma and menacing lyrics proved the good doctor would find a new posse to roll with. It’s one of the first anti-snitch anthems as well.

21. B-Real, Coolio, Method Man, LL Cool J & Busta Rhymes – “Hit ‘Em High (The Monstars Anthem)” from the Space Jam OST

A song with the likes of B-Real, LL Cool J, Method Man and Busta Rhymes isn’t quite the traditional way to spotlight a movie starring Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan. “Hit ‘Em High” not only worked wonders for the movie from a purely Hip-Hop perspective, “The Monstars” demonstrate a strong cohesion together and it shows with the immense amount of energy exploding from the record.

22. Coolio Feat. L.V. – “Gangsta’s Paradise” off the Dangerous Minds OST

Coolio’s a clown and Michelle Pfiffer’s melodramatic performance in the music video may be the moment when West Coast gangsta rap jumped the shark. But don’t neglect that this track was an absolute monster when it released. It even eclipsed its Stevie Wonder predecessor and made Weird Al Yankovic a lot of money.

23. Scarface – “No Tears” from the Office Space OST

How could there be an iota of chance of someone squeezing an inch of humor out of the dark and ghastly tales found in Scarface’s Diary? The creator of Beavis & Butthead was more than up for the challenge, and saying he found success in doing so would be an understatement. Office Space grew to become a cult classic for a number of reasons; including featuring a 20-something dorky, white male who loved his gangsta rap harder than his scheduled hours. Yeahhh boyeeee!

24. 2Pac – “Definition Of A Thug Nigga” from the Poetic Justice OST

Released in ’93, consider “Definition Of A Thug Nigga” 2Pacalypse-refined as Pac began to wrestle with fitting into the hoodlum role that went on to define a large part of his rapping persona. The opening lines “Play the cards I was given, thank God I’m still living, Pack my 9 ’til it’s time to go to prison” set the song’s relentless, brash tone. Cadence is key here and Pac rides the beat, leisurely placing a varying number of words into each bar and proving the sound and fury were always supported by great talent.

25. Too $hort & Lil Kim – “Call Me” from the Booty Call OST

Yes ladies and gents, it’s a “big d*ck, tight p*ssy thang” when Short Dawg and Queen Bee come together for one of Booty Call’s more rauchier exploits. Todd Shaw’s opening “My plane touches down at eleven forty-five, I’m comin through to f*ck you, bout to show you why” sets the mood as only the Oakland player could.

26. Young Lay Feat. Mac Mall & Ray Luv – “All About My Fetti” from the New Jersey Drive OST

Aye! The first nod from the New Jersey Drive soundtrack obviously goes to “Benz Or A Beama” but “All About My Fetti” carries whistling production fit for an old Western gunfight. And do realize that Ray Luv dropped game on the track and spoke the words “PH’ing” all the way back in 1995, proving that the Bay was ahead of its time in creating vernacular. Still, the star of the track is Mac Mall, who steals the show by spitting that pimp-gangster-trick sh*t for “tricks and punk hoes.”

27. Damon Dash, Kanye West, Beanie Sigel, Cam’ron, Young Chris & Twista – “Champions” from the Paid In Full OST

If Sigel’s verse doesn’t strike the fear in you of whatever high power you pray to, then you just aren’t listening right. Long live the glory days of the R.O.C.

28. Half-A-Mil – “Some Niggaz” from the Belly OST

God bless the dead and pray for the living. The deceased BK emcee Half-A-Mil straight wrecked “Some Niggaz,” painting a robbery scene so vivid that makes listeners feel equally entertained and considering witness protection for what they’ve heard. Plus describing a larceny victim’s as being on “some Hindu sh*t” in a home–candle lights, Yo they got gold cows, gold owls, On some chanting sh*t” just sounds so damn epic and unheard of.

29. Teenage Fanclub & De La Soul – “Fallin” from the Judgment Night OST

Attribute De La’s longevity to participating in projects like 1993’s Judgment Night soundtrack, where rap met other genres well before mash-ups were commonplace. A direct result ended up being crossover exposure for the trio without the first hint or mention of “selling out.”

30. Eminem – “Lose Yourself” from the 8 Mile OST

It was a given Eminem would shoot a movie that became a box office smash along with a soundtrack that moved…say…a few million units. But for the lead-off single to become a Grammy and Academy Award-winning motivational tool used to inspire millions more, a nod to B. Rabbit’s talent has to be inserted in there somewhere.

31. Crooklyn Dodgers ’95 (Chubb Rock, O.C., Jeru The Damaja & Masta Ace) – “Return Of The Crooklyn Dodgers” from the Clockers OST

What spawned as a dedication to the hardened lifestyle of BK’s residents off Spike Lee’s Crooklyn was fully realized on his resulting Clockers film and soundtrack. MCs of different generations convened for an instantaneous gratifying trip through the same streets New York’s hard-headed youngsters roamed when school was out. The fact they recruited the legendary DJ Premier to mold the nostalgic vibe only sweetened the pot: already overflowing with gold from sheer lyricism.

32. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – “Days Of Our Livez” from the Set It Off OST

With a script that was bittersweet and tear-jerking, there were no real winners in 1996’s Bonnie and no Clyde ghetto heist drama. Masterful in the art of transgressing the doldrums into lively music, the Bone brothers celebrated the half-full side of life’s drinking glass, even if the water wasn’t 100% pure.

33. 2Pac – “My Block” from The Show OST

With all of the different sides of Pac, the remorseful, introspective version still holds the most sway and ability to help young males cope with the immediate obstacles found in their own neighborhood. Home is defined by wherever you lay your head. We all shared a sense of appreciation for four walls and a roof because of this track: whether deep-rooted in poverty or nourished in the security of the outer suburbs.

34. Three 6 Mafia Feat. Ludacris – “Dis Bitch, Dat Hoe” from the Choices: The Movie OST

Triple 6 were cult icons long before they went on to achieve national acclaim at the Oscars and their own reality show. However, before Hustle And Flow there was Choices, a heart-warming tale of an ex-con trying to do right in a world full of wrong. “Dis Bitch, Dat Hoe” was trademarked by legendary Three 6 vulgarity and one of the more forgotten great features in Luda’s extensive catalog.

35. Master P Feat. Steady Mobbin’ – “If I Could Change” from the I’m Bout It OST

After Pac died, a void loomed where there were few convincing purveyors of street music; artists who managed to capture the duality of ride-on-my-enemies ethos matched with honest remorse as an accompaniment. Regardless of opinions of him now, Percy Miller–along with Steady Mobbin’ here–created the hustler’s solemn prayer set to rap.

36. 2 Live Crew – “In The Dust” from the New Jack City OST

Here are two reasons for the inclusion of “In The Dust.” It features the always timeless Aaron Neville sample and 2 Live abandoning the usual T&A for an on-topic tune regarding despair. “In The Dust” being one of DJ Toomp’s earliest production placements is only a fun-fact bonus.

37. LL Cool J – “Shut ‘Em Down” from the Any Given Sunday OST

It was only fitting that an inflammatory football movie features a song in “Shut ‘Em Down” that boosted the scene’s adrenaline 10x over like it was injected with anabolic steroids. Not saying LL Cool J knows anything about that but he did take his flow to a new level in one of his more memorable roles. He picked up the pace to a frenetic speed, reminding all challengers that shoestring tackles wouldn’t get the job done against him.

38. Outkast – “Benz Or Beamer” from the New Jersey Drive, Vol. 1 OST

Outkast went one step further with New Jersey Drive’s OST and dropped a gem about boosting with a worthwhile message. Let this track get back in your rotation and you’ll start doing the Bankhead Bounce like it’s ’95 all over again. Also you can use the video to play “Where Are The Ying Yang Twins?” at your leisure. It took us a few plays but we caught one of them getting down in the flick.

39. Dr. Dre & Ice Cube – “Natural Born Killaz” from the Murder Was The Case OST

The MWTC album was full of fire and basically served as an album of all new material from Death Row during their prime, But the hottest record released was this Charles-Manson-mashing prelude to Cube and Dre’s forever-shelved Helter Skelter album. They had no qualms in taking full advantage of the ongoing O.J. Simpson murder controversy, though.

40. Nas – “One On One” from the Street Fighter OST

As awful as the first Street Fighter movie was as a plot, screenplay and overall casting job (Gomez Addams as M. Bison, WTF???), few remember its sturdy Hip-Hop soundtrack as a result. If there was ever a song that needed to be added to Illmatic, the serene drum-n-kick combo mixed with a then-Nasty Nas’ views of hand-to-hand combat would be a leading candidate.

41. KRS-One Feat. Buckshot, Bounty Killer, Cam’ron, Keith Murray, Killah Priest, Prodigy, Redman, Rev. Run & Vilgilante – “5 Boroughs” from The Corruptor OST

Who says NYC lacks unity? That was the question around the time KRS decided to build the bridge and assemble all of his city’s segregated quarters to belt out a monster of a hometown anthem. With so many different styles and subgenres being represented, it was a feat in itself for everyone to tame the wild beat flying at hurricane speeds through their eardrums. They even invited Reggie Noble to the party who hails from their backyard of New Jersey.

42. Spice 1 – “Born II Die” from the Tales From The Hood OST

Rumour has it this gruesome advocate of malice, murder and mayhem almost forced a NC-17 rating for the Hood’s very own horror flick. Not really, but it probably needed it. The vintage West Coast backdrop helped the gangsta rapper paint a picture that was as ghastly as some of the movie’s scenes.

43. Threat – “Lettin’ Aggins Know” from the Friday OST

The majority of Friday’s score was reserved to the never ending love affair with Ms. Mary. Nevertheless Threat, a relative unknown, submitted a roller song that keep things moving smoothly wherever a front-wheel drive was concerned. Sometimes the people just need to know…that it’s cool.

44. Jay-Z – “Who You Wit” from the Sprung OST

You know the story well. Boy meets girl. Girl pimps boy. They live happily ever after. Wait, that wasn’t your ideal fairy tale? It wasn’t Shawn Carter’s either before he shared toothbrush holders with a certain R&B/Pop Queen. The O.G. version of his infamous playa chronicles turned a few heads on to his potential commercial viability, as well as a few tricks too.

45. Ice Cube – “We Be Clubbin'” from The Player’s Club OST

This version of our beloved West Coast pioneer traded in his gat and activator for a clean shave and a fistful of dollar bills. If there’s any rapper who can lay claim to the popularization of mainstream acceptance for “exotic dancers,” it would be Cube as this jam is still somewhat of a staple in slinky night stops and spades game board talk. Yay yaeeyaae!!!

46. Will Smith – “Men In Black” from the Men In Black OST

Don’t front. The Fresh Prince had you gettin’ jiggy with a pair of Ray-Bans in the summer of 1997 when his sure-fire movie promo came on the radio. Since there is no such thing as those memory-erasing-neuralizer-whatchamacallits, just swallow your pride and bounce, slide and walk to the Patrice Rushen’s rhythm because this joint will forever be out-of-sight.

47. DMX Feat. Sean Paul & Mr. Vegas – “Top Shotta” from the Belly OST

Here comes the boom! Only Dark Man X could make his murderous intentions into a dancehall smash. Of course he had from a couple of Jamaica’s finest (broken) Englishmen but X had cats dancing and licking off shots at the same party with this one. From the movie’s standpoint alone, this was the real Tommy’s Theme. Sorry, Benzino.

48. The Fat Boys – “All You Can Eat” from the Krush Groove OST

The big Boys from Brooklyn are typically remembered as a novelty act in Hip-Hop and it’s a cotton-pickin’ shame because they could really throw down on the mic as well as on the table. Still, with food being their perfected forte, they took the gimmick as far as it go and their roles in Krush Groove say them at their biggest peak, stuffing their faces in disorderly fashion. Unfortunately their open relationship with obesity lead to the death of founding member Buffy a.k.a. The Human Beat Box.

49. Jayo Felony Feat. Method Man & DMX – “Watcha Gonna Do” from the Hav Plenty OST

The major record label’s infatuation with one-hit wonders definitely didn’t begin with Jayo Felony. But he sure made enough noise to be painfully forgotten in the subsequent years over at Def Jam. His unorthodox flow wasn’t the only thing holding him back as it wasn’t primed for the mainstream. He started beefing with everybody in his vicinity — blue, red, pro-Black — until the offices changed the locks on him. However, this song still holds up rather nicely.

50. 2Pac – “Never Had A Friend Like Me” from the Gridlock’d OST

“See, at night I watch the sky
I take another breath
I smoke my Newport to the butt, like it’s the last motherf*cker left
Just me and you evading enemies
Let you get my last shot of Henessey
Ain’t never had a friend like me…”

Quintessential Pac, the warm and authentic version that both Jada, Jasmine Guy and pretty much everyone felt endeared.

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