Ali Shaheed Muhammad And Adrian Younge’s ‘Luke Cage’ Score Echoes Stevie Wonder, Wu-Tang, And Hitchcock

Luke Cage will be upon us in one week. That means it’ll be soon time to tell your loved ones you’ve got better things to do than tend to their petty needs, shut off your phone, and quit your job if need be. That’s the type of grip Netflix has on us all and indicative of just how loud the hype train for Marvel’s latest thing is becoming.

With that in mind, show composers Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed just can’t stop talking about the music on the show. While the hip-hop influence has been stated very often, the two legends are also drawing from people like Stevie Wonder, Issac Hayes, and…wait for it…Alfred Hitchcock.

Music is an art and when combined with great characters and incredible dialogue, it can rival the Mona Lisa. Shaheed and Younge spoke to WatchLoud on the prospect of raising the bar for TV show music while also looking to create something meaningful and lasting. To achieve that, they needed to delve into the characters on screen first and foremost.

“The music is a character. Cheo said that from the beginning. And him being very in tune with the sound and textures, he came to us specifically. He gave us just a rough synopsis of where he wanted things to go but he trusted us to deliver. We really got into the characters deeply. There’s so many times where we would start something and be like “You know what, this is where this character’s deep psyche is forming,” said Shaheed.

To steal a line from a James Bond movie, every man has his passions. Two of mine are film and music so to hear these cats get incredibly geeky about the interplay between both of them and how music needs to not just be the background of a scene but fill in the blanks for characters and represent those characters is, forgive the pun, music to my ears. Actually, don’t forgive it. It was shameless and I should probably be put in timeout for even writing it. Anyway, they also spoke about their approach to the material and how they arrived at the sound we’ll eventually hear on September 30. Take it away, Mr. Younge.

“Basically Ali and I wanted to really capture what Cheo Coker had in his head,” he explained. “What he wanted to see as this black superhero. And what he really wanted was the kind of superhero that was poised, had class and that was the kind of Alpha male that you don’t necessarily see Blacks playing. He also wanted this character to be in tune with the hip-hop culture.”

I’m drooling but I’m listening. Keep going.

“That isn’t synonymous with providing a score that is all hip-hop music,” Younge continued, ‘it’s providing a score that essentially showcases the source material that helped create the hip-hop culture. As we all know hip-hop came from the breaks and Ali and I created music for this super hero that is break oriented and also straight up hip-hop oriented.”

There’s a lot to take from that but a common theme in everything surrounding this show is the idea of a very specific type of black male/superhero amidst the political and racial climate of 2016. Poise. Class. Alpha. If you’ve seen one second of Mike Colter’s performance in Jessica Jones, then all of that comes across clearly, even if that show specifically inverts stereotypical male/female dynamics in comic book storytelling. He’s not a guy who will throw the first punch, but the one he throws will be the last.

Shaheed talked about their process in what became a massive undertaking. This wasn’t just two guys sitting in front of a board. They played most of the instruments and even had a 30-piece orchestra. That’s some movie sh*t right there but it speaks to their overall feeling on where they wanted to take the genre. And this is all they did for 9 months.

“We played with different musical foundations,” the former A Tribe Called Quest producer said. “If it had a jazz or Tribe sort of thing or a Wu-tang sort of thing. Or a Bernard Herman sort of a composition that sounds like some Alfred Hitchcock. We wrote everything to the actual video but when you sit back and watch it from start to finish it’s bugged out. We saw the final of episode 1 and 2 and it’s surreal. We didn’t get a lot of sleep working on these 13 episodes. We had no life whatsoever. Part of it seems like a dream. What happened to the nine months?”

You gave birth to a beautiful baby in those nine months, sir. That’s what happened.

There’s a lot more in the interview so check it out if this sort of thing tickles your fancy.

(Via Watch Loud)